Don’t Panic Over Report That American is Making Changes to Upgrades ‘For All Classes of Service’

Earlier JonNYC who often leaks key information about American Airlines shared there’s a project underway with a target completion date of July 31 (so it could be moved back) that involves further development of dynamic award pricing and changes to upgrades. We were told to expect,

  • Fare class re-alignment
  • Changes to upgrades for all classes of service

At this point we do not know what is going to be changing. Two separate people I asked about the document that he shared to twitter and then deleted weren’t able to identify it. One speculated that it might be outdated.

My initial guess was that this primarily dealt with upgrades to premium economy. That would have required ‘fare class re-alignment’ (creating a fare class for premium economy upgrade inventory) and would have involved changes to how upgrades work. And it would also have tracked with my expectation back in January that premium economy upgrades would come late this year. However I have not heard any recent information about this being imminent.

Currently there’s no way to spend miles or use instruments to confirm an upgrade from coach to premium economy, upgrades are only offered at check-in and the airport and are complimentary for top elites. As far as I know the status quo prevails there for the time being.

American Airlines Premium Economy

These same tweets are also being reported by The Points Guy. I disagree with their conclusion “that July 31, 2019 will be a day to watch” that just seems like a target project date, not necessarily an announcement date or policy change date. I’ve also never seen an IT project deliver on time.

JonNYC tweeted out the information suggesting he had given it only a “very, very, very, very, very cursory look/understanding of it” so I would not read too much into it at this point — the end of upgrades from coach to business class, for instance.

I asked American about the document and the rumor and they shared that there is not currently a plan to announce or implement changes to upgrades or to eliminate award charts. This was offered definitively.

American Airlines Business Class

I can’t imagine that American will reduce elite confirmed upgrade benefits that have already been earned. If they make changes, we’d almost certainly be given notice.

In 2016 then-airline President Scott Kirby said that premium economy “will have an impact on the frequent flyer program so that will probably be [a year and a half in the future] because we’ll need to tell our frequent flyers in advance how it impacts the frequent flyer program.” I don’t see why they wouldn’t still plan to give substantial advance notice of any such changes, if they occur.

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. Does it even matter? AA upgrades are almost non existent. Trying to find business/first seats say ANYWHERE US to Tokyo on AA metal even at 330 days is impossible. Europe? Not in F/J except for unicorns.

    AA airlines will eventually suffer when credit cards stop buying miles because customers finally realize AA miles are worthless.

    I used to save my miles for a “dream trip”. Now I’m trying to burn them…if possible…and have switched to JetBlue/cashback.

  2. The exodus of AA elites should be the final nail in the coffin of AA execs. It’s time to clean house of the LUS execs and their airline identity crisis. The stock price speaks for itself. Things are going to get much worse for AA.

  3. My mind is not a trash can. Therefore I have stopped paying attention to AA’s products, plans and policies.

  4. They also definitively said “a mile flown is a mile earned” right before they switched to revenue-based earning.

  5. More immediately, if you listen to the Bernstein investment tape, AA is going to try to upsell more customers booked in coach into first class. I believe this will be through targeted emails. According to the execs, about half the first class cabin is currently upgrades. Management obviously wants to increase this percentage.

    While most people reading this blog will not appreciate it, these are sound business decisions. You don’t make money in the airline industry cultivating the loyalty of customers who get more than they paid for. Rather, you make money upselling a marginally better product. Reality can suck.

  6. “There are currently no plans to do X, Y, or Z”… but tomorrow is another day. They’re not going to tell you until they’re ready to tell you. We’ve been here before.

  7. I booked premium economy and paid $350 and 25,000 for a c space upgrade into business on American. I didn’t want to risk not being able to get the upgrade (no status) so I booked premium economy despite the upgrade cost and points being the same from economy. The changes may make having a premium economy fare a prerequisite to being able to upgrade into business or premium economy being charged less than economy for the upgrade to business.

  8. Do they even realize that devaluation of redemption value will also lower the revenue from credit card miles?

  9. @ Beachfan — “Do they even realize that devaluation of redemption value will also lower the revenue from credit card miles?” Will it? Don’t be so sure. Lots of normal folks like dynamic pricing. Ask WN’s customers! Sure dynamic pricing is bad for people who want to get more than they paid for. But are those a business’s good customers?

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