AA upgrade pecking order - I'm still confused

Discussion in 'American Airlines | AAdvantage' started by aimansmith, Jun 29, 2014.  |  Print Topic

  1. aimansmith

    aimansmith Member

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    Hi folks, this may have been discussed before but I haven't been able to find it. I'm still unclear as to how upgrade requests are ordered, and I haven't been able to discern a pattern from my experiences.
    There seem to be 2 factors that definitely matter in the upgrade queue order:
    1) Status
    2) When you requested the upgrade
    In addition, various agents have told me that the type of upgrade (mileage redemption, sticker, SWU, EXP complimentary) also plays a factor although they haven't been able to tell me to what extent.

    So, let's say we've got five people booked on a flight, all of whom want an upgrade:
    1) One person with no status who requests a mileage/copay upgrade
    2) One person with gold/plat status requests a mileage/copay upgrade
    3) One person with gold /plat status who requests a sticker upgrade
    4) One EXP who requests a complimentary upgrade
    5) One EXP who wants to use a SWU

    What factors determine their placement in the order? For each of these hypothetical people, does the timing make a difference apart from their place in line in their group (i.e. an EXP who requests a complimentary upgrade at the "last minute" will be behind all the other EXPs who have already requested a complimentary upgrade, but where are they in relation to the gold flyer trying to use a sticker who has already put in his/her request?)

    To make this more complicated, it seems that some X hours before the flight (maybe 24?), the whole system swaps to some kind of different queue; in my experience trying to upgrade with miles, I've lost out to gold flyers using stickers (which seems like it shouldn't be the case) and EXP flyers getting complimentary upgrades (which, according to what I've been told, also shouldn't be the case). So far my experience has shown that if I don't get the mileage upgrade within 12 hours of the flight, it's not happening because I somehow get tossed to the back of the line (and my not having been upgraded by then indicates that there aren't that many seats available up front).

    I'm honestly confused by all this and would like to know if anybody has any insight into the details of how this works.

    Oh, and to make my personal situation more complicated, I'm currently gold, but didn't have status when I made the mileage request for the next flight I have coming up - what does that do to my place in line?

    Of course, if anyone has advice for how I can better improve my chances when trying to use miles, I'd really love to hear it; more than anything, though, I'm really curious to see if anyone has a definitive answer as to how the whole thing works...
     
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  2. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    This can be infuriatingly complex but here's a first stab.

    More or less in order:
    1) EXP using SWU or upgrade with miles (those two are the same and both can be made at booking if space is available otherwise will clear whenever space shows up)
    2) Gold/Plat with mileage (as long as arranged prior to beginning of EXP upgrade window)
    3) no status mileage/copay (as long as arranged before other categories apply.
    4) EXP complimentary (can clear 96 hours out)
    5) Gold/Play stickers (depends on check in time too if do not clear in advance)

    None of this works perfectly well all the time. There are a handful of unpublished but real upgrade exceptions (i.e. officially no Concierge key upgrade priority exists. However, I personally know nobody with Concierge Key who has not been upgraded if an upgrade existed when they entered the applicable EXP queue (all Concierge Key are EXP IIRC.

    From all evidence there is little chance of non-mileage-based upgrades for people with no status on high density prime time routes. Choosing inconvenient times/routes for business purposes increases all the odds.
    If you really are interested ExpertFlyer will pay for itself with a clever route selection or two. use it in happiness.

    People here know far more than do I so anything I have said may be corrected by others with better knowledge.
     
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  3. daninstl

    daninstl Gold Member

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    jbcarioca nailed this down I think. I also know a couple other things that will be interesting to see play out with the US Air folks.

    I also know that you cannot upgrade on AA flights (even if you have a bunch of 500 mile upgrades in your account) unless you are Gold or higher. In other words you can't use the 500 mile upgrades without at least Gold status.

    I've also heard that if all is equal between the people seeking upgrades that there is some sort of pecking order based on when they bought and/or requested the tickets, etc. That's rumor that I've heard anyway. I agree to try and fly flights where there are fewer elites is a good bet. For example you may have a hard time on a 9am DFW-ORD flight but maybe not so much on a DEN-DFW at 5:20am.
     
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  4. marcwint55

    marcwint55 Gold Member

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    Another thing that AA considers is connecting flights. A passenger from a connecting flight will have priority if all else is equal.
     
  5. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    I'm aure that is true but I've never seen that documented officially. I do know that if an international SWU has cleared the domestic US legs seem to do so quite magically, possibly providing ammunition supporting your position.
     
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  6. Photonerd71

    Photonerd71 Silver Member

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    I just buy a ticket up front when I really want to be up there. Solves the issue for me. :)

    Sent using a small piece of fruit.
     
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  7. aimansmith

    aimansmith Member

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    Thanks for the replies all, and a special obrigado to jbcarioca for the ordered list.
    I'm not sure where I've seen it but I've definitely read before that, all else being equal, passengers with connecting flights get priority (which I assume trumps the "first come first serve" priority).
    Interestingly I just called AA to check the status of a mileage upgrade request for a flight in about 18 hours and was told that, since my flight is "full" (according to AA's website there's still 2 business and 3 coach tix for sale, but whatever), the upgrade list has been wiped out and in order to qualify for a mileage upgrade I would need to show up well in advance at the airport and request to be put on the upgrade list. Anybody else have this experience in the past? It it makes a difference, this one's international.
    I've generally been pretty happy with AA's phone reps but this is one area where I can never get consistent information (hence my starting this thread).
    Again, thanks to all who contributed.
     
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  8. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    This is slightly arcane and I have never seen or heard of an official pronouncement. However, I suspect that if the international segment clears they "almost automatically" (I do not know what that means either) clear the domestic US connections. Vice cress does not happen. Officially, the wait list moves from the reservations to the gate when the manifest responsibility goes to the gate, more or less, if I understand correctly. Thus if you do an online checkin you appear to hit the gate wait list. I have never had that happen with an international segment but have had it happen with a domestic one.

    My personal experience with this is slight because I tend to select flights where there is upgrade availability shown in ExpertFlyer when I book. Probably my EXP, CK and AAirpass statii have something to do with that too, although the latter two have no official stated preferences, so far as I know.
     
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  9. miamigrad
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    miamigrad Silver Member

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    Unfortunately, that is not correct. Non-status members can also use 500 mile electronic upgrades provided they are traveling on Y/B fares:

    http://www.aa.com/i18n/urls/aadvantageupgrades.jsp
     
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  10. aimansmith

    aimansmith Member

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    True, but given the price of Y/B fares it's generally pretty unlikely that someone without status is going to be buying them : by which I mean, if you're paying Y fares it's probably because you're working for one of those rare companies that has a "coach only" policy but lets you get around it with a Y fare, and if you're playing that of game then you've probably got status and going for the automatic upgrade. Certainly doesn't apply to me in any case :)
    Actually, now that I think about it maybe this is common in consulting, where the contract stipulates that consultants fly in economy class but doesn't actually check the fare. At any rate, still not my situation...
     
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  11. zphelj

    zphelj Gold Member

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    I can help clarify this I think because I have had an international leg clear on a SWU (books into C) and one or more domestic segments not clear (books into A). It's rare but if there's no A available then it can't upgrade. They won't clear a SWU into F. The last time that happened to me the domestic JFK-DFW leg was F1 (or maybe 2) and A0 and A never opened up. I sat in back on that leg.
     
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  12. jbcarioca
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    jbcarioca Gold Member

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    Yes, that should be the case, I agree. The discrepancy i have noticed, a good discrepancy for us, is that on rare occasions it seems some AAgents can change availability when such does not show up on, say, ExpertFlyer. A specific case in point: I am booked to fly internationally next week. At the time I booked there was no C availability showing anywhere. Yet, immediately when I booked I called and was confirmed for two upgrades, now showing C class. Specifically with eVIP's there are situations in which the inventory is cleared at the time of booking when it is not shown as available prior to the actual booking event. I have had more domestic A bookings that way than I have had for the international C ones, but I have had both.

    This happens rarely for me because I ordinarily do not book a flight unless ExpertFlyer has inventory showing. When it does happen to me it is always when I choose to fly on a deeply discounted fare.

    I hope neither you nor I have another event forcing sitting in the back. OTOH, AA does need to make money.
     

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