How To Get A Free Upgrade to First Class On American Airlines Flights

News : Travel

Want to upgrade on your next American Airlines flight to Business or First Class? You don’t have to be an elite member of the American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flier program to make this happen.

As you would expect, upgrade demand is high, and availability is limited, but here is how you can upgrade to Business or First On American Airlines.

Firstly we outline how you can make American Airlines credit cards work towards securing upgrades. Secondly, we take a look at how elite status will affect your chances of an upgrade, and finally, we look at the best way to secure discounted but paid-for Business and First Class flights on American Airlines.

How much does a First Class upgrade cost with American Airlines?

There is no single price option for upgrading to first class on an American Airlines flight, as the price in cash or miles is based on the route you are flying and the fare class of the ticket you want. There is a chart with all the prices in miles and with miles on aa.com.

The Easiest Way To Upgrade Your AA Flight: Pay But Get A Big Discount

If you want to fly away, book any luxury hotel or premium flight through our luxury travel concierge for discounts and benefits. Our Business and First Class flight prices on American Airlines and other airlines tend to be considerably cheaper than flight prices available on the airline website.

We also offer free upgrades, free breakfasts, free hotel credit, and VIP gifts at luxury hotels like Four Seasons, Aman, and more for the same price as the hotel’s own websites. (Book direct, and you don’t get these benefits, so why would you?).

Finally, compare all quotes with google flights to be 100% sure you are getting the best possible prices.

Should I Get An American Airlines AAdvantage Credit Card?

Credit cards can help in boosting your miles balance and can help you reach elite status with American Airlines.

If you want to use miles to upgrade to business or first class award tickets, taking out a relevant credit card will turbo boost your collection of air miles? In fact, purchasing a premium class award ticket with miles is the easiest way to secure a seat in the front of the plane.

AAdvantage credit card sign-up bonuses often deliver enough miles to secure a business or first class award ticket. Having an American Airlines AAdvantage credit card can ALSO accelerate your progress towards earning AAdvantage Elite status as spending on the AAdvantage Aviator credit cards can earn you Elite Qualifying Dollars and Elite Qualifying Miles, both necessary to qualify for elite status.

There are two issuers of AAdvantage credit cards: Citi and Barclays.

The Free Card

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® is free in the first year. It earns 50,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $2,500 USD within the first three months of account opening. It also earns 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 USD spent on American Airlines purchases, gas stations, and restaurants. Your first checked bag is free on domestic American Airlines itineraries and up to four companions traveling with you on the same reservation. The annual fee is $99 USD (but the fee is waived for the first 12 months). Find out more and apply.

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard has a limited-time offer of 75,000 American Airlines AAdvantage® bonus miles after spending $7,500 USD within the first three months of account opening. Admirals Club® membership for you and access for guests traveling with you. You also get your first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines itineraries for you and up to 8 companions traveling with you on the same reservation. Earn 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 USD spent on eligible American Airlines purchases. Receive a statement credit, up to $100 USD every 5 years, as reimbursement for your application fee for Global Entry or The TSA Pre?®. There is an annual fee: $450 USD. Find out more and apply.

The Barclays AAdvantage Credit Cards offer a faster path to Elite Status. How? Each level of American Airlines’ elite status qualification requires an EQD (Elite Qualifying Dollars) level of spending with the airline in addition to Elite Qualifying Miles/Segment qualifications (EQM/EQS).

One of the key benefits of the Barclays AAdvantage Aviator® credit cards is that you can earn Elite Qualifying Dollars (as much as $6,000 USD per year) towards AAdvantage Elite status with American Airlines. This is a benefit not offered on any of the Citi AAdvantage credit cards.

For a list of American Airlines AAdvantage credit cards and the perks and rewards available with each card, access our American Airline credit card guide.

Free Upgrades For Elite Members

American Airlines rewards its top elite members with free upgrades and the ability to earn worldwide free upgrades. Top AAdvantage Program Elite status is the main factor that determines who will receive an upgrade on American Airlines.

Lower-level elite members receive free upgrades on flights 500 miles or less and can earn (or purchase) additional 500-mile upgrades. What is a 500-mile upgrade? A 500-mile upgrade is a form of upgrade certificate that Platinum Elite and Gold Elite status members of American Airline’s AAdvantage frequent flier program can earn, and elites can purchase.

The upgrades can be applied to flights to upgrade the traveler and/or companion in sufficient quantities to cover the length of the plane. A flight of 2,400 miles would require five 500-mile upgrade certificates.

All travelers who are AAdvantage frequent flier miles can use miles to upgrade their flights when upgrade space is available.

Complimentary Upgrades Who Gets What?

Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro elite members earn complimentary upgrades on flights within the U.S. (including Hawaii) and between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Central America.

Systemwide upgrades are upgrades earned annually by Executive Platinum Elite members that can be used worldwide on American flights allowing for up to 3 flights in each direction of travel to be upgraded from economy to business class or business class to first class.

Platinum and Gold AAdvantage Elite members earn four 500-mile upgrades for every 12,500 Elite Qualifying Miles earned. All elite members can also purchase these upgrades for $40 USD each.

Upgrading with Miles

All travelers, regardless of AAdvantage frequent flier status, can use AAdvantage frequent flier miles to upgrade on American Airlines or American Eagle marketed or operated flights based on availability.

Upgrades are valid for a single-class upgrade on up to 3 segments for the outbound or return journey and exclude Basic Economy and award tickets.

The amount of miles it takes to upgrade a ticket varies depending on the route and the fare class of the ticket. Even a discount economy ticket qualifies for an upgrade with miles if the seats are available.

Most tickets are eligible to upgrade with miles, except for award tickets and Basic Economy fare tickets, but there must be upgrade availability. Basic economy fare tickets cannot be upgraded regardless of elite status, and they cannot be upgraded with miles.

To find out if upgrade space and seats are available is more difficult. If you can buy a business class seat, it doesn’t mean that the same seat is available for an upgrade.

If you have ConciergeKey/Executive Platinum status with American Airlines, you’ll be able to see the availability of using Systemwide Upgrades or Mileage Upgrade Awards when you search for a flight.

Others will have to call to find out if upgrade space is available and if it is possible to use miles or 500-mile certificates (elite members) to upgrade on a particular flight. This is a real pain.

Another option to find out if upgrade space is available is to subscribe to a third-party service such as Expert Flyer and search for C (business class) or F (first class) award space.

Who Gets the Upgrade First?

Those with the highest level of elite status will get upgrades first. The highest level of status is ConciergeKey (invitation only at American Airline’s discretion), then Executive Platinum, then Platinum Pro, then Platinum, and finally Gold comes in at the bottom.

To add to the complication, different upgrade types are also given different priority. Systemwide upgrades offer the traveler top priority, followed by Mileage Award upgrades, then 500-mile upgrades on purchased tickets, then 500-mile upgrades on award tickets, and finally, 12-month rolling EQDs.

What If I Don’t Have American Airlines Elite Status?

The only option for non-elite members to get an upgrade is with mileage award upgrades, and remember, all elite members will supersede your request on the upgrade waitlist.

That said, you should always request a Mileage Award upgrade if you want one, even if you don’t hold elite status. If upgrade space is available when you book your ticket, the upgrade may clear immediately.

What Do I Get When I Achieve Status?

Achieving Executive Platinum earns 4 Systemwide Upgrade Certificates plus two additional SWUs for every 50,000 miles flown up to 200,000 total EQMs annually.

Complimentary upgrades are available on flights within the U.S. (including Hawaii) and between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Central America.

When you reach Platinum Pro, you get complimentary upgrades on flights within the U.S. (including Hawaii) and between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean, and Central America.

When you reach Platinum, you get complimentary upgrades on flights less than 500 miles. May purchase additional 500-mile upgrades and can earn four 500-mile upgrades for every 12,500 EQMs flown annually.

When you hit Gold, you get complimentary upgrades on flights less than 500 miles. May purchase additional 500-mile upgrades and can earn four 500-mile upgrades for every 12,500 EQMs flown annually.

Upgrade British Airways Flights With AA Miles

Did you know that you can use AAdvantage frequent flier miles to upgrade one level on British Airways and Iberia flights?

If you book British Airways Premium Economy, you can upgrade to Business for 12,500 miles each way. This fare occasionally goes on sale, making it a good value for securing an upgrade even when considering the additional taxes and fees.

Companion upgrades

American Airlines companion upgrades are available on paid tickets and award tickets. If an elite member is traveling with a companion, the companion upgrade will now receive the same status priority as the elite member. Companions do not have to be AAdvantage program members, and the upgrade can be deducted from any account.

ConceirgeKey and Platinum Elite Members can use their system-wide upgrade certificates and request complimentary upgrades for companions. All other elite members must use 500-mile upgrade certificates to upgrade themselves and their companions on flights greater than 500 miles in length. Simply select an upgrade when making a reservation or at any time before departure on aa.com or call American Airlines.

Final Thoughts

Increase your chances of getting that AA upgrade by earning Elite Status or using your miles (from credit cards) to buy or upgrade to business or first class award tickets.

AAdvantage credit card sign-up bonuses often deliver enough miles to secure a business or first class award ticket, and there are lots of ways to earn loads of American Airlines miles.

You can also buy a heavily discounted upgrade while you’re booking your ticket, when you check-in, or ask at the gate before departure.

Remember to give up your seat when a flight is oversold and ask to be upgraded on the next flight.

Or finally, pay for your ticket but get a big discount through our luxury travel concierge.

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Note: Benefits offered correct at the time of writing but may be amended at discretion of the vendor. This post is solely the opinion of the author and has not been sponsored, influenced, or reviewed by the proprietor or brand being appraised.