Last year, I was determined to make sure I hit at least 85,000 miles. The reason for this is because US Airways has a Special Dividends program that gives you different benefits in between status levels. The 85,000 one includes being able to enter the upgrade queue, even on award tickets.
I booked an award ticket out to Denver this past weekend and was happy to see almost all of my upgrades clear. My Charlotte to DCA final segment didn’t clear, but that made sense. It was an early flight in at the start of the week–a heavily trafficked leg with lots of Chairmen.
My flight to Charlotte was a red-eye and when I landed, I used the mobile site to pull up the upgrade list.
When I saw the upgrade list, my name wasn’t on it. Out of the 37 people on it.
I had no chance of upgrading and I didn’t really care about that, but I was extremely curious as to why I didn’t get put on the upgrade list. Is there a rule I don’t know about? Was the system broken? etc.
My thoughts originally:
- Checking in 24 hours before a red-eye was technically two days before this flight, so something got lost in translation
- Something with the system that overrides the no-upgrades-on-award-tickets doesn’t automatically override the day of
So I went up to the gate agent to investigate.
She pulled up my reservation and said, “You are trying to get an upgrade on an award ticket. You can’t do that.”
I said, “Oh, I have that special dividend from flying 85.000 miles that lets me do that.”
She said to me, “Yeah, our program changed on February 1st. You should have gotten an email. If you read that, you’ll understand.”
I politely said that item didn’t change and that I had gotten upgraded on my previous flights this weekend. At that point, she got a bit colder.
She told me I wasn’t even showing as a Chairman to her in the system and I shouldn’t have gotten any upgrades. At that point, she seemed really suspicious and made a phone call.
The conversation on her end went like this:
“Hi, yeah, I have someone here claiming that if you fly a certain amount of miles, you get upgrades for free on award tickets.”
“Ha, yeah, I know, I know, but she also says she’s a Chairman but she isn’t in my system.”
“Oh, okay, but she doesn’t get upgrades on award tickets, right?”
After she hung up she said, “Yeah, that was the Chairman line and they said you don’t get upgrades.”
I started saying it wasn’t a Chairman benefit per say (at this point, I wanted her to understand it was a benefit for anyone she speaks to in the future) and that the reason I got my upgrades was because of the 85,000 miles.
She said that there was no way I was upgraded on this ticket according to the rules, and that if I ask gate agents to upgrade me on planes that are not full in first, some of them will as a courtesy to Chairman who ask even though they don’t have a right to do it on award tickets.
I started saying it happens in the normal upgrade process online automatically, but she cut me off.
She said, “I’m looking at your ticket right now and I can see on it that the upgrade cycle, your ticket was rejected because it was an award ticket. I can see that gate agents manually processed your upgrades, probably because you asked to be on the upgrade list.”
She looked at me pointedly at that point. I have no idea where that information came from or what it looks like in her system. But it wasn’t true.
I’ve walked into (and fallen into) a giant planter. I fell backwards after curtsying at a friend on the jet bridge. I even made a horrible auto-correct mistake to a business contact yesterday. (very bad). But I don’t get embarrassed easily.
This was embarrassing because at that point, people around me were looking at me and rolling their eyes. I wanted to say, “I didn’t con my way into my upgrades, I promise!”
But more than embarrassing, it was worrying. Taking the gate agent at her word, the Chairman line didn’t even know about this benefit. And she didn’t.
When I was leaving, she did say, “I will run this by my manager and get his opinion.” And I hope that was true. Airline rules are hard enough for the average flyer to understand without the gate agents also getting them wrong.
Edit: People have asked for more context about this benefit, especially when it expires, so here’s how it appears in my account.