American AAdvantage Sometimes Opens Award Space

Yesterday Gary wrote about how American will still sometimes let you request award space on flights that don’t have award space available. The reason for his post was that a few weeks back it was rumored that this option was eliminated, though as it turns out that wasn’t the case. Now to be clear, this is the option to request space. Just because you make a request doesn’t mean it will be granted.

Gary explains the two circumstances under which agents can put in a request for additional award space:

To complete an itinerary. If you have more than half of an itinerary complete with award seats, you could ask for a missing segment or segments. Usually this would mean you have an international award, with the international segments, and you might just be missing a flight from your home airport to the international gateway. For instance you might have New York JFK – Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific available, but need Washington National – New York JFK which isn’t showing up with award inventory.

To complete a party. You have an award itinerary put together, there’s just one seat and you need two or there’s just two seats and you need three. So you ask for the extra seat so that there are enough for your traveling party.

The timing of the post was funny, because last night I was dealing with a situation where I got an agent to actually make a call for additional award space, even though it wasn’t one of the above circumstances.

I’m on a business class award to the Middle East today, and my first segment was from Tampa to Miami on American. For whatever reason American doesn’t seem to be releasing much first class award space on the route anymore, even when the flights are wide open.


When I ticketed the award the first segment was in economy, while the two longhaul segments were in business class. Shortly after ticketing I got the following email from American:

Dear Mr. Schlappig,

This is a confirmation email from American Airlines regarding record locator: ******

This is to remind you that a VOLUNTARY DOWNGRADE has been done on the following flights:


If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact American Airlines at 1-800-843-6200.

Thank you,
American Airlines

There’s nothing especially significant about it, though I did find it interesting that they send an email to remind you of exactly how you ticketed your award.

Anyway, my flight is this morning and last night I looked at availability. The flight was still showing as “F7,” which is the highest number of first class seats that they’ll display (meaning at least seven first class seats are left for sale). And on top of that there was no one on the upgrade list.

So I called up American and said something along the lines of “I’m booked on this flight tomorrow morning and it’s wide open in first class and it doesn’t look like there’s anyone on the upgrade list…” Before I could finish my sentence, the agent said “please hold for me, let me make a quick call.”

Two minutes later she came back and said she had a first class seat for me. She added “it’s a good thing you called now and not this morning, because we can only do this within 24 hours. This is clearly a case where there should have been award space.”

Anyway, so I’m not sure if it was just because the cabin was so empty, or if it was because of that and the fact that I’m an Executive Platinum member. But it is nice when an airline is able to apply logic to a situation.

Don’t get me wrong, first class on a 40 minute flight isn’t a big deal, but more than anything as a data point I was curious to see if they’d be able to open up space, and they were able to.


  1. It sure is nice that American goes above and beyond. I wonder what $misek’s crew would do in this case!

  2. Hey Lucky,
    I understand AA’s policy is that award tickets are not upgrade eligible, but have you ever received an upgrade from Y to J/F on an award ticket where (1) you are an EXP (2) all normally wait listed upgrades have cleared and (3) there are many seats still left empty up front?
    I was in this situation 2 weeks ago on a 2-class domestic flight with 10 empty seats in F after the list cleared… still no upgrade for me. It looks like I will be in a similar situation on a couple (4 hour) flights this weekend, and am wondering if anyone has had more success in this.

    Any tips?

  3. @BFD not that I know exactly but if you have status and the UA CC this leg would be CPUable (yes even on award tix) and if given the same circumstances as above but just the different carrier, my guess is Lucky would have cleared a few days ago as upgrade space opened.

  4. It could be a big deal if one has checked bags over the weight limit on an economy class segment and some nitwit person checking you in doesn’t apply the higher weight limits of the first/business class segments. I often run into this issue returning on a United award from Asia with UAL not opening first class award space on their SFO-LAX flights.

  5. Was upgraded by AC on the lone coach segment on a US airways business ticket to North asia once…

  6. Does this only work on American metal, or for partner flights with American miles as well?

  7. It worked for me on an EY flight in January. American called their liaison and they were able to upgrade me from J to F. It took a helluva lot of calls to supervisors, but it got done about 1-2 days before flying.

    This was on a SYD-AUH segment.

  8. As a UA 1K, last month I cleared the waitlist to J on a connecting flight YVR-SFO just a couple hours after booking in Y and waitlisting for J. I don’t think the opening of saver J award space was a coincidence.

  9. So, in theory, if you found award space on AA/OW airline from, say, LAX- NRT but there’s only anytime availability for a positioning flight to LAX, a phone rep could request saver space? That’d be great to know since positioning flights can be challenging to find.

  10. Lucky,

    I just placed an award ticket on hold over the phone with Aadvantage Miles PHL PRG on June 16th in business class for 50k miles. The representative never mentioned the long haul segment being in coach, but I just noticed that the USAirways flight from PHL to MAN is actually booked in coach when I logged into the record locator. The flight still has 9+ business class seats available. Do you think American Airlines might be able to get USAirways to open up to seats on the USAirways long haul flight? I am also a USAirways preferred member, but doubt that makes a difference since I redeemed AA miles. Thanks for the help.

  11. @ JC — Nope, sorry, unfortunately they don’t have a way of doing that. American can’t open up award space on US Airways flights.

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