American Fixes Broken Upgrade System: Here’s Why Elites Haven’t Been Clearing Before the Airport

I’ve heard from myriad readers the past two and a half weeks saying that American Airlines no longer seems to clear upgrades before the airport anymore. Planes could be completely empty up front, on flights with little last minute premium demand, and where upgrades had previously cleared in advance.

Elite frequent flyers receive complimentary domestic upgrades starting at 120 hours in advance of departure depending on elite status level. But I couldn’t find anyone who had received a complimentary domestic upgrade before the gate in several days.

Several days to a week ago I heard from a source that there had been a technical glitch that was preventing upgrades from being processed, but that this issue had been resolved. (It was only one source and I didn’t believe they had direct knowledge of the issue.)

JonNYC reports as well that the glitch has been fixed.

During yesterday’s earnings call, American Airlines CEO Doug Parker nudged the discussion to a close noting that there recent tradition is to hold a follow up event with employees and they’d need to end the call to transition to that commitment.

I understand that upgrades only processing the gate was brought up in this session, where American reported that the issue has been resolved. And indeed in the past several days it does seem like things have reverted closer to ‘normal’.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I’m told:

    “During the State of the Airline Q and A session on Friday a front line employee specifically said that agents have noticed that upgrades (of all kinds) are clearing at the airport more and more often, even in situations where they would previously have been cleared in advance (i.e. Totally open first class cabins on flights with no premium demand). [The reply from AA was that] there was a technical issue that was rectified last week. He didn’t say what the issue was, how long it lasted, or provide any details about what the “normal situation” actually is, but apparently there was an inadvertent reduction in upgrades clearing at upgrade windows or prior to airport control.”

  2. That does explain why 8-10 people were upgraded at the gate on my flight last week. It’s been a mess for the gate agents.

    In addition to Will’s question, does anyone know when the upgrade criteria changes from time stamp of request to 12-month spend?

  3. AA has not said when upgrades on domestic awards for EXPs begins, nor when upgrades are ordered based on 12 month rolling elite qualifying dollars (within elite tiers)

  4. It smells to typical usair mom-n-pop mentality to throw against the wall and see if it sticks.

    That’s why I went from the last three years as concierge key to just exec plat this year and likely to lifetime plat next year (if they continue to honor it).

    Let’s not forget, in good times, a chimpanzee can wear a ceo suit and still make money…

  5. I was curious till an EXP rep did say it was a glitch . Almost all upgrades cleared several days before departure just this week . Couple times I’ve also been skipped and had to be added manually .

  6. Agree this seems to have been fixed last week–I had a transcon JFK-SFO flight clear several days out for the first time in what seems like forever.

  7. I am not sure this glitch has been fixed. I have been Exec Plat for 21 consecutive years and traveled six segments last week – with only one segment providing advance notice – with no upgrades on the other five segments.

  8. I am so done. Ditching AAdvantage Platinum and moving to B6. Less drama and arrogance:.. very liberating.

  9. Do we know what impact this glitch may have had on SWU clearing for international flights, and if the “fix” should impact this? I’m looking at a flight three weeks out, LHR-LAX, 77W. Currently 11 of the 52 J seats are taken. In the past, this would certainly have cleared quite a bit before now, but hasn’t.

    For a while it has seemed that they are holding international C for longer, so I don’t know if this is glitch-related or the new normal for this. Still, 80% open seems that things should have cleared by now, even in this brave new world.


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