If you upgrade with American using miles or confirmed systemwides, then you’re protected.
Via Traveling Better, if your flight is effected by weather, crew legality, mechanical issues, or even air traffic control — if your flight is delayed just two hours (and in fact, just one hour if you are an AAdvantage elite member or full fare passenger) then you can be protected on a joint venture partner or oneworld airline in the same upgraded class of service if their flight will get you to your destination faster than the next American flight with available inventory will.
This policy has been in effect since March 2013.
The order in which an agent should work is:
- Try to confirm your upgrade using upgrade inventory on an American flight.
- Confirm in the lowest revenue booking class as your upgraded cabin on the next American flight, if that gets you in earlier than the next American flight with upgrade space.
- Confirm you on an American codeshare on one of their joint venture partners – Finnair, British Airways, Iberia, or Japan Airlines. (With the enhanced Qantas relationship, this policy could have been or may be extended to Qantas but I do not know this.)
- Confirm you on a Finnair, BA, Iberia, or Japan Airlines flight in the same upgraded cabin.
- Confirm you on a oneworld airline in the same upgraded cabin.
If you can’t be confirmed then they’ll waitlist you for the upgraded cabin.
Complimentary upgrades, given free to Executive Platinums and to all elites when flights are under 500 miles (and eUpgrades supported by certificates for Golds and Platinums on flights 500 miles or more) do not receive this protection.
Confirmed upgrades are confirmed. Not every agent knows that, so if you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t want to protect you in the same upgraded class of service, you’ll want to deal with another agent instead or if that isn’t possible have them check with a supervisor and review the policy. I keep a link to it handy, just in case.