How the American Airlines Upgrade Priority List is Different from US Airways

View from the Wing has an excellent post on how the upgrade queue is going to work for American Airlines–including some changes.

I suggested pausing reading this post, go to his post, and come back here.

Some of the changes make the American Airlines upgrade process EVEN more different from what US Airways flyers are used to.

Gary mentions that full-fare passengers will no longer get to jump the upgrade queue above other elites who checked in before them.

Traditionally, US Airways elites flying with a full-fare ticket were eligible for upgrades as soon as any sort of upgrade window opened.  This means they could have requested a complimentary upgrade when passengers could upgrade their seats with miles–potentially way before any elites in non-refundable seats get upgraded.

Gary also talks about how the only tie breaker for elites with upgrades is the time they requested the upgrade.

US Airways at some point sorta switched to this system.  But it used to be that the tie-breaker on US Airways for everything was miles flown in the last three months.  So when you were sitting at the gate, there was a chance that a Chairman who spent more time in the sky than you could jump in front of you.

In fact, a gate agent once handed me a boarding pass because he had been seeing me at the number 1 spot.  But when he processed the upgrade list (with only one seat), a Chairman who flew more than I did had just switched to the flight.  I had to point out to the gate agent that I’m not Tony.  Whoever that is.

But Keri and I discovered this had changed when she was unable to jump me in the upgrade queue, despite her having flown much more in the last three months.  I had checked in seconds before she did on the app and requested an upgrade at that point.  US Airways flyers still cannot request an upgrade ahead of check-in time.  They are otherwise automatically processed based on status (and I assume number of miles flown still).

This threw off our strategy of putting the person most likely to get an upgrade in the middle seat to leave the other person on the aisle.  Whoops.

One way in which American has aligned with what US Airways flyers are used to is through eliminating priority for pass-through passengers.

Granted, US Airways flights don’t have much upgrading being done at the gate because all elites have been eligible for free, unlimited upgrades, unlike American Airlines system.

(Please see this post by Pizza in Motion to better understand the differences between how the upgrades have happened).

But US Airways has not prioritized pass-through passengers, which American is in alignment with now.

The moral of this overall story?  Check into your flights ASAP!

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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  1. Currently, the hybrid AA-US Airways system makes it difficult for those of us living in towns serviced by American Eagle. When making a trip that includes US Airways, we have to do the initial check-in on American. That doesn’t put us on the US Airways upgrade list.

    This inconsistency will go away once the merger is complete, but for now, I avoid US Airways whenever possible.

    • Jeanne Marie Hoffman

      I’ve heard of it randomly not giving people that option, even when they are checking in on US Airways. If you need to take US Airways, I’d go to an agent to be put on the list, which unfortunately may mean going to a different terminal check in area.

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