About a week and a half ago I reported that American and US Airways would begin offering each others’ elite frequent flyers upgrades within 24 hours of departure starting June 11.
Now they’ve confirmed it, and the program will indeed start on Wednesday to allow US Airways frequent flyers to upgrade on American flights, and American’s elite frequent flyers to upgrade on US Airways flights.
- Upgrades are available within 24 hours of departure, when the check-in window opens.
- US Airways Chairmans Preferred (100,000 mile flyer) elites will get their upgrades complimentary. Silvers, Golds, and Platinums looking to upgrade on American will have to buy stickers to do so, just like American Gold and Platinum members do.
- American elites looking to upgrade on US Airways will get theirs complimentary, like all US Airways elites have.
- These upgrades are available on North America flights (including “Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America”). Upgrades on US Airways exclude Hawaii, while upgrades on American include Hawaii.
- If a seat is not available on US Airways at check-in, American elites can add themselves to the upgrade standby list. Their status will be treated the same as comparable US elites (So American Executive Platinums are grouped with US Chairman members, etc). Waitlisting will not be an option for US Airways elites flying American.
These are interesting differences and stem from the way these are being processed.
They’re using the Load Factor Based Upgrade (“LFBU”) process. Check-in upgrades are first come first serve meaning no prioritization based on status.
- US Airways elites only get to upgrade on American when they would otherwise be offered a paid upgrade at check-in as a non-elite, and they get to pay for upgrade stickers. They also don’t get to waitlist. So not much of a new benefit for US Airways elites.
- American elites get to upgrade free when they could otherwise pay at checkin, and they get to waitlist when their US Airways upgrades aren’t available. I will find this very useful for the flights I’ve been taking US Airways for, anyway like the New York – Washington DC Shuttle where I find paid upgrade offers more often than not when I check in.
American only offers the ‘LFBU’ when they expect to accommodate all waitlisted American elites, so all American elites should almost always come before US elites have a shot.
US Airways offers all seats for upgrade within the check-in window, this means American elites won’t have to pay the buy up cost. And US Airways seat buy ups are available even when traveling on award tickets. That should continue to be the case.
Upgrades on Awards When Flying US Airways?
I’ll test it soon enough, US Airways generally offers me paid seat upgrades at check-in on my 4500 point British Airways Avios awards, New York – DC.
I wonder if these will become free, since the same process is being used (first class seat available, offer it for sale, add-on check elite status and offer it for free).
American explicitly says though that day of departure upgrades on US Airways on award tickets won’t be available.
No Further Upgrade Changes Until the Programs Integrate
I spoke with American AAdvantage President Suzanne Rubin about the new upgrade benefits and learned that there will not be any further upgrade improvements until the programs combine sometime in 2015.
They have no plans for status match across carriers, and while they’re committing to integrate the programs in 2015 there’s no specific date set.
The new upgrade opportunities are “built to run on same rails” that already exist at each carrier. It’s the most efficient way to offer the important upgrade benefit to elites. And they plan what’s next to be integration of the airlines where elites will all be part of the same program and on the same footing within their respective status tiers.