This Simple Mistake Can Cost You Your American Airlines Upgrade (Like It Did for Me)

When American Airlines makes significant schedule changes, upgrade requests can sometimes appear in your list of reservations online to have fallen off. Domestic upgrades either show ‘requested’ or have a check box to submit a request.

Even though you’ve made a request for an upgrade, the box can show up unchecked after schedule changes roll through the system.

Do not just check the box and re-request your upgrade.

American’s domestic upgrades are prioritized based on status and then based on time of request. You don’t want to make a new upgrade request closer to the date of travel because you can wind up lower in the upgrade queue as a result.

Instead, I generally call up American. They’ll usually reassure me that my upgrade request is still in the system with the original request date and time. They can clean up the reservation, and it again appears ‘requested’ when I pull up the reservation online (thus no check box left to mark to request the upgrade).

In addition to not requesting the upgrade anew, it’s also a good idea to double check the work of your agent. If you care about your upgrade, ring up the airline again to make sure that the upgrade request was restored to its original date and time; that the agent didn’t just put it in anew.

This all falls under the rubric of how to protect yourself by gardening your airline reservations. It’s important to check your agent’s work to make sure things are set up properly.

I wrote this advice. I know it. But I can also be lazy. So i didn’t follow up. And I wound up with an upgrade request much closer to my departure than I originally made that request. And I’ve verified that I lost a Dallas – Washington National upgrade as a result.

The flight is 1200 miles, eastbound, and I had an exit row seat. It’s hardly a calamity. But following my own advice I’d have had the upgrade instead.

Don’t make this same simple mistake. Check your reservations, make sure your upgrade requests still appear, and when they don’t make sure an agent restores the original request rather than their (or your) making a new request.

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. It’s the same if you are a Platinum who becomes Executive Platinum with existing reservations. I called the EXP line and asked them to make sure that my account showed as EXP and that I wanted the original “time of request” (once I knew I was going to hit EXP, I began requesting upgrades for all my flights even I was only Platinum at the time).

    Fortunately a call back to double check that showed that all of my requests showed as my original time of ticketing.

  2. I thought that would only be a problem if the PNR changes. So, I will have to change my procedures. But the times I did check (I did it compulsively for a couple of years until about a year ago), it seemed like all they did was “rerequest it” and it got the right stamp. I didn’t think there was a “clean up the record” approach.

    Right now, I’m kicking myself that I didn’t use a SWU for LAX-BOS. True, it’s a crummy F cabin, but it’s over 5 hours. Now the Sox are in the world series st home the night before and the night after I go to Boston.


  3. Does American ever give Platinums complimentary upgrades from full fare coach to business without using certs? Delta did this for me once Montego Bay to Atlanta.

  4. @ James — yes: AAdvantage Platinum® and AAdvantage Gold® members receive complimentary upgrades for themselves and one companion, provided both are traveling on a full-fare* Economy Class ticket.

  5. @murtuza yes, but you’ll need to pay for it with stickers. No freebies until you actually achieve EXP status.

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