Starting June 9th American Airlines is making some minor changes to how complimentary upgrades work that most AAdvantage status members are going to like. Upgrades when traveling on an award ticket will now be available to all status members and will come with higher priority than before.
- All members with status will be able to receive complimentary upgrades on award travel. This will no longer be limited to Platinum Pro members and above.
- Award travel will no longer be prioritized below paid travel for upgrades. Whether you’re traveling on a paid ticket or an award ticket you’ll be sorted based on status and rolling 12 months of Loyalty Points earned.
- Companion upgrades will work properly for passengers on the same reservation – if upgrades don’t clear before the airport you’ll no longer need to have someone at the airport link the lower status member’s request with the higher status one. Both passengers are supposed to have the higher status of the two companions for upgrade processing, but until now this ‘breaks’ at the airport and needs to be restored manually. That should no longer be the case.
American Airlines AAdvantage members with status receive complimentary upgrades, if available, on U.S. domestic flights as well as flights between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America. Each elite is eligible to upgrade a companion for free as well.
Now that all awards for travel entirely on American are fully revenue-based it doesn’t make sense to differentiate between how you’re paying for award travel, with cash or with points.
Complimentary upgrades is how most first class seats not being sold for cash are awarded. Before the pandemic 75% of domestic upgrades were complimentary, 20% were confirmed in advance, while 5% were paid day of departure.
These changes all make sense to me, but it does mean that lifetime elites no longer very active in the program are pushed even further down the upgrade list.
- A 2 million miler lifetime Platinum relying on their million miler status (rather than earning it anew) and buying a ticket fell behind all of the current Platinums earning their status, because those members had more Loyalty Points in the past 12 months.
- But they were still ahead of Platinums who had redeemed miles! Now they’re behind those members, too.
So while American’s upgrade changes make sense, it underscores further how badly American needs to update its uncompetitive lifetime elite program.