This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

TPG reader Kyle messaged me to ask about upgrades on American Airlines:

“Do you think there will be a lot of upgrade availability on the the new American LAX-SYD route once it opens?”

AA will soon begin flying LAX-SYD, but I won't hold my breath for upgrade and low-level award availability.
AA will soon begin flying LAX-SYD, but I won’t hold my breath for upgrade and low-level award availability. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

American Airlines recently announced that it will fly nonstop between Los Angeles and Sydney starting in December, 2015. While the new service is a welcome addition, I don’t expect there to be a lot of award or upgrade space. To explain why, it helps to look at the new Dallas-Hong Kong route, which is similar because it’s operated on the new premium 777W aircraft. American has been selling a lot of premium seats on that route, and it has been pretty popular and profitable, so I don’t suspect there will be much saver-level award space. However, if you’re willing to part with three times as many miles, there will most likely be availability at the premium level, and that might still be worthwhile.

Business-class tickets to Australia are expensive, and those flights are long. If you want to maximize your time on the ground, it may be worth the extra miles to arrive well rested after flying in a comfortable seat. One additional perk is that you’ll be able to book Anytime awards. AA hasn’t published redemption rates for Australia yet, but it’ll probably be similar to Asia Region 2 — 55,000 in business/67,500 in first for MileSAAver; 140,000 in business/180,000 in first for AAnytime Level 1; or 175,000 in business/210,000 in first for AAnytime Level 2.

I suspect upgrades will be held until the very last minute, which is a huge risk to take. You may be able to find upgrade availability on ExpertFlyer, but I wouldn’t expect much, especially right when the route opens at peak holiday travel times. Of course, I would love to be proven wrong! American, my Christmas wish this year is to have lots of low-level award and upgrade space available, but I won’t hold my breath.

Another option could be to upgrade from business to first — you probably won’t get much value out of upgrading to first class on a short flight like New York to London, but it might be worthwhile on a long flight to Sydney.

Qantas awards are difficult to come by, though you can get lucky on the routes from LAX to Brisbane or Melbourne, and you can include a domestic segment on Qantas from there. This might be a good opportunity to book economy tickets and upgrade using miles or American systemwide upgrades. For more ideas about booking awards to Australia, check out Eric Rosen’s post on How to Use Airline Miles for Award Travel to Sydney.

Please share your experiences with upgrades and award space on routes like this in the comments below.

If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Even after the introduction of the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is still a fantastic choice if you want to avoid the Reserve’s $450 annual fee, earn 2x on all travel & dining and earn a 50,000 point sign up bonus.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
16.49% - 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.