There’s One Caribbean Island Where American Airlines Elite Upgrades Don’t Apply

American Airlines AAdvantage members with status receive complimentary upgrades, if available, on U.S. domestic flights as well as flights between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America.

That now even applies to Gold and Platinum members who no longer need to pay for these upgrades with 500 mile certificates (although companion upgrades still require these certificates, but that’s going away too).

The complimentary upgrade program has one oddball route exception. All Caribbean flights receive complimentary upgrades except one. It’s a 900 mile flight operated with an American Eagle Embraer E-175 regional jet from Miami to San Andrés.

  • Upgrades are valid “between the U.S. and…the Caribbean” and San Andrés (ADZ) is in the Caribbean.

  • The island belongs to Colombia. Colombia is often regarded as part of Central America (which is also eligible for complimentary upgrades).

  • American includes Colombia, though, in the South America region which is reasonable. Flights to South America aren’t eligible for complimentary upgrades.

American Eagle Embraer E-175 in Miami

To be clear, when you’re in San Andrés you’re in the Caribbean. You’re just east of Central America, and certainly closer to it than to South America. It’s only because it’s part of a country that’s considered South America that complimentary upgrades don’t apply.

I asked American whether it’s intentional to consider the Caribbean island of San Andrés as part of South America and exclude it from complimentary upgrades, or an oversight of some kind? And according to a spokesperson, “San Andrés is indeed part of Colombia so it’s not eligible for e500s.”

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. Meh. This isn’t an exception. It’s a non-exception. American has a number of oddball geographic categorizations. That’s why if one wants to learn geography, one is best to turn to Google Earth, not to a mismanaged and disastrously operated airline.

  2. The status of outlying territories is an interesting one, and as both a professional geographer and a ham radio operator (looking at what counts a a separate “entity” for award credit) I’ve seen a lot of discussions about this. Weird things happen. I was just in Sint Maarten which is considered to be a separate “country” in the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but you go across the non-border into St. Martin and suddenly you are visiting an integral but external part of France and so are within the EU.

    I agree from its location San Andreas (and nearby Providencia) should be considered Caribbean, but legally it is South American. So AA is right in the same sense that flights to Alaska or Hawaii are also domestic routes. (Incidentally I met someone who went to San Andreas a few years ago. He said it was strongly recommended that his bags be wrapped in plastic to avoid possible drug smuggling issues or outright theft.)

  3. No upgrades to Colombia because it’s South America. Can’t use your monthly wifi pass because it’s South America. You can’t access the Flagship Lounge because, uh, uh, it’s, uh, not South enough South America

  4. @drrichard and others— Countries can exist in multiple regions. San Andreas is not “legally” part of South America the same way you would not say Reunion is part of Europe.

    There must also be other Caribbean destinations that are territories of European countries. These would not be classified as Europe.

    AA just isn’t using common sense here.

  5. Odd because Aruba belongs to Netherlands but nobody calls Aruba Europe

  6. Can you please ask AA if they will start allowing flagship lounge access for Colombia? If it isn’t eligible for complementary upgrades and I need to use another instrument to upgrade, it should have international business class benefits.

  7. @Daniel

    “There must also be other Caribbean destinations that are territories of European countries. These would not be classified as Europe.”

    San Andres isn’t a Colombian “territory”. It’s as much a part of Colombia as Hawaii is a part of the U.S.

    The overseas territories in the Caribbean are more comparable to Guam or American Samoa

  8. Sorry but Gary where in the world did you learn that colombia was part of Central America? I mean I’m sorry but that is just plain wrong. And as a Colombian I take offense for this lack of education. This article you quoted is soooo wrong. There is no country or educational system that will ever place Colombia as Central American country. There is also a reason why we belong to the Conmebol and not to the Concacaf for World Cup qualifiers. And our neighbor Panama belongs to Concacaf. How the get classified? Conmebol is all of South America. Something so simple. Please. Get it right and don’t propagate wrong and ignorant information.

  9. Colombia is definitely not central America, which stops at Panama. As someone mentioned above, San Andres would be like USA’s Hawaii, so, it too is south America. This is a non-exception.

  10. As previous commenters have said, Colombia is unequivocally South America. Classifying it as Central is simply incorrect.

    As for the lack of upgrades, with the Flagship changes, it seems e500s should extent to Northern South America as well. It’s odd that PTY gets a free upgrade, but BOG doesn’t. The product is the same.

  11. Using this logic, AA should remove complimentary upgrades to Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, the Cayman Islands, Montserrat, and the Turks and Caicos Islands as all of these islands are owned or governed by the UK. In addition, they should also remove complimentary upgrades to Guadeloupe, and Martinique as these countries are still owned or governed by France. Lastly, AA should remove complimentary upgrades to Aruba, Bonaire, Sint Maarten, and Curaco as all of these islands are owned or governed by the Netherlands.

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