Believe it or not, I have actually never used a 500 mile upgrade on American Airlines and I’m going to try my luck with them for the first time ever next week. I am flying from New York to Los Angeles (I know, I know, the busiest business route in the country so my chances are slim, but I may as well try). I currently have a paid ticket booked in Economy class and I’m keeping my fingers crossed I’ll get a chance to move up to Business class either on the way there or back.
American Airlines has actually recently started flying the new Airbus 321 plane on their JFK-LAX transcontinental flight, competing with United’s p.s. Premium Service, which is now a two-cabin plane. I flew on United’s premium service in first class with miles last time I went to Los Angeles and I’ll be super excited if one of my upgrade directions works out this time. Then again, it’s not an overnight flight so I am perfectly fine in Economy too. I also do get better seating selection with my American Airlines Platinum status
The way some airlines give out upgrades work is by strict elite/fare/check-in priority. That is, everyone who is eligible is automatically placed on the upgrade list and upgrades are given out as space clears. American Airlines does it a little bit differently. It allows its members to earn or buy 500 mile upgrades and then use them to wait-list for upgrades for the flights they choose. The idea behind this is that it gives more people chances for an upgrade – and on the flights that matter to them most.
Once someone is elite with American Airlines and continues to fly, he earns four 500 mile upgrades for every 10,000 elite qualifying miles flown. You can also buy them for $30 each.
How to Use 500 Mile Upgrades
Upgrades can only be used on paid fares, not on award tickets and only within U.S., Canada, Mexico, The Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and between the U.S. and Central America. They allow you to upgrade one class of service from an economy paid ticket (Business Class on three cabin planes and First Class on two cabin planes).
Whether a member needs to use them and which fares they need to be used on depends on elite status.
- Executive Platinum members don’t need to use any 500 mile upgrades to request upgrades.
- Platinum and Gold members can request upgrades by using 500 mile upgrades on any paid fare.
- Platinum and Gold members don’t need to use any 500 mile upgrades when booked on a Y or B fare (full fare economy) to request upgrades.
- Regular non-elite members can can request upgrades by using 500 mile upgrades on Y or B fares.
Once you request your upgrade, you are then wait-listed for an upgrade until it is processed (covered in the next section).
The number of upgrades you need for your flight depends on the distance of your flight and you need one 500 mile upgrade for every 500 miles. In my case, my flight from New York to Los Angeles is 2475 miles so I’ll be needing five 500 mile upgrades to wait list for business class on the flight. My fare is not Y or B, but I am a Platinum Elite so I need to use the 500 mile upgrades to make a request.
The actual process of requesting the upgrade is pretty easy. Once you have your AAdvantage number added to your itinerary, you can just pull up your itinerary under My Trips on the AAdvantage Website and scroll to the bottom.
How The Upgrade Process Works
Once you have your upgrades requested, actually clearing the upgrade and when depends on your status with the airline:
- Executive Platinum – starting 100 hours before flight and Executive Platinum members are upgraded.
- Platinum – starting 72 hours before flight.
- Gold or regular – 24 hour before flight.
Your 500 mile upgrades are deducted once your ticket gets printed so you just need to have enough 500 mile upgrades in your account by then. You can also buy additional upgrades at check-in (for $30 each) for your upgrade so you don’t need all the upgrades in your account to request one.
I am Platinum so here’s hoping my upgrade clears. I guess we’ll have to wait and see…