Posts: 3248
Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2001 12:57 am

Non-elite Upgrades With AAdvantage Miles

Mon Oct 06, 2003 7:09 am

About a month ago I posted a question regarding AA's upgrade options for non-elite AAdvantage members like myself. AA has one offer where you can upgrade to the next class of service with miles ... for example, 25,000 miles gets you a one-way upgrade on a flight to/from Europe. I tried this on my outbound leg from JFK to LHR, and given the date of my request (about three weeks in advance), there were no upgrades available due to capacity controls. This is completely understandable. However, yesterday I called AA to request an upgrade on my return leg (LGW-DFW), which not until December 19. I have checked the available seating on this flight, and currently only two (2) seats in business class are "occupied." However, the agent informed me that, due to capacity controls, there were no more 25,000-mile upgrades available! Can anyone explain to me how this works? I completely understand the need for capacity controls and keeping business class open to full-fare customers, but I thought surely that with only two seats taken and calling almost 3 months in advance I would have better luck. Any tips?
"Lose" is not spelled with two o's!!!!
Posts: 2591
Joined: Sun Aug 10, 2003 5:53 am

RE: Non-elite Upgrades With AAdvantage Miles

Mon Oct 06, 2003 7:50 am


I am convinced, rules like this border in complexity with the flight controls of the aircraft.

No, seriously. The quantity of seats are members of a grid of possible passengers. Here is one way of how it can work:

Lets take an AA 777 for example with the Atlantic configuration and you are wanting to go from coach to business class.

A quick look shows 35 business class seats on the AA's interior of the 777. Of those seats, here is one possible way of interpreting the "grid" I mention earlier.

Note: I don't know AA's specifics on this, but most airlines do it something like this

2 Seats: Discount coach fare to Business using AAdvantage miles
5 Seats: Full Fare Y coach to Business using AAdvantage miles
2 Seats: AAdvantage Reward Business (not upgraded)
15 Seats: For Sale only at full fare Business Fare (D/J)
8 Seats: For Sale only at disount business fare (I)
3 Seats: Reserved for transactions (usually rebookings or walk-up sales) wighing 2 days of departure

So, the 2 seats I listed up front may be the two you see and one of the ones you want!

Further, the upgrade or award tickets may be subject to "windowing" in time.

What I mean by that is lets say you want to book a reward trip way out to ensure schedule availability (I do this all the time) - 331 days out. That is as far out as you can book with the majors.

Lets also say you want premium product (First/Biz) as well. You may be the 1st transaction of ANY type for the flights you want - but the premium cabin may not be available. For example, I booked a reward ticket 331 days out from Grand Rapids to Orlando on Delta First Class the whole way up and back - but was waitlisted for one of my segments from GRR-CVG. There was no other seat assignments in First or Coach! 3 months later, I cleared the waitlist - still just my wife and I confirmed in First Class on those flights.

Trust me, the planners at the airlines have very sophisticated modeling to maximize yeild, keep customers happy, and fill seats with passengers.

I hope this makes sense and clears it up for you.

B4REAL, spelled like it sounds & @RickVanover on Twitter
Posts: 3248
Joined: Fri Feb 09, 2001 12:57 am

RE: Non-elite Upgrades With AAdvantage Miles

Mon Oct 06, 2003 7:59 am

It does make sense, I mean, I paid less than $600 for my ticket, so I don't expect the airline to just drop and give me a $3000 seat for a measly 25,000 miles. Plus, I can stand AA's coach service, which isn't too bad. Sometimes it makes you yearn for the simplicity of an airline like WN ... but then, in this situation, you realize that 1) you couldn't fly WN to London, and 2) even if you could, there's no first or business class!
"Lose" is not spelled with two o's!!!!
Posts: 197
Joined: Wed Dec 08, 1999 12:48 pm

RE: Non-elite Upgrades With AAdvantage Miles

Mon Oct 06, 2003 11:56 am

I used AAdvantage miles to upgrade to Honolulu. Booked about 7 weeks ahead for a trip later this month. The AAdvantage agent was very helpful in finding routing options and date alternatives to accomodate me.
Posts: 3482
Joined: Sun Dec 10, 2000 4:08 am

RE: Non-elite Upgrades With AAdvantage Miles

Mon Oct 06, 2003 12:01 pm

A couple of things.

1) If a seat map shows two seats occupied, it does not mean there are two seats sold. It's possible that all the seats are sold, but that only two have requested seat assignments.

2) When it comes to advance upgrades, whether miles or coupons, I believe it all comes out of the same bucket. (I may be wrong here, so please correct me!)
18 year vet! 2000-2017
Posts: 2591
Joined: Sun Aug 10, 2003 5:53 am

RE: Non-elite Upgrades With AAdvantage Miles

Mon Oct 06, 2003 12:04 pm

Zrs70 - true. I forgot to mention that, there could be a number of pax w/o seat assignments.

Further, when a seat shows occupied - it may not actually be occupied by a passenger.
B4REAL, spelled like it sounds & @RickVanover on Twitter
Posts: 504
Joined: Mon May 07, 2001 11:34 pm

RE: Non-elite Upgrades With AAdvantage Miles

Mon Oct 06, 2003 12:11 pm

As B4real said, never base anything on what you see in the seatmap for a flight. Those are not exact representations of the seats taken/not taken on a given flight. For more information on this sort of thing, I would suggest that you visit and go to the AA forum, where there are dozens of knowledgeable people that know all about upgrade availability.

Popular Searches On

Top Photos of Last:   24 Hours  •  48 Hours  •  7 Days  •  30 Days  •  180 Days  •  365 Days  •  All Time

Military Aircraft Every type from fighters to helicopters from air forces around the globe

Classic Airliners Props and jets from the good old days

Flight Decks Views from inside the cockpit

Aircraft Cabins Passenger cabin shots showing seat arrangements as well as cargo aircraft interior

Cargo Aircraft Pictures of great freighter aircraft

Government Aircraft Aircraft flying government officials

Helicopters Our large helicopter section. Both military and civil versions

Blimps / Airships Everything from the Goodyear blimp to the Zeppelin

Night Photos Beautiful shots taken while the sun is below the horizon

Accidents Accident, incident and crash related photos

Air to Air Photos taken by airborne photographers of airborne aircraft

Special Paint Schemes Aircraft painted in beautiful and original liveries

Airport Overviews Airport overviews from the air or ground

Tails and Winglets Tail and Winglet closeups with beautiful airline logos