Is Today The Worst Day Of The Year To Be An Elite Flyer?

Is today the worst day of the year to travel as an elite member… at least on American? Traditionally airline elite status expires at the end of February, so this is the time period where you have the most elite members flying. That’s because even those that didn’t requalify for status still have their 2014 status.

And it’s Thursday afternoon, which is traditionally the most popular time for business travelers to be gracing the skies.

So does that make right now the busiest elite travel period of the year?

A vast majority of my travel lately has been international, which doesn’t have quite as much day-of-the-week variance in terms of demand as domestic travel. Beyond that, most of my domestic travel the past year or so has been on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and weekends (by design).

I’m presently enroute from the east coast to the west coast via Dallas, and I can’t even remember the last time I felt so overwhelmed flying. My goodness, I don’t know how you Monday/Thursday commuters do it. As an elite member, it’s a totally different experience flying during peak times vs. off-peak times (I know I’m stating the obvious here — with this post I’m reflecting and not making any startling revelations).

I’ve always been perplexed by the existence of the Admirals Club in Tampa, since I’ve never seen more than a handful of people in there. This afternoon every single seat was taken.

What the Admirals Club Tampa usually looks like

My flight out of Tampa had an upgrade list 20 people deep after everyone had cleared. Tampa is typically a light market in terms of elite flyers. In my experience it’s rare to see anyone on the upgrade list at all with American, let alone 20 people.


On second thought, I would have rather not cleared that upgrade, since the guy seated next to me farted literally the entire freaking flight. Like, nonstop. I wasn’t sure whether to congratulate him for the consistency of his efforts or offer him a pair of my underwear. Holy $hit…

During my layover in Dallas I visited the Centurion Lounge. It was as busy as Wal-Mart on Black Friday. Usually there are servers roaming to offer drinks, but I couldn’t even get a drink at the bar without waiting for 10 minutes.

What the Centurion Lounge Dallas often looks like

I had a four hour layover, but they didn’t have a massage treatment available during that time period, which was a first for me (usually you can get one within a couple of hours, given that most people aren’t connecting for longer than that).

I didn’t even clear my upgrade on my connecting flight, even though there were 12 empty seats in first class when I booked just four days ago.

Flying mid-week or over weekends is relaxing — upgrades clear easily, lounges aren’t overcrowded, etc. But it’s a whole different ball game when I’m competing for upgrades and space in lounges with all you guys!

Like I said above, there are no revelations here, just observations. But seriously, my hat off to those of you that do this every week.

To those of you that normally fly Thursdays, did I just hit an especially busy travel day, or is this the norm?


  1. Another reflection…try being a Platinum and having to travel with your Silver and/or Gold boss[es]. I can either split my ticket off and [usually] get the upgrade, which gets weird when they board, or I can just hope that there are literally no elites on the flight. I so rarely travel alone these days, that my upgrades are starting to disappear.

  2. Welcome to our glamourous commuter flying world!! I thought that was you in the amex lounge today. It was worse than a normal Thursday….not sure where everyone came from but it was FULL!

  3. I haven’t encountered it myself but word on FT is that the DFW Centurion Lounge is frequently overcrowded. It’s a shame, but at the same time, it is kind of an odd and small footprint; it’s not too surprising.

  4. Upgrade list on United Wednesday into TPA was 40 strong after cleared. I’m a 1k, on a ticket bought last week (can’t remember fare code but it was EXPENSIVE) and was 5 deep on non cleared…so not just a day of week thing. You are experiencing an economy that is sound and the mix of above.

  5. re: your TPA flight. It’s high season, and “up north” temps/snow are particularly brutal.

    RSW is the same. “You can’t get there from here” without DFW or ORD.

  6. Rough life
    nobody but nobody has a tougher life
    poor elite traveler lol
    where is an Emirate’s First Class lounge and a private suite with shower when you most need one! 🙂
    How did you survive? 😉

  7. oh boo hoo poor me, I am an over entitled trust fund baby who usually do not have to intermix with the working class. Today for the first time in ages I flew on a monday or a thursday and had to intermix my travels with business travelers!

    Mind you I am AA EXP and I do my 100+ segments on almost all Crj-200s. Where upgrades do not happen and most airports do not have lounges.

    Must be nice to have a cash flow and not to have a real jobf

  8. Thanks for your condolences. Flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday is so much more refreshing than Monday or Thursday. Monday AMS are the worst… Wake up early, know everything will be packed, and the sloth fecund TSA is waiting to greet you.

  9. I regularly see 90+ people on the upgrade list for United DEN-ORD. Even GSO-ATL on Delta has 40-50. Monday – Thursday travel sucks but its part of the job.

  10. sounds about right for a Thursday. I fly every week mon-thurs and as a 1k I would get upgraded maybe 25% going in and out of Chicago and now I’m a Plt on DL in and out of detroit and it’s much worse. Last week i flew the red eye from la to DTW on a 767. after everything cleared I was 24/87 on the upgrade list. Good times.

  11. Is it also partially due to the cancellation of flights today, to a lesser degree? Rebooking centers in MIA and LAX were busy as usual these days.

  12. First world problems Lucky. John – that grind sucks. CRJs to 100K? Ouch.
    So if everyone (including me) don’t get anything of real benefit why do we care about any airline program?
    I am about to get UAL Gold for life this year and when I do….good-bye UAL. Hello airline #2….any airline would rather sell me that upgrade for peanuts than actually give it to me… I will just buy it and work it into my travel budget. Can’t count the number of times this year that $59-$119 got me a one-way upgrade across the country (NY – West Coast). $259 upgrade to Europe in BizFirst is also offered. Good-bye “list” I’ll take the confirmed with dollars and they even bump the fare code to Z or P thus giving 150%.

    UAL 2015: 42,000 miles butt in seat so far. Ghetto flyer.

  13. I was connecting in DFW on Thursday from QR to AA for DFW-LGA, the Centurion lounge was packed and it was an hour wait for showers. I just headed to the Admirals Club in C terminal and was able to shower.

    My DFW-LGA flight was booked 2 weeks ago and as an EXP my upgrade cleared a few hours before flight and the last seat was filled on board, so rather tight times, but for a 6pm departure not bad to still get my upgrade.

    I generally try to avoid those Monday flights, rather travel Sunday night and Friday afternoon if not midweek.

  14. Lmao! Do you think it would have been too obvious to your neighbor if you put the oxygen mask to use? 😉

  15. I know these types of posts are the point of your blog and I wouldn’t want to read about it all the time but it sure is nice (relieving?) to know that every so often you see the world that many of us normally experience haha. Wouldn’t wish it on you or anyone if you don’t have to for work though. Thank god I can pay for first class for work.

  16. Going to be in DFW for several hours layover in May. I have United and US Airways lounge passes, but I’ve never been into a lounge. Do you recommend getting the Amex Platinum for the centurion lounge or are the other lounges doable (ie not ghetto)? I will need a shower. Also I’ll be with my husband so we get in with additional person with the card, right? Might book a hotel room, but Grand Hyatt DFW day pass is only available starting at 9 a.m. and I arrive at 5:30 from West Coast and leave 15:30 for Israel. It will be a Saturday. Are they historically less crowded on Saturday due to low biz travelers? Thanks.

  17. @ Jill — Yes, generally there are fewer people in lounges on Saturdays. The Centurion Lounge is awesome, so if you’re able to I’d definitely visit it (and if you have the card you can bring in a guest for free). The Admirals Club or United Clubs are fine, but hardly anything special.

  18. Hoping the 4th itinerary is the charm that doesn’t get broken or cancelled, so I can escape DFW and get home this evening…

    Centurion lounge has definitely gotten dramatically busier recently, but jill it should be fine on saturday (and most other times to be honest) yesterday was the worst I have seen it in dfw.

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