American Changes How Domestic Upgrades Work May 20 & Begins Top Elite Upgrades on Domestic Awards

In January American introduced Platinum Pro, a 75,000 mile status tier, and formalized benefits for ConciergeKey members above Executive Platinum.

American also started requiring minimum spend for elite status earned this year.

Delta and United exempt members based outside the U.S. from this requirement. American does not.

Delta and United exempt members who spend $25,000 in a year on a co-brand card from this requirement (although United only applies this exemption to status up to their Platinum 75,000 mile level). American does not.

Instead American allows spending on their Barclaycard co-brand cards only to earn elite qualifying dollars.

Then in February American started selling fares that eliminate certain elite benefits. Booking basic economy you don’t get advance seat assignments, extra legroom seats, or upgrades.

There were two more elite changes we’ve been waiting for, that American announced last year but without an implementation date.

  • Upgrades on domestic award tickets for Executive Platinums (and ConciergeKey members).

  • Spending becomes a tie-breaker for upgrades. Currently upgrades are based on status and then time of request.That will change to status and then trailing 12 month total elite qualifying dollars.

Both of these changes will go into effect May 20.

New Upgrade Priority

Upgrades are currently prioritized by elite status and then time of request.

Starting May 20 upgrade prioritization will be:

  1. Elite status
  2. Upgrade type (mileage awards and systemwide upgrades followed by 500 mile upgrades on purchased tickets and then 500 mile upgrades on awards)
  3. Elite qualifying dollars in the past 12 months
  4. Booking class
  5. Time of request

This applies to all upgrades.

Elite qualifying dollars will only be used from August 31, 2016 onward. So when this goes into effect May 20 there won’t actually be 12 months of data baing used.

American will not reveal the rolling elite qualifying dollar total to most customers.

They also warn, “[i]t will take a few days for all of the changes to roll-out to our various systems, so customers may notice variances in their experience as the updates take effect.”

Upgrades on Award Tickets

ConciergeKey and Executive Platinum members will receiving complimentary upgrades on award tickets the way they would on paid travel. This is available “from the Main Cabin to the next class” meaning it does not apply on 3-cabin domestic aircraft from business class to first class.

Complimentary upgrades on awards are available also for one companion traveling on the same flight as the member, just like with upgrades on paid travel. (For companions who are not eligible for complimentary upgrades, 500-mile upgrade certificates will be required.)

Upgrades will clear at the bottom of the priority list for the member’s elite status, but above members will lower status on revenue tickets.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. I called EXP desk at 9:08 AM CST and they said no, they have NOT been provided any information on start date, she looked through all the bulletins, talked to her co-workers, nothing, nada. Where is the official notification Gary?

  2. This totally sucks for a lifetime platinum with relatively low current spending, especially one who is often in GOV-Y class when he does travel.

  3. @Rusty the Citi *Executive* AAdvantage card lets you earn 10,000 elite qualifying miles after $40,000 spend each year however it does not earn qualifying DOLLARS.

  4. So Gary you previously noted that you will cross the $50K Aviator Silver spend threshold later in the year so your rolling EQD total is weighted to the end of the year. Is this still your strategy?

  5. Is this going to apply to already-requested SWUs (for flights in June, for example)? So everyone on the flight would be re-prioritized based on EQD?

  6. Your headline says this applies to domestic upgrades…surely it also applies to SWUs on international and complimentary Mexico/Caribbean/Canada right?

  7. Will upgrades requested through Business ExtrAA (BXP1) be in the same category as SWUs and miles + copay upgrAAdes?
    Also, will EQD awarded through credit card spend count towards the “rolling” spend?

  8. Gary, working on the same strategy. I crossed the $25K spend threshold last month and it automatically credited the EQD and also the EQM at $20K. Going to sock drawer the card til later in the year to save that last $3K EQD bonus.

  9. The lack of an EQD exemption or reduction for non US residents is going to end my AA relationship this year. I will easily hit the 100k mileage again, and will go over 6K EQD’s… the same as someone else who uses their CC.

    I expense about 8k a month on business travel, not counting flights, and would gladly use an AA-branded card… *if one were available to me*.

    So I’m gone. I’ll be status matching once I use my last SWUs, and try my luck elsewhere.

    Shame, too; for the most part I’ve been very happy flying AA, especially compared to AC.

  10. I dislike Americans Premium cabin hard product their leg room and and pathetic offerings with food and beverage
    International sometimes somewhat desirable
    Virtually hate otherwise everything American is doing now and buy premium cabin tickets on competing airlines
    Number one reason I left Americans program as a lifetime Plat member
    No reasonable amount of saver awards for redemption
    Will never return until they fix the issue
    The new CEO and his cronies have destroyed the worlds best and first loyalty program
    beyond anything imaginable and now they are taking an uncomfortable coach cabin and making it even more miserable going forward
    I will laugh at them when I see all the next high drama events from the melt down of
    Passengers and flight attendants being squeezed on board till they are miserable.beyond belief and getting on each other’s nerves
    Lucky to have traveled in the good old days
    They aren’t my last choice but far from my top 3 choices

  11. @Dwonderment – American currently offers more legroom than other legacy airlines in domestic first class. I don’t expect that to last, but it’s true as of today. So not sure criticism of legroom is really fair.

  12. Gary, I’m well aware of the OW EQD, and I use that on the odd CX flight… but it’s still not going to be enough for me to hit the 12K EQD threshold. Doesn’t really help me in Canada, where there is no OW airline, and I only earn AA miles on Westjet, and not EQDs.

    AA used to have a RBC card in Canada, but it’s gone.
    Give me a product I can use, and I’ll use it. As it stands now, I will have to spend 2x as much as someone else to earn the same status… and I am using all the benefits of being an EXP less than that person who only spends 6K EQDs.

    It’s a load of crap, and my only option is to bail after this year.

  13. So let me get this straight. Suppose I spend $12K EQD and obtain EP status. Now, unless my trailing 12 months spend is higher than the other EPs, I will never obtain 500 mile upgrades. Not good.

    To put this in perspective, I obtain my status by flying to Asia for vacations. The EQDs are about 6 RT in premium economy (EVA) NYC-BKK, 3 RT in business (ANA, Cathay Pacific, Japan Air, Cathay Pacific). Hard to justify.

    Every day, they take something away. We shall see, but I think they will pay the price in the long run.

  14. Wait… Does this mean AA releases mileage seats? Oh, they refer to AAnytime Awards…

  15. Done with all loyalty programs. I book the least expensive BC, on any airline internationally. The loyalty programs are a joke. As the old saying goes, “sworn to fun, loyal to none “

  16. “From the Main Cabin to the next class” wouldn’t mean from any economy seat to business, now could it?

  17. In #2, how does complimentary upgrades for EXP prioritize, or is that same as the 500-mile?

    @Flyer Fun – as an EXP, you never have or will earn 500-mile certs as domestic upgrades are complimentary.

    For me, this whole change doesn’t mean much as I’m not usually on elite heavy routes. Will be interesting to see how it progresses though.

  18. Was EXP for the last three years. Have moved 65% of my EQD to Delta this year because of this eventual scenario. I did the math last year and about half of my upgrades on busy routes out of ORD occurred at the gate, these are upgrades I’m going to lose every time now.

    I’m close to pace to making Platinum on AA this year (30% of EQM/EQS so far, 36% of EQD) but not sure if I’m going to bother, or just save up and qualify for BA Silver early next year to get free MCE seating at ticketing.

  19. @Lucas. They are still called 500 mile upgrades, even though as an EP I have unlimited 500 mile upgrades. I think that answers your other question as well.

  20. As a lowly Gold AA flyer with decent EQDs it will be interesting to see if I ever get another upgrade.
    It seems like death by a thousand cuts on this program.

  21. @Flyer Fun – since they removed that term, I forgot they referred to them the same. Thanks for the answer – makes sense.

  22. It’s so disturbing. AA CEO and leadership has screwed around with the AAdvantage program to make it nearly incomprehensible and completely impractical as a serious attempt to recognize loyalty. It’s all about $$$ you provide the company in the short term and when the day comes that the company is begging you for an ounce of loyal long-term patronage, we might perhaps forgive but will not forget. Good luck to AA at that point in time. And best of luck to the CEO and cronies before that day comes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.