How To Get Upgraded On American Airlines

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Buying a premium airline class ticket outright is usually pretty expensive.

American Airlines is one of the few major US carriers to still operate a true first class cabin. While premium prices are a little cheaper than on Delta or United, it’s still 2-5 times higher than economy rates.

You can estimate a full-fare premium ticket to be between $1,500 – $5,000 each way, depending on where and when you are flying.

That’s why upgrades are so important, as they give you a more fair fare (sometimes even for free if you participate in the airline’s loyalty programs).

When it comes to American Airlines, you can get upgraded in many ways, especially when you are part of their loyalty program, AAdvantage. We will walk you through the best ways to get a ticket upgrade on American Airlines.

How To Upgrade To Business Class

Once you have your reservation ticketed, you can apply for an upgrade in a few different ways. The easiest will be online, but don’t rule out checking once you arrive at the airport.

Here is how you can go about upgrading:

Upgrade On American Airlines Website

American Airlines makes it pretty straightforward to apply for an upgrade on their website. This is how you can apply:

  1. Log In to Your Account: Log into your AAdvantage account on the American Airlines website. This step is important to see specific existing reservations and available upgrades.
  2. View Your Reservation: Navigate to ‘Your Trips / Check-In’ and locate the flight you wish to upgrade. Your eligibility for an upgrade will depend on factors such as your ticket type, fare class, and AAdvantage status.
  3. Check Upgrade Availability: Once you select your flight, look for the ‘Upgrade’ option. American Airlines will display available upgrade options, including Business Class, if available. Availability can vary greatly depending on the route, time of year, and how full the flight is.
  4. Choose Your Upgrade Option: If available, select the Business Class upgrade option. You can upgrade using AAdvantage miles, systemwide upgrades (if you are an elite AAdvantage member), or a combination of miles and cash.
  5. Review and Confirm: Before finalizing, review the details, including any additional costs or miles needed for the upgrade. Confirm your selection to process the upgrade.
  6. Wait for Confirmation: Some upgrades are confirmed immediately, while others might be waitlisted. If you’re waitlisted, keep an eye on your email or your American Airlines account for updates about your upgrade status.

Remember, availability and upgrade eligibility can be influenced by several factors, including your AAdvantage level, the type of ticket you purchased, and overall flight availability. Upgrades are generally easier to secure on less popular flight times or routes, so maybe opt for the slow travel days.

American Airlines is on a revenue-based system so you may see prices as high as the fare difference. Usually online rates are standard but there are other ways to go about getting an upgrade.

Upgrade By Calling American

If you prefer a more personal touch or need an immediate answer in upgrading to Business Class on your American Airlines flight, you can opt to upgrade by calling their customer service. Here’s how to proceed:

  1. Prepare Your Information: Before you call, have your flight details ready, including your booking reference number and AAdvantage membership information. If you have specific flights in mind for the upgrade, note down their details, too.
  2. Call American Airlines: Dial the American Airlines reservation line. You can find the appropriate number on the American Airlines website under the ‘Contact Us’ section. There are different numbers for AAdvantage members, depending on your status (Gold, Platinum, etc.), so make sure you call the right number for a more streamlined service.
  3. Request an Upgrade: Once connected with a representative, request an upgrade to Business Class. The representative will check the availability for your specified flights. Remember, availability can be limited, especially on popular routes or during peak travel times.
  4. Discuss Upgrade Options: The representative will inform you of available upgrade options, including using AAdvantage miles, systemwide upgrades, or paying an additional fee. They can also explain any costs, rules, or restrictions associated with your upgrade.
  5. Confirm Upgrade Details: If an upgrade is available and you decide to proceed, the representative will guide you through the process. They will confirm the upgrade details, including additional costs or miles deductions.
  6. Finalize the Upgrade: The representative will finalize the upgrade once you agree to the terms. Ensure you receive a confirmation email or a revised itinerary showing your upgraded status.
  7. Check for Waitlist Status: Sometimes, your upgrade request might be placed on a waitlist. The representative should provide details on how the waitlist works and how you will be notified if your upgrade is confirmed.

Remember, upgrading over the phone might be especially useful if you’re dealing with complex itineraries, using special upgrade certificates, or if you just prefer having a direct conversation to ensure all details are clear and sorted according to your preferences.

Upgrade At Airport Check In

Upgrading to Business Class at the airport check-in is another option for travelers flying with American Airlines. This method is typically used as a last-minute upgrade strategy but can sometimes be fruitful like on Air France.. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Arrive Early: To increase your chances of getting an upgrade at the airport, you should leave plenty of time. This means being at the airport early into check in, giving you a better shot at available upgrades before other passengers claim them.
  2. Inquire About Availability: Once you reach the check-in counter, ask the staff member if there are any available upgrades to Business Class for your flight. Availability can be limited and is often first-come, first-served.
  3. Understand the Costs: If upgrades are available, the staff will inform you about the cost. Upgrades at the airport can be paid for with cash, credit card, or possibly with AAdvantage miles (depending on the airline’s policy and your membership status). Be prepared for potential last-minute costs, as these upgrades can sometimes be more expensive than pre-arranged ones.
  4. Consider Special Offers: Occasionally, airlines offer special last-minute upgrade prices at check-in. These offers can be more attractive than usual, especially if the flight has many Business Class seats available.
  5. Complete the Upgrade Process: If you proceed with the upgrade and accept the cost, the staff will process your upgrade at the check-in counter. Ensure you receive a new boarding pass reflecting your upgraded status.

Keep in mind:

Check Baggage Allowance: Remember, Business Class often has a higher baggage allowance. If you’ve already paid for extra baggage based on Economy Class limits, ask if you can be refunded or if your allowance can be adjusted to match Business Class limits.

Waitlist Option: If Business Class is fully booked, you can ask to be put on a waitlist. You might still get the upgrade if a seat becomes available due to last-minute cancellations or no-shows.

Once upgraded, enjoy the additional perks of Business Class, like priority boarding, enhanced meal options, and more comfortable seating. Upgrading at the airport is less predictable than pre-arranging your upgrade. Still, it can be a good option for those willing to take the chance and potentially capitalize on last-minute availability.

Although this is last minute, getting one at the airport is one of the most satisfying feelings if you are not expecting an upgrade. Be polite to your check-in agent, as they will be more inclined to help you score the better seat.

Cost To Upgrade To Business Class

You can pay for an upgrade in two ways, either with cash or with miles. Both options are good, especially if you have miles to spare. Here is how you can go about it and how much you expect to pay.

Upgrade with Cash

The cash price for an upgrade to Business Class on American Airlines can fluctuate significantly. Factors influencing the price include the original ticket class, demand for seats, and how close to departure the upgrade is requested.

Sometimes, American Airlines may offer last-minute cash upgrades at a reduced rate, especially if there’s significant availability in Business Class. These deals are usually found at the check-in counter or gate.

The best way to predict how much it will cost is to look at the full fare business class ticket and expect about 75% of the difference. This will fluctuate over time but can give you an idea of the amount you will see online before booking.

Upgrade with Miles

The number of AAdvantage miles required to upgrade to Business Class varies. It depends on factors like your ticket’s fare class, your destination, and the length of your flight. In some cases, a co-pay might be required to upgrade in addition to miles. This is particularly true for lower-fare classes or longer international flights.

AAdvantage elite status members often enjoy reduced mileage costs and waived co-pays for upgrades. You can expect to see anywhere from 20,000 – 60,000 points required to upgrade.

Upgrades with miles are subject to availability and can be limited, especially on popular routes. It’s advisable to request an upgrade as early as possible to increase the chances of availability.

Evaluate whether using miles for an upgrade represents good value. Sometimes, saving miles for award tickets rather than upgrades might be more beneficial, depending on your travel plans and the miles required for an upgrade.

Is American Business / First Class Worth It?

Given the usually high cost of upgrading, you may be asking is it worth it? The answer, it depends.

American Business Class on long haul international flights is a pretty good experience. While the airline does not have the most modern cabin they are still competitive in todays world.

Note, not all American planes are created equal as they still run a lot of older business class products on many routes. Be sure to check the plane type before you upgrade to see what the experience will be like. If you are able to get their new business class and its an overnight flight, it may be well worth the upgrade.

Summary & Takeaways

Upgrading to Business Class on American Airlines can be a great travel experience especially on long haul flights. While they won’t be the best airline seats in the sky but they will definitely be better than economy.

Remember, if you are planning to upgrade after booking its never a sure thing. The most important part is to be flexible and check often as the deals may come and go with time.

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