Are US Airways Agents No Longer Manually Processing Free Upgrades?

Back in May, I wrote about how US Airways is processing upgrades more times a day. This was great because it was making it more difficult for lower-elites to jump the queue. But US Airways may have fixed that issue completely.

For how queue-jumping is done, check out my post on this subject, but in a nutshell, people were calling up to complain their upgrades weren’t processed in an effort to jump in front of higher ranked elites when upgrades were processed.

I thought this was a bit weasely. In these cases, you are actually taking something away from someone else that should have been theirs.

Recently, I was on a flight with three seats in first class available.  It was a route that elites tend to book last minute, so even though three seats were there, since I was traveling with someone else, I was pretty sure I would not get upgraded.  There were no upgrades available in general, but the second my upgrade window opened up, seats opened up for upgrades too.

I called up and used miles to upgrade me as soon as the window opened up.  I could have called up and insisted they upgrade me since I was in my window.  But by doing that I would be acknowledging I think there’s someone with higher elite status flying who will take the upgrade and I would be intentionally pulling this upgrade from them.

By processing upgrades more often, US Airways was helping the higher elites get processed before the upgrades were taken by someone who had just entered the upgrade window.  But as I wrote last time:

I understand why the phone agents will upgrade people when they call since the system does glitch from time to time.  But it seems dishonest to intentionally call and complain that your upgrade didn’t process when you understand the system.  The changes to the US Airways upgrade system won’t eradicate this process, but it will at least cut down on the amount of upgrades that are gained this way, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

I think US Airways has made an attempt at fixing this as well.  Recently, I was not upgraded for a flight.  I pulled up the flight information and realized it was the type of flight I should be upgraded on.  This made me curious because I may be missing another rule for US Airways upgrades, and I was very, very curious.

So I called up US Airways to inquire.  I let the agent know I was just curious what would make someone not get the upgrade in this case, just so would know for the future.

She typed for a bit and then told me nothing was preventing me from being upgraded, so it looks like the upgrade spaces were released shortly after the upgrades tried to process.  I “ooo”-ed! excitedly and asked, so this means I’m eligible for upgrades?

The agent began speaking in a measured voice and told me, yes I am qualified and that I need to wait until the next round of system upgrades goes through to see whether or not I made it through.  Then in a natural voice again she told me she didn’t think I’d have any issues given the number of seats available and my level of status.

The way she spoke when explaining how I’d get my upgrades sounded almost scripted.  And this is the first time a phone agent actually discussed the process of receiving upgrades from the automated system with me.  In prior cases, they’ve offered to upgrade on the spot, but it looks like they may be attempting to stop phone agents from processing upgrades ahead of the system.

I don’t mind this at all!  If I don’t receive an upgrade, I’ll assume that higher elites and paying (whether cash or miles) customers got ahead of me.  In the meantime, I’ll be refreshing my email over and over again, waiting for the next upgrade wave to go through.

Update:  Flight successfully upgraded!


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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