How To Upgrade to Business/First Class on American Airlines Flights

american airlines business class 777

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Want to upgrade on your next American Airlines flight? If you’re not a top elite member of the American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer program, your chances may seem less than optimal.

But you shouldn’t give up hope. Although upgrade demand is high and availability limited, there’s usually a way to fly in the front of the plane if you:

  • Understand how the upgrade process works
  • Know how to leverage your frequent flyer miles for upgrade opportunities
  • Take advantage of premium flights when pricing is discounted

Let’s take a look at American Airlines’ definitive policy for allocating upgrades to its top elites and how non-elites stand a chance of flying in premium cabins.

Types of American Airlines Upgrades

American Airlines rewards its top elite members with complimentary upgrades and the ability to earn worldwide upgrades. Lower-level elite members receive complimentary upgrades on flights 500 miles or less and can earn (or purchase) additional 500-mile upgrades.

All travelers who have AAdvantage frequent flyer miles can use miles to upgrade their flights when upgrade space is available.

Complimentary Upgrades

All AAdvantage elite members receive complimentary upgrades on flights less than 500 miles in length. For flights over this amount, Gold and Platinum members use earned 500-mile upgrades.

ConciergeKey, Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro elite members receive complimentary upgrades on all flights within the U.S. (including Hawaii) and between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Central America.

Systemwide Upgrades

Systemwide upgrades are upgrades chosen annually as part of a choice rewards system by Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum elite members and can be used worldwide on American flights. Executive Platinum members can choose up to 4 upgrades, while Platinum Pro members can choose 1 upgrade.

These upgrades allow for up to 3 segments in each direction of travel (outbound or return) to be upgraded from basic economy or main cabin to business class or business class to first class.

Hot Tip: You can find more information about systemwide upgrades in this detailed post: How Systemwide Upgrades Work on American Airlines [In-Depth]

500-Mile Upgrades

Gold and Platinum AAdvantage Elite members earn 4 500-mile upgrades for every 12,500 Elite Qualifying Miles earned (essentially, every 12,500 miles flown). These upgrades can also be purchased by all elite members for $40 each. Gold and Platinum members can then apply those upgrades on longer flights. For example, a flight that is 1,010 miles would require 3 500-mile upgrades.

Mileage Upgrade Awards

Use your miles to upgrade American-marketed and operated flights worldwide. Depending on the destination you’re traveling to, you can use a combination of miles and a cash co-pay to secure an upgrade to the next higher cabin.

How To Find Out if Upgrade Space Is Available

One of the greatest challenges of securing an upgrade on American Airlines is finding available seats. Just because you can purchase a business class seat does not mean that the seat is available for an upgrade.

If you have ConciergeKey/Executive Platinum status with American Airlines, you’ll be able to see the availability of using systemwide upgrades or mileage upgrade awards when you search for a flight on

Others will have to call to find out if upgrade space is available and if it is possible to use miles or 500-mile certificates (elite members) to upgrade on a particular flight.

Another option to find out if upgrade space is available is to subscribe to a third-party service such as ExpertFlyer and search for C (business class) or A (first class) award space.

  • When upgrading from basic economy or main cabin to domestic first, you need C inventory
  • When upgrading from business class to Flagship First, you need A inventory
  • When upgrading from basic economy or main cabin to Flagship Business, you need C inventory

Upgrade Priority: Who Gets the Upgrade First?

The upgrade hierarchy for American Airlines is similar to other airlines’ upgrade rankings in that elite status is the most important factor.

This is the order in which upgrades are processed as well as their numeric code when listed on the internal priority list (known as the PALL):

1. Elite status level: highest to lowest 

  • ConciergeKey (UPG1)
  • Executive Platinum (UPG2)
  • Platinum Pro (UPG3)
  • Platinum (UPG4)
  • Gold (UPG5)

2. Upgrade type: highest priority to lowest priority 

  • Systemwide upgrades (listed as a VIP) and mileage upgrade awards (listed as MLG), tied for the same ranking
  • 500-mile upgrades on purchased tickets
  • 500-mile upgrades on award tickets (only for ConciergeKey and Executive Platinum)

3. 12-month rolling EQDs

The amount of Elite Qualifying Dollars the elite member has spent in the previous 12 months.

4. Time/date of upgrade request (tie-breaker)

The only option for non-elite members to secure an upgrade is with mileage upgrade awards (or a gifted systemwide upgrade from an elite member), and even then, all elite members will supersede your request on the upgrade waitlist.

Hot Tip: Don’t let the upgrade priority list keep you from requesting a mileage upgrade award. Even without elite status, if upgrade space is available when you book your ticket, the upgrade may clear immediately. The trick is finding available upgrade space, but it is possible. 

The Importance of AAdvantage Elite Status

Elite status is the number 1 factor determining which travelers will be upgraded on American Airlines flights. Top elite members, for example, earn systemwide upgrade (SWU) certificates that, when used, outrank most other upgrade requests.

Here’s how elite members fare when it comes to securing an upgrade.


This top status is by invitation only at American Airline’s discretion. It includes all of the upgrade benefits of Executive Platinum plus upgrade priority over all other elite members.

Executive Platinum

Achieving Executive Platinum earns 4 systemwide upgrade certificates (if you choose these, among many other choice rewards) plus 2 additional SWUs for every 50,000 miles flown, up to 200,000 total EQMs annually.

Complimentary upgrades are available on flights within the U.S. (including Hawaii), and between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Central America.

Platinum Pro

Achieving Platinum Pro earns complimentary upgrades on flights within the U.S. (including Hawaii), and between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Central America. Platinum Pros will be eligible to earn up to 1 SWU as part of their choice benefits.


Achieving Platinum earns complimentary upgrades on flights less than 500 miles. Members may purchase additional 500-mile upgrades and can earn 4 500-mile upgrades for every 12,500 EQMs flown annually.


Achieving Gold earns complimentary upgrades on flights less than 500 miles. Members may purchase additional 500-mile upgrades and can earn 4 500-mile upgrades for every 12,500 EQMs flown annually.

Bottom Line: Top AAdvantage program elite status is the number 1 factor that determines who will receive an upgrade on American Airlines. Having the right credit card in your wallet can make earning one of these elite statuses easier. Read more in our guide to the best credit cards for airline elite status.

The Value of an American Airlines AAdvantage Credit Card

Having an AAdvantage credit card does not increase your chances of receiving an upgrade, but it can make your trip more comfortable and affordable.

There are 2 issuers of AAdvantage credit cards: Citi and Barclays. Barclays cards offer a faster path to elite status.

Barclays AAdvantage Credit Cards: A Faster Path to Elite Status

Each level of American Airlines elite status qualification requires an EQD (Elite Qualifying Dollars) level of spending with the airline in addition to Elite Qualifying Miles/Segment qualifications (EQM/EQS).

American Airlines has reduced qualification thresholds for 2021 by 20% to 33% from the pre-pandemic requirements.

2021 Qualifying MetricGold
Oneworld Ruby
Oneworld Sapphire
Platinum Pro
Oneworld Sapphire
Executive Platinum
Oneworld Emerald

One of the key benefits of the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator credit cards is that you can earn Elite Qualifying Dollars (as much as $3,000 per year) towards AAdvantage elite status with American Airlines. This is a benefit not offered on any of the Citi AAdvantage credit cards.

Barclays AAdvantage Credit CardFlight Benefits/Annual FeeFaster Path to Elite Status
AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Business Mastercard®
  • First checked bag free and preferred boarding for you and up to 4 companions
  • 25% in-flight savings on food and beverages
  • $95 annual fee
  • $25,000 in purchases per calendar year equals $3,000 EQDs towards AAdvantage elite status
Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®
(not available for new applications, must upgrade from the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®)
  • Free checked bag and preferred boarding for you and up to 8 traveling companions.
  • 2 $99 companion tickets after spending $30,000 on the card annually
  • 25% in-flight savings on food and beverages
  • $195 annual fee
  • $50,000 in purchases per calendar year earns $3,000 EQDs
  • 5,000 EQM after spending $20,000 on the card in a calendar year, 5,000 additional EQM, for a total of 10,000, after spending $40,000

For a list of American Airlines AAdvantage credit cards and the perks and rewards available with each card, access our complete guide.

Bottom Line: Although having an AAdvantage credit card will not directly help you upgrade on American Airlines flights, the ability to earn EQDs and EQMs on the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator credit cards can accelerate your progress towards AAdvantage elite status, which is the most important factor for securing an upgrade. 

Upgrading With Miles

All travelers, regardless of AAdvantage frequent flyer status, can use AAdvantage frequent flyer miles to upgrade on American Airlines- or American Eagle-marketed or operated flights based on availability.

Upgrades are valid for a single-class upgrade on up to 3 segments for the outbound or return journey and exclude award tickets.

The amount of miles it takes to upgrade a ticket varies depending on the route and the fare class of the ticket. The following chart reflects the number of miles and co-pay needed to upgrade.

Aadvantage upgrade with miles
Image Credit: American Airlines

The good news is even a discount economy ticket qualifies for an upgrade with miles. Unfortunately, upgrade space is not always available.

Visit for complete descriptions of fare classes and zone definitions for these types of mileage upgrades.

Bottom Line: You don’t have to have elite status with American Airline’s AAdvantage frequent flyer program to be able to upgrade a flight using miles. Even a discount economy ticket is eligible. 

British Airways plane at night
You can use miles to upgrade on British Airways and Iberia flights. Image Credit: Christine Krzyszton

Upgrading on Partner Airlines

You can use your AAdvantage frequent flyer miles to upgrade on British Airways and Iberia flights.

One caveat is that you will need to purchase at least a full-fare economy ticket such as the Y/B fare class to use miles to upgrade, which may be quite expensive.

Here are examples of how many miles it takes to upgrade flights on these partner airlines.

To/FromTo/FromFull-Fare Economy to Premium EconomyPremium Economy to BusinessFull-Fare Economy to BusinessBusiness to First
North AmericaEurope12,50012,50025,00035,000
North AmericaAfrica20,00020,00040,00050,000
North AmericaIndian Subcontinent, Middle East20,00020,00040,00050,000

Mileage upgrades are valid for up to 3 segments on a one-way journey, outbound or return.

One possible sweet spot here is the British Airways premium economy to business upgrade for 12,500 miles each way. This fare occasionally goes on sale, making it a good value for securing an upgrade.

Keep in mind that there may be additional taxes and carrier-imposed fees for specific itineraries, such as flights originating in Great Britain and France.

Additional routes not originating in North America are also available for mileage upgrades. View complete zone and fare class definitions for partner airline mileage upgrades on

Hot Tip: British Airways offers discounts for AARP members at the rate of $200 per business class ticket and $65 for economy or premium economy for flights originating from the U.S. It’s a potentially good value when combined with mileage upgrades. You do not have to be 50 or older to join AARP.

British Airways First Class - Europe Trip 2018
Companion upgrades allow you to share the luxury with others. Image Credit: Alex Miller

Companion Upgrades

American Airlines has recently improved its companion upgrade process. If an elite member is traveling with a companion, the companion upgrade will now receive the same status priority as the elite member. Companions do not have to be AAdvantage program members, and the upgrade is deducted from the sponsoring member’s account.

For example, if an Executive Platinum elite member is traveling with a companion on the same flight, the companion will be elevated to Executive Platinum priority for upgrades, regardless of whether the companion has status. An upgrade can be designated as either “split” or “no split” by speaking with an agent. If there is 1 seat available, a “split” upgrade would upgrade 1 person, but leave the other person in economy. If the upgrade is marked as “no split,” both upgraders will decline the upgrade, and the upgrade will move down on the list to the next eligible person.

ConciergeKey and Platinum elite members can use their systemwide upgrade certificates and use purchased 500-mile upgrades for companions. Companions are not upgraded for free, and the sponsoring member needs to use 500-mile upgrades for these companions. All other elite members must use 500-mile upgrade certificates to upgrade themselves and their companions on flights greater than 500 miles in length, or just 500-mile upgrades for the partner on flights under 500-miles in length.

Companion upgrades are available on paid tickets and award tickets (for Executive Platinums only).

To use 500-mile upgrade certificates, you can select an upgrade when making a reservation or at any time before departure on or call and speak with an American Airlines representative.

Hot Tip: An elite member who sponsors a companion for an upgrade does not necessarily have to use their own systemwide/500-mile upgrades for the companion. The systemwide/500-mile upgrade can be deducted from any account according to the American Airlines website. 

10 Ways To Secure an Upgrade (or Increase Your Chances) With American Airlines

Securing an upgrade on American Airlines may be challenging. Upgrades are limited, and demand is high, but there are ways to increase your chances of an upgrade or secure a premium cabin ticket directly.

Upgrade on American Airlines list

With American AAdvantage Elite Status

  • Attain Executive Platinum Elite status and earn systemwide upgrade certificates. These SWUs can be used on any American Airlines flight worldwide and a ticket issued in any fare class, including basic economy.
  • Purchase 500-mile upgrades. You can purchase 500-mile upgrades for $40 each or purchase 8 upgrades for 40,000 miles. For a 1,900-mile trip, you would need 4 upgrades.
  • Use miles to purchase business or first class award tickets. When you absolutely want to fly in a premium cabin, the easiest way is to use miles to secure business or first class tickets.
  • Buy an upgrade at ticket purchase, check-in, or at the gate. Upgrades may be offered while you’re booking your ticket, when you check in, or at the gate before departure based on a “load factory based upgrade.” Pre-departure gate upgrades for purchase may be discounted and a good value. A load factor-based upgrade will never be offered unless all other elites who have requested an upgrade have cleared.
  • Purchase full economy fare tickets in Y or B fare class. These fare classes will be the first to clear for upgrades in certain circumstances after elite status is used.

Without American AAdvantage Elite Status

  • Have a top AAdvantage Elite member sponsor you. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Knowing a top elite member could equal an upgrade if you’re both traveling on the same eligible flight. The top elite member just needs to request the upgrade.
  • Use miles to purchase business or first class award tickets. Purchasing a premium class award ticket with miles is the easiest way to secure a seat in the front of the plane. AAdvantage credit card sign-up bonuses often deliver enough miles to secure a business or first class award ticket, but there are lots of ways to earn plenty of American Airlines miles.
  • Upgrade with miles. Even discount economy tickets are eligible for mileage upgrade awards if space is available.
  • Set up fare alerts for business class fares. Since discounted business class and premium economy tickets can occasionally be less expensive than economy, you can set up fare alerts with sites such as Google Flights to alert you when the route you’re looking for has a good business or first class deal.
  • Trip disruption or voluntary denied boarding. If you miss your connection due to disruption at the fault of the airline or give up your seat when a flight is oversold, you can ask to be upgraded on the next flight.

Final Thoughts

A definitive process for allocating upgrades is a positive and rewards AAdvantage elite members whose loyalty is strongest with American Airlines. For others, just like with any airline, directly purchasing premium class tickets to fly in premium class is becoming increasingly necessary.

Flying in premium class can be accomplished quite easily by purchasing a business or first class award tickets with miles or with paid flights offered at discount prices.

The information regarding the AAdvantage® Aviator® World Elite Business Mastercard®, Barclays AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver World Elite Mastercard®, and AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

Frequently asked questions

How much does a first class upgrade cost with American Airlines?

There is no single price option for upgrading to first class on an American Airlines flight as the price in cash or miles is based on the route you are flying and the fare class of the ticket you wish to upgrade. Upgrades are also subject to availability.

You can access a chart with all the prices in miles and with miles and co-pays on

Can I upgrade my basic economy ticket?

Yes. As of October 1, 2020, basic economy fare tickets can be upgraded by AAdvantage elites.

The basic economy fare was created to provide a low-cost product for those who prioritize cost over amenities and has several additional restrictions including no cancellations or changes and no advanced seat selection.

Can I upgrade my ticket with miles?

Most tickets are eligible to upgrade with miles and a cash co-pay, but there must be upgrade availability.

To find out if there is upgrade space available on your flight, you would need to contact American Airlines unless you have top AAdvantage elite status that will allow you to view upgrade space when booking your ticket.

You can view a complete upgrade chart with the cost for upgrading your ticket with miles and with miles and co-pays on

Does having an American Airlines credit card help with upgrades?

Having an American Airlines AAdvantage credit card will not help you get upgraded, but it will make your trip more comfortable and affordable with priority boarding and a free checked bag.

You’ll realize additional savings with a 25% rebate on food and beverage purchases on board your flight.

Having an American Airlines AAdvantage credit card can also accelerate your progress towards earning AAdvantage elite status as spending on the AAdvantage Aviator credit cards can earn you Elite Qualifying Dollars and Elite Qualifying Miles, both necessary to qualify for elite status.

Do I earn miles on my upgraded ticket?

If you upgrade a ticket with miles, you will earn mileage based on the original purchased ticket fare class.

For example, if you purchase a full-fare economy ticket and then upgrade it with miles to a business class ticket, you will accrue miles based on the original full-fare economy ticket that you purchased.

How do I find discounted business or first class fares on American Airlines?

If you have a specific route you’d like to fly, you can set up alerts on several web sites to notify you when the fare on that route changes.

Google Flights is an example of one website that allows you to narrow your flight search to American Airlines or even Oneworld Alliance to find flights.

Once you’ve found a flight you like, you can have the site track the flight and alert you when the price changes.

What is a 500-mile upgrade?

A 500-mile upgrade is a form of upgrade certificate that Platinum and Gold elite status members of American Airline’s AAdvantage frequent flyer program can earn and elites can purchase.

The upgrades can be applied to flights to upgrade the traveler and/or companion in sufficient quantities to cover the length of the flight.

For example, a flight of 2,400 miles would require 5 500-mile upgrade certificates.

How much do 500-mile upgrades cost?

A 500-mile upgrade costs $40, but it can only be purchased by an AAdvantage frequent flyer program elite member. Elite members may also use miles to purchase 500-miles upgrades at the rate of 8 upgrades for 40,000 AAdvantage miles.

Upgrades can also be earned by Platinum- and Gold-level AAdvantage elite members. For each 12,500 Elite Qualifying Miles flown, the elite member receives 4 500-mile upgrades.

Christine Krzyszton

About Christine Krzyszton

Christine, who lives in Northern Michigan, travels about 300,000 miles a year despite her remote location. Her expertise is traveling the world on a weekend with no pre-determined destination in mind, letting the cost of the airfare determine where she will go. She has over four million flown miles and elite status on all three major domestic carriers.

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  1. MissVacation January 9, 2019

    Your example of a flight of 2,400 miles would require 5 500-mile upgrade certificates. If I am traveling with my spouse, would I then need 10 500-mile upgrades for both of us or still just 5 regardless the number of companions traveling with me?


    • Thanks for your question. You would need 5 500-mile upgrade certificates for each person traveling on the 2400 mile flight. Executive Platinum elite members do not need to use upgrade certificates as they receive complimentary upgrades but they can use the upgrade certificates if they want to confirm the upgrades in advance.


  2. I recently booked 2 award tickets; there is no option to request upgrades. I have plenty of 500 mile upgrades available. Can they be used on award tickets or only paid fares?


  3. My son is a platinum pro, and my daughter is a platinum. We are looking at booking for American economy tickets and want to ensure the highest chance of upgrade for my son my daughter my wife and I. Should I book us all under the same reservation and see if they will use my sons platinum pro status for all of us? Or should I break the booking and have my son in one booking with one parent, and my daughter in another booking with the other parent? It seems like American will only upgrade one companion in a booking.


    • Hi Tom,

      With Platinum Pro, you can upgrade 1 companion. So, the best strategy is to book your son and either your wife or you on the same reservation. Whoever needs the upgrade the most should be booked with your son’s Platinum Pro status. Then, your daughter and the remaining family member will be booked with AA Platinum. They will allow a maximum of 1 companion for these upgrades. Thanks for reading!


  4. Spenser Bunn February 11, 2019

    Very nice article indeed. Would you happen to know if it’s possible to upgrade with SWU (Y->J) then use miles+copay to upgrade again (J->F)?


    • Hi Spenser and thanks for the kind words. I do not know if it is possible to upgrade with miles + co-pay after you have used a systemwide upgrade. Nor could I find any reference to this in the terms and conditions. First, we know that the upgrade must clear, then once you have business class, you would request the miles/copay upgrade to first. Miles and copay upgrades are based on paid fare classes including discount economy/business and full fare economy/business. It seems possible to accomplish, but if allowed, the miles/copay would be based on the fare paid not on the cost of upgrading from business class to first. I think you might need to contact the executive platinum line for an answer or maybe one of our readers has done this and can contribute.


    • Hi Spencer. It is not possible to upgrade to Y-J with an instrument and then again from J-F using another instrument. The instruments are good for one-cabin upgrades, so in this case, if you’re starting in Y, you’d go to J.


  5. I am AA Platinum Pro and have 20+ 500 mile upgrades in my account. How do I use these upgrades with my Platinum Pro Elite status?


    • Hey Alex,

      As a Platinum Pro member, you get free 500 mile upgrades automatically; therefore, you don’t need to use your 500 mile upgrades! It’s automatic!


  6. Hi- thanks for reply. So what can I do with the 20+ 500 mile upgrades that are in my account? Can I convert to Advantage miles? Can I transfer to my wife? I don’t want them to simply expire. Thanks.


    • Hi Alex. The 500 mile upgrades do not expire. They cannot be converted or transferred, however, you can use them to upgrade traveling companions. You can also use them to confirm an upgrade for yourself/companion instead of waiting for the complimentary upgrade.


  7. I have a question about what is considered an award flight. If I book an Economy AAnytime flight to Europe using 65k miles with booking code Y, would I be eligible to upgrade with miles? i.e. Are AAnytime flights considered “award flights” or only SAAver flights? Thanks!


  8. Hi Christine. My husband is an Executive Platinum and has 4 SWU. Can myself and kids use them on an international flight from HKG-ANC without him traveling with us?


    • Hi Lori and thanks for the great question. You should start packing your bags because your husband’s SWUs (System-wide Upgrades) can be shared with anyone he chooses. American’s website states it like this: “You can share your upgrades with anyone you choose, whether you are traveling with them or not. Call your elite service desk in advance to request the upgrade.” Happy travels.


  9. Jason Simon March 28, 2019

    Do C booking codes get access to lounges as though they purchased a business ticket?


    • Hi Jason. Travelers in Business Class (even C class) have access to lounges when traveling Internationally to the following areas: Asia,Australia,Central America,Europe,Mexico City(MEX),New Zealand,and South America. You just need to show your business class boarding pass and government issued photo ID.


  10. My wife and I are AA Gold travelling tomorrow. My wife is travelling on a companion ticket, an award from the Citibank Business Card. Contrary to the article, they will not allow us to apply for an upgrade, either 500 or mileage.


    • Hello Tim. The article does not mention the Citi AAdvantage Companion Certificate and the corresponding $99 ticket. For those who are not familiar, the certificate is earned on the CitiBusiness AAdvantage credit card after spending $30,000 and can be redeemed for a companion ticket for just $99 plus the cost of the taxes/fees, when another paid ticket is purchased. The certificate companion ticket comes with many restrictions including black out dates and other limitations. It is also not an award ticket or the same as having a companion fly on a paid ticket on the same reservation, both of which can be upgrade-eligible as mentioned in the article. Thanks for your comment Tim, and I am sorry you were unable to upgrade the companion certificate ticket.


  11. Crystal Fiero May 22, 2019

    My husband and I are planning our anniversary trip to Kauai next summer and I am trying to find the easiest way to upgrade our seats without breaking the bank. Should I open up an airline c/c? If so which would be the best? I am not picky on the flight company, but we flew to Kauai once in coach, and it was horrible! Any advice is greatly appreciated.


    • Crystal,

      It all depends on what airline you’re flying. If you’re flying to Hawaii on United Airlines, it doesn’t make sense to apply for the American Airlines credit card, as it is useless for the purposes of upgrading that specific flight.

      Generally, we recommend applying for the credit card that offers the highest welcome bonus for the airlines you’re flying and want to get upgraded on. Hope this helps! Thanks for reading.


  12. I switched from a competitor and received AA gold for doing so. This article is helpful!
    Question, though, do the 500-mile upgrades expire/ have a time limit? If so, is there anything you can do to avoid expiration?
    I request the upgrade every time I fly and have yet to receive it (I’m usually #20 or so) and I’ve flown 25K miles and about 20 segments. I’m afraid they’ll never get used!


    • Hi Steph. Glad you found the article useful. No, the 500-mile upgrades do not expire. I tend to use them when I travel with a friend or family to make sure we both get upgraded. Unfortunately upgrades are based on availability and from AA hub cities, getting upgrades can be difficult. However, it is unusual that when you choose to use them, they never clear.


  13. Linda Dodd July 30, 2019

    Hi Steph,
    I have 10 500-mile upgrades. However, I’m no longer Gold and my understanding is that I cannot use those upgrades unless I achieve an elite status level again. Is this true?This seems unfair, especially for upgrades that are purchased. Thanks!


  14. Infrequent parsimonious flyer here. I applied by phone for an upgrade with miles, after getting confirmation of an economy seat, 10 months in advance of a flight. AA said I would be put on the wait list and get the upgrade award if space opened up.

    The website has changed recently and I can’t find a way to confirm I am on a waiting list. I have to call, I guess. But I don’t want to keep calling every day for the next 10 months. Simply want to CLICK to confirm I haven’t been taken off the upgrade list.

    Can anybody find an online link to do this? It used to exist on the traveler reservation page.


    • Hi Ian. AA upgrades to business class can be difficult to score. The good news is that upgrade requests using miles will clear before complimentary upgrades are given out when it gets close to departure. The bad news is that you are on the wait list with any elite members who have also requested an upgrade with miles, and those will have the priority of clearing over non-elites. Fortunately you are requesting the upgrade far in advance. With that said, make the call to find out if you are still on the wait list because yes, it is possible to fall off. You can also subscribe to a site such as Expert Flyer (about $5/month), check for AA upgrade award seat availability and when you see something open up, you can call in.


  15. If I have Emerald One World status from a different airline, will AA consider this for complimentary upgrades?


    • Hi Ken. Officially, no. However, there is the possibility of it happening due to an operational oversold situation or at the discretion of the gate agent who recognizes your status.


  16. Neil Crumpton August 12, 2019

    Good article! I’m seeking clarification – I thought Barclaycard cut the EQD earning potential commencing 2019 with Red and Blue card holders no longer earn any EQD’s regardless of spend, and Silver card members only getting $3,000 EQDs when they spend $50,000?


    • Hi Neil. You are correct regarding the changes on Red and Blue Aviator cards no longer earning EQDs. I have updated the chart with the current information for Silver Aviator cards.


  17. My wife and I are flying to Paris next spring on rewards economy tickets. Is it possible to upgrade to premium economy with miles or with cash?


    • Hi Ron,

      Did you purchase your economy tickets with cash or with miles? If you purchased them with cash then yes you can upgrade to premium economy with cash or with miles. If you purchased your ticket with miles then you would need to change your award ticket to premium economy. Luckily, American Airlines allows this free of charge as long as the origin and destination remain the same.


  18. Hi Christine – great article. I’m platinum and I called AA to use miles to upgrade a flight in December to business. Unfortunately, I was waitlisted. What’s the earliest my upgrade would clear? Will I be waiting until 24 hours before the flight? Thanks


    • Hi Brad. Your upgrade could clear at anytime and there is no real way of knowing when seats will open up. It could clear as early as today or as late as after you have boarded the airplane, which happened to me once. I would, however, make a call in to AA periodically to make sure you are still on the waitlist.


  19. I don’t have elite status/miles with AA, but found that their business class fare flights to Barcelona are the cheapest during my travel dates (combined with an economy return).

    I’m wondering, however, if I should buy the business class fare outright? Or is it better to buy an economy ticket, and pay for an upgrade with cash?


    • Hi Tracy. If you’re comfortable with the price of the business class outbound ticket, compared to the economy price, that seems like a logical (and fun) option. There is not one single set price for an upgrade, just the difference in price that you see between economy and business fares. If you purchase an economy fare and call in to upgrade, they’re going to price out the business class fare and charge you the difference. There can be special offers to upgrade prior to departure, however.


  20. VANESSA STRATTON September 29, 2019

    How can I use my AA miles to upgrade on British Airways? Flying to Venice for our 30th and would like to go business class. Thanks!


  21. Renee Packel October 9, 2019

    We are flying to Paris and home from Lyon in May. We purchased tickets through our tour operator and would like to use our miles to upgrade. We have Gold status with American Airlines. Any chance of doing this?
    Thanks for your help.


    • Hi Renee. It is possible depending on the fare class you purchased and the availability of upgrade space. You should contact American and give them your flight record locator number to inquire about your specific itinerary.


    • Hi Renee,

      If upgrade space is available for your flight, then yes you should be able to upgrade your seat with miles. Please refer to the “Upgrading with Miles” section of this post for more information on how the upgrade process works. If you need additional assistance, I recommend calling the American Airlines customer support team and they can walk you through the process.

      Thanks for reading!


  22. vicki wojdakowski October 10, 2019

    I’ve purchased a bulk ticket for my clients and cannot get an upgrade for purchase for one of their legs OGG to PHX. They purchased a package.


    • Hi Vicki. Please understand that we are not American Airlines. We are Upgraded Points, a blog specializing in miles, points, travel, and credit card resources. You should contact American Airlines for your inquiry as we do not have any details of your client’s reservation to assist you.


  23. Jeffrey Schmitz December 26, 2019

    First, thanks for the great site and for taking time to answer the questions, this is complicated stuff. I am traveling to the UK with my wife, and have Platinum Pro status. I’d like to maximize our chances of an upgrade to business class. From what I think I’ve gathered from your site is first, I should purchase these tickets with cash and not use award miles, and second, I should purchase premium economy, not just main cabin. If that’s the case I’m a little conflicted because even when I buy just main cabin it allows me to select premium seats for free, so I’d be paying a pretty big price just to increase my odds at business class, but with no guarantee. Or am I confused somehow? And just to add to my confliction, I’m planning on taking our two teen age kids with us, and if I put all of us on the same reservation I can get all Premium economy seats for the price of Main Cabin, which is a very large savings, but as I understand it that would negate any chance of an upgrade to business, is that correct?


    • Hi Jeffrey. Thanks for reading and for the kind words. Sounds like a great family trip and fortunately you have several options. First, Premium Economy is different than the Main Cabin Extra you can select complimentary with your status. It is a class between Main Cabin Extra (the complimentary premium seats you can select) and Business. Here are a couple of ideas. If you have enough miles, you could purchase 2 business class tickets for you and your wife. Then buy 2 Premium Economy (or economy) tickets and upgrade those with miles for your teenagers. Or you can purchase 4 Premium Economy tickets, all be on the same reservation, and upgrade those with miles. Take a look at the upgrade chart in this article or on AA web site to get an idea of how much it will cost to upgrade discounted economy/premium economy with miles/cash. As you mentioned, you could also just purchase economy and select main cabin extra seating. If you do this, you may have the option to upgrade with miles to Premium Economy. Of course all of this is dependent on availability. I would give AA a call to determine which options are available on the flights you’re considering. With your Platinum Pro status, you’re in a good position to create a combination that works. Also, here is a related article:


      • Jeff Schmitz December 29, 2019

        Thanks for the correction on the seat classes, you are absolutely right of course. As far as the upgrade, I really want to just have a chance at a free complimentary upgrade. I don’t want to spend miles or cash to guarantee it though, and they have some GREAT web specials right now to London. However if I use miles and select Cabin Extra seats, I have no chance of a complimentary upgrade to anything higher, right? If so, is that true just for international flights, or for domestic as well? If you don’t mind another question, I flew Alaska Airlines in early December and even though I had my preferred miles choice listed as AA, I never received the miles. I put in a missing miles request to AA. Should I put one in with Alaska Airlines as well? I’ve tried using their form but couldn’t specify that I want the miles applied to AA, not my Alaska account.

        Thanks Again!


  24. Vanessa Angelo January 30, 2020

    Thanks for a great post! I have a question. I’m Platinum Pro with American. If I book a paid flight (not award) through my American Express Platinum booking site to get the Amex points rather than directly with American, will I still get my Platinum Pro status recognized and be able to get upgraded for myself – and use miles to upgrade my mom as well after booking? I am booking her on the same reservation as me. I appreciate your help!


  25. Do the complimentary upgrades with status require you to purchase a specific class? Thanks.


    • Elite members do not need to purchase a specific fare class ticket to qualify for complimentary upgrades. However, there is 1 exception: “Upgrades are not available to customers traveling on Basic Economy fares, regardless of elite status.”


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