US Airways Paid Upgrades for Non-Elites Are No Longer at Check-in Only

I don’t have elite frequent flyer status with US Airways.

Frequently, on lesser booked flights, I’ll be offered a buy up to first class at check-in. For the US Airways shuttle it used to be $50, more recently I’ve been offered $60 buy ups. Basically any first class seat left would be offered for cash.

Now the US Airways Shuttle between DC and New York is a short hop and I usually won’t take it. But during peak times, ground waits can be much longer than the flight itself. I’ve taken them up on the offer a couple of times.

I found it interesting, though, the email I’ve just received. US Airways is offering to put me on a waitlist for upgrade now, which will clear if available two days prior to flight. The price for a short flight is higher as well.

US Airways silvers are eligible for upgrades 2 days in advance so presumably these non-elite paid upgrades will be processed after Silver elite complimentary upgrades.

But moving up the upgrade window for paid non-status upgrades seems like an interesting development, and in some ways a curious one since it must involve new computer programming — something I wouldn’t expect US Airways to be investing in in advance of moving over to the American Airlines reservation system (likely early next year).

I’m not taking them up on this offer, but it seemed like an interesting change.

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. They’ve been doing this for at least a year.

    Based on a limited sample size, it seems like they do this when first is wide open and they’re desperate to make some money. Every time they’ve given me this offer, F upgrades have still been available (cheaper) at the kiosk. But, I suppose the ability to confirm is nice.

  2. “presumably these non-elite paid upgrades will be processed after Silver elite complimentary upgrades”

    OR, they give the seats to paying customers, and silvers only get upgraded if nobody else has purchased in advance

  3. One other drawback. They charge the credit card you made the reservation with. For a business trip, I do not want my corporate card used. My company doesn’t take kindly to “personal” charges on the corporate card.

  4. US handles it’s upgrades queues and processing off-host, meaning outside of its reservation system. So this was an in-house move they made separate from anything to do with the merger.

  5. It’s been a lot longer than that. My company lets me upgrade if the checked bag cost = first class, which comes with a free checked bag. For my puddle jumps out of CMH, it almost always does. Plus I get Group 1 boarding and priority luggage for the whole ticket, not just any upgraded segments.

  6. They’ve been doing this for more than a year now. Saw it last summer on transcon. flights booked for family (all non-elites on US). I wonder if they only offer it when there are more F seats available than preferred members on the waitlist.

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