Shortly after US Airways management took over at American Airlines, award tickets – especially in premium cabins internationally – because much harder to get. Then at the beginning of 2017 American eliminated most confirmed domestic upgrade space.
Now they’re making another change to how upgrade inventory is managed.
- First class upgrades have booked into “A” inventory, whenever A space is available first class upgrades could be applied (for instance using systemwide upgrades, Business ExtrAA certificates or miles).
- Business class upgrades have booked into “C” inventory, so whenever C space is available business class upgrades could be applied (using those instruments).
However Zach Griff writes that American has confirmed to him that they’ve changed how confirmed upgrades work, making only a subset of A and C inventory available for upgrade.
As part of AA’s change to the upgrade process, the Fort Worth-based carrier is adjusting how many seats are available as upgrades, according to a carrier spokesperson. The adjustment will apply to both systemwide and mileage upgrades.
…Going forward, even if there are seats in the “A” and “C” classes, upgrades to biz and first won’t necessarily be available. A spokesperson confirmed that the carrier will only offer a subset of seats in these fare classes for upgrades.
They aren’t simply reducing the amount of A and C space available but making upgrades a subset of those buckets, which makes it easier to those those buckets for other purposes (e.g. filing more fares for revenue travel). Last year American Airlines made the ‘R’ inventory bucket dual-use and complimentary domestic upgrade availability no longer matched when R space was published (even though those upgrades still booked into R).
Going forward now if you see C or A inventory (it can be searched at ExpertFlyer.com) that doesn’t mean upgrade space is actually available. You may be able to see upgrade availability for a flight on the American Airlines website (including on the Business ExtrAA site) or can otherwise call and ask – but the process of searching for upgradable flights has become more challenging.
While American may not “expect any significant changes to upgrade availability” the word ‘significant’ may be doing a lot of work here, and in any case there’s nothing positive about this change for customers looking to upgrade.
Finally Griff writes that American told him “that upgrade space will continue to be managed on a leg-by-leg basis. That means that you’ll see the same space on a flight from LAX to JFK regardless of whether you’ve booked it as a single segment or as part of a larger itinerary (like LAX to LHR with a stop in JFK).” However American has, in fact, used married segment logic for upgrade availability on international flights for several years.