As I wrote about earlier, the integration between AAdvantage & Dividend Miles is happening this weekend. When it comes to the merger, this is the thing I was most looking forward to, as sad as I am to see Dividend Miles disappear.
Truly reciprocal upgrades are finally here!
What am I most excited about? Truly reciprocal upgrades on US Airways. Up until now Dividend Miles members could only get day of departure upgrades on American, and AAdvantage members could only get day of departure upgrades on US Airways.
Now the two airlines have modified their upgrade systems and are offering truly reciprocal upgrades, given that everyone is now “just” an AAdvantage member.
As a reminder, here’s how the new complimentary upgrade system works:
|American Airlines Operated And Marketed Flights||Gold||Platinum||Executive Platinum|
|For flights 500 miles or less||Unlimited, auto-requested complimentary upgrades||Unlimited, auto-requested complimentary upgrades||Unlimited, auto-requested complimentary upgrades|
|For flights over 500 miles||Use earned or purchased 500-mile upgrades||Use earned or purchased 500-mile upgrades||Unlimited, auto-requested complimentary upgrades|
|Upgrade window||Confirmed as early as 24 hours before departure||Confirmed as early as 72 hours before departure||Confirmed as early as 100 hours before departure|
This change represents the following, in relation to what members were previously used to:
- AAdvantage elite members will now receive complimentary upgrades on flights of under 500 miles
- Former Dividend Miles elite members will no longer receive complimentary upgrades on flights of over 500 miles
- Instead, for flights of over 500 miles, Gold and Platinum members will have to use 500 mile upgrade stickers to upgrade
US Airways first class
Are upgrades easier on American or US Airways?
In practice, what are the implications of truly reciprocal upgrades?
Well, as an Executive Platinum member I have to say I’ve had extremely good luck with having upgrades clear on American. I don’t remember the last time an upgrade didn’t clear, and I even book a lot of last minute tickets.
I don’t know if American proportionally has fewer elites than other airlines or what, but I couldn’t be happier with my upgrade percentage. In fairness, I generally avoid traveling on Mondays and Thursdays as much as possible, and also avoid transcons (not by design, but rather because that’s just usually how my schedule works out).
That being said, I’d be willing to bet almost anything that US Airways proportionally has the fewest elite members of any of the US legacy carriers. That’s part of what Dividend Miles elite members loved about the airline — their upgrades almost always cleared because there weren’t that many elite members to compete with.
So while I’ve had good luck with upgrades on American, upgrades on US Airways are going to be even easier.
While American’s new 737s are nice, this is a view I try to avoid
I wouldn’t expect a huge shift in proportion of elites
Keep in mind that the airlines people choose to be elite members with are largely driven by geography, so I wouldn’t expect a huge shift in terms of the average number of elites per “airline” in the short term. Charlotte hub captives are still going to mostly be flying US Airways. Dallas hub captives are still going to mostly be flying American.
Beyond that, there’s something to be said for familiarity. People like flying an airline they’re used to, in terms of knowing what to expect, knowing the lounge situation, etc.
But as a general rule of thumb I think you’re going to have a better shot at an upgrade on US Airways than on American.
What’s my carrier strategy going to be?
Given all of the above, how will I choose whether to fly American or US Airways going forward, given that there’s now true “metal neutrality?”
- For transcons I’ll continue to fly American through Dallas as much as possible — it’s typically the most direct, and if one upgrade doesn’t clear, being in coach for 2-3 hours isn’t the end of the world; Dallas also has the American Express Centurion Lounge
- For travel up and down the East Coast I look forward to flying US Airways, given that upgrades are a near guarantee and given that it’s the most direct option
- For other routes I’ll continue to “prefer” American simply because I like their planes more (they have power ports, more legroom in first class, etc.), though on peak dates I’ll probably fly US Airways for a better shot at an upgrade
- I find US Airways often has the lowest fares in a given market, so will absolutely fly them if it saves me money
For AAdvantage elite members, how is your upgrade “strategy” changing now that you have equal benefits on American and US Airways?