American Airlines is making a number of changes to the upgrade process, some of which will be beneficial to lower-tier elites. The airline is introducing complimentary upgrades for AAdvantage Gold and Platinum members, as well as introducing an automated system to process upgrades at the airport.
Complimentary Upgrades for Gold and Platinum Members
Starting March 2, 2022, all AAdvantage Gold and Platinum members will receive complimentary upgrades on all eligible routes and will no longer need to use 500-mile stickers. This is is a fantastic change for these lower-tier elites as they’ll no longer need to earn certificates to use towards upgrades. All routes within the continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, Caribbean, Canada, and Mexico are eligible, just as they are for Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members.
There is a slight drawback, however. Previously, Golds and Platinums on a longer route would have to request an upgrade, and there were plenty of elites who wouldn’t want to upgrade, therefore increasing the chances of an upgrade for others willing to spend the stickers. Now that everyone will be eligible and will request an upgrade, it could be harder for some to sit up front.
Overall, being able to upgrade without a fee or instrument is a big win.
Retirement of 500-mile Upgrades
With the introduction of free upgrades for Gold and Platinum members, through most of this year, 500-mile stickers will only be able to be used on upgrading a companion. Soon, American will be rolling out complimentary upgrades for companions and the 500-mile sticker program will no longer be needed; these coupons will be converted to 250 Loyalty Points per upgrade.
The 500-mile upgrades were sometimes tricky to earn and use, and they were useless to upper-tier elites who had no need for them, so American retiring this system can mostly be seen as a good thing.
Automation of Upgrades
American is slowly introducing a program that will automatically process upgrades 40 minutes prior to the flight, taking away the manual work that previously needed to be done by agents. This frees up the agent to perform other tasks and helps reduce staffing on certain flights. This new system will hopefully prevent some passengers from getting skipped on the list, or the upgrade list being improperly run.
Hot Tip: Our detailed guide walks you through how to upgrade to business and first class on American Airlines flights!
The introduction of complementary upgrades for Gold and Platinum AAdvantage members puts American on par with Delta, United, and Alaska who all offer similar schemes. Soon, the 500-mile upgrade program will be sunset in favor of a much easier complimentary companion upgrade program towards the end of 2022.
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