American Airlines: Going For Great!
American Airlines has a generous upgrade program that allows travelers opportunities to enjoy a more comfortable seat and a higher class of service sitting in Business or First Class at the discounted economy cost! One can upgrade any revenue fare class ticket on domestic and international flights using miles or a System Wide Upgrade (SWU) certificate. (SWUs are offered to AAdvantage Elite Status members who have reached the Executive Platinum status level.) The upgrade will be from one class of service to the next, for up to three segments in a single direction of the itinerary. Some examples include upgrading US domestic economy class to first class, international economy class to business class and international business class to the international first class cabin.
This could be you – when you get upgraded from discounted economy class (coach) to Business Class!
American Airlines Business Class (777-200). Photo courtesy of Anesa Burkic.
So how much does an upgrade cost?
American Airlines offers a co-pay option of miles + cash, or a SWU certificate in lieu of the miles + cash co-pay:
Here is an example:
Let’s take for example European travelers that want to book discount economy seats to go from Amsterdam to Las Vegas. They will be subject to an upgrade fee of 25,000 miles + $350 USD, per person, one way, or one SWU certificate. Upgrade availability needs to be available before American Airlines will confirm you in the upgraded class of service.
So how do you know when upgrade inventory is available?
One could American Airlines every day or every week to find out if upgrades are available for your flights, but this is time consuming. Fortunately there are a few solutions that can help you find out upgrade availability without having to call every day!
ExpertFlyer is one such service, which costs as low as $4.99 a month. Given a specific flight you can search for upgrades and award ticket availability and also set alerts such that if the upgrade availability opens up, you can then call up American Airlines, pay and confirm an upgrade.
With American Airlines mileage upgrades and SWU certificate upgrade availability both come out of the same availability bucket. To search for either mileage or SWU upgrade availability you will be looking for either (C) for Business Class awards or (A) for First Class awards.
Here is an example search for upgrade availability from Amsterdam to Las Vegas:
I usually search for both First (A) and Business (C) availability at the same time to find the flights that have International Business class availability and First Class domestic availability. Here is an example of a flight where availability is available for both the international segment and the domestic segment:
In this situation, call American Airlines to upgrade your flight segments with miles or a SWU as soon as possible, since both segments of your flight will be confirmed in the upgraded class of service!
If you already have your trip booked you can utilize ExpertFlyer to search for upgrade availability, but it can also be useful to find upgrade availability before you book, and that way you are guaranteed to be in an upgraded class of service, which will give you peace of mind.
If you would like more information about searching for upgrades on American Airlines using miles or System Wide Upgrades or using Expert Flyer and it’s more advanced features please let me know in the comments below, or feel free to contact me via email.
Be sure to check out the other American Airlines articles in this series :
American Airlines: Going For Great!
American Airlines: Going For Great! – Earning Miles For Award Travel
American Airlines: Going For Great! – Earning Elite Status