A New Upgrade Benefit for US Airways Top Elites Flying American

There’s a new improvement that rolled out last week for US Airways top tier elites traveling on American Airlines, per JonNYC at TravelingBetter.com.

American and US Airways Reciprocal Upgrade Benefits are Limited

American and US Airways started offering reciprocal upgrades to each others’ elite members back in June.

These were upgrades available at check-in only. Since US Airways upgrades are complimentary, American elites would get them free too — provided there were seats left when the check-in window opened. Elites could also be added to the airport standby list.

How to Maximize Chances of a US Airways Upgrade

You don’t ever want to check in for a US Airways flights when there aren’t first class seats for sale if you’re an elite. Instead, just keep checking for a first class seat to open up. If it does, check in immediately, you’ll be able to snag the upgrade seat. The airport list doesn’t process until the airport, a Silver can trump an already check-in top tier elite.

How American Airlines Upgrades for US Airways Elites Work

American Airlines upgrades were made available at check-in only when a paid upgrade would have been offered to any general member checking in. American doesn’t release all of their first class seats as upgrade seats with the check-in window. And if there was no ‘load factor based upgrade’ available, there was also no airport standby list offered for US Airways elites.

When upgrades were offered, they would be paid (purchased 500 mile upgrade certificates) for Silver, Gold, and Platinum members — just like American Gold and Platinums receive their upgrades. US Airways Chairmans Preferred members would get the upgrades free, like American Executive Platinums do.

The New Benefit for US Airways Chairmans Preferred Flying American: Airport Standby List

US Airways Chairmans Preferred members can now be added to the airport standby list for a complimentary upgrade, if they aren’t offered an upgrade at check-in.

This is valid on American Airlines coded flights, and also US Airways-coded flights operated by American. (A US Airways Chairmans Preferred member has to be the only one in the reservation, or else everyone in the reservation needs to be a Chairmans Preferred member. To be added to the standby list otherwise, the reservation would need to be split.)

I believe US Airways Chairmans Preferred members get upgrade priority in line with Executive Platinum members. The system should accurately prioritize elites based on whether they’re a connecting passenger or not. I’d love to hear reports from US Airways Chairmans members flying American about where they stood on the upgrade list.

Bottom-line: While the system should automatically add US Airways Chairmans Preferred members to the upgrade standby list if needed and if checking in via an American Airlines channel, it’s worth verifying that this has happened. And any agent who says it isn’t possible just isn’t up on current procedure, so hang up, call back.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. It’s rare that I correct you, but this is wrong: “You don’t ever want to check in for a US Airways flights when there aren’t first class seats for sale if you’re an elite.”

    Even after checking in, US and AA elites can re-check-in and grab any newly opened F seat. Even low level elites, I’m AA Gold and my girlfriend is US Silver, and we’ve both self-upgraded on US after checking in. So while you’re right that you should keep checking for an open F seat, there’s no harm in checking in before that.

  2. Was thinking the exact same thing as swag…has something changed? What he writes is my understanding too.

  3. Sorry for being unclear, I didn’t literally mean you can’t check in as that isn’t irrevocable (I was helping someone last weekend at FTU who had already checked in) I meant don’t consider yourself checked in. Point is you want to keep checking for space rather than assuming you’ve rolled over onto an upgrade list at the airport or one that will continue to be checked like with every other airline offering upgrades.

  4. I’m a new AA Plat on the challenge. When I check in on a US flight I can just select the open F seat?

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