Positive News for American Airlines International Upgrades

When American Airlines starts selling premium economy as a separate international cabin, mileage and systemwide upgrades will still let you move from economy to business class. And it will be possible to for top elites to get complimentary day of departure upgrades to premium economy as well.

Last night @JonNYC tweeted:

There are two very important things here.

First, American Airlines is rolling out international premium economy. They aren’t selling this as a separate cabin but will be soon. It’s currently available on their Boeing 787-9s and they’ll eventually be retrofitting other aircraft with the seats.

At one point I’m quite certain American intended to make upgrades only one class of service even with the introduction of premium economy. In other words, if you bought an economy ticket you could only upgrade to premium economy. If you wanted to upgrade to business class you’d have to buy premium economy.

This was viewed by many as a devaluation of mileage upgrades and systemwide upgrades which are mostly given to Executive Platinum 100,000 mile flyers. However it appears that upgrades will continue to be from economy to business. American confirms this.

Second, since there won’t be any way to upgrade with miles into premium economy, it appears there’s going to be a way to get premium economy upgrades. American confirms this. JonNYC says that premium economy seats will be provided to Executive Platinum members and ConciergeKey members subject to availability on day of departure.

While American hadn’t been ready to talk about this, I asked specifically whether I’d be posting wrong information if I shared these tweets and was told:

When Premium Economy launches as its own class of service, upgrades from Main Cabin to Premium Economy will not be available via mileage or systemwide upgrades and will clear from Main Cabin or Premium Economy into Business.

We’re developing temporary options to give our customers a way to upgrade into this new class of service and we’ll announce more details once they’re available.

So we’ve got a positive story for elite members from American, or at a minimum we’re avoiding an expected devaluation of upgrades.

I still believe that eventually we’ll see one class of service upgrades only, with economy upgrading into premium economy (and the stop gap measure of complimentary upgrades for top elites to premium economy going away). Perhaps American’s next move will depend on what Delta does when they roll out premium economy.

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. That reminds me of the old American J. Looks good for Y+.

    Still, as most of my flying is international, it annoys me that I can’t upgrade with upgrade points (stickers). I have tons of upgrade points which I will never be able to use, because they can only be used domestically. This is bizarre marketing for an airline with global ambitions.

  2. Seems like AA had to do this on a temporary basis or everyone wanting to upgrade would avoid the aircraft with PE. But temporary is temporary. Too bad.

  3. What about an EXP traveling with a non-EXP companion.. still eligible to move from Y to Y+ at the gate?

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