I’ve received a lot of emails from readers lately about American, given that many of you are going for Executive Platinum status thanks to American’s double elite qualifying miles promotion (and in many cases triple elite qualifying miles promotion) through the end of the month.
I figured I’d cover one aspect of American that I find especially interesting, relating to their domestic upgrade inventory.
Most airlines have separate upgrade inventory for those looking to use miles to upgrade. While American has separate upgrade inventory for international flights, they don’t for domestic flights. If you want to upgrade domestically using miles or systemwide upgrades, they only require discounted first class (“A”) to be available in order to confirm the upgrade.
This is why in many (most?) cases, 80%+ of domestic first class seats have confirmable upgrade space through American, unlike at the other legacy carriers.
Again, this is only for those using miles or systemwide upgrades, and not those looking for complimentary upgrades or “sticker” upgrades. In a way, this means you can use systemwide upgrades for a domestic flight without it being a total waste, given that you can confirm an upgrade you might otherwise not have gotten. For example, say the day before a flight, there are two seats left for sale, and one of those is a discounted first class seat. Chances are slim that you’d clear the upgrade if you hoped for a complimentary upgrade as an Executive Platinum member, though you could use a systemwide upgrade to lock in one of those last two seats.
Funny enough I’ve also heard Executive Platinum members complain about this policy, because this is also the reason that many of American’s first class cabins are fairly full a few days out, when elite upgrades kick in.
I have to disagree there, because I think it’s in American’s best interest to get some miles off the books and make some revenue through co-pays as opposed to giving away complimentary upgrades or even upgrades using “stickers”, at least within reason (meaning don’t play Continental’s “tens of dollars” upgrade game). At the same time, the bigger issue I see is that it gives people no incentive to pay for first class, given that they can always use miles to upgrade. Part of the incentive to pay for first class is that your upgrade might not otherwise clear. By making upgrade inventory so readily available, there’s not much of a reason to spring for a first class fare when you can always just use miles to upgrade.
As you can see below, all the routes between Chicago and San Francisco (typically one of the tougher routes to upgrade) in a couple of weeks have at least seven confirmable upgrade seats. Keep in mind that “7” is the highest amount of inventory American will display, so it could very well be more than that.
Anyway, just another one of those interesting things that makes the dAArkside interesting.