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Getting Upgraded to First on US Airways Award Flights

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It’s no secret that one of the best ways to use British Airways Avios is to book short-haul flights starting as low as 4,500 miles. Unfortunately, such a steal is only available in economy — British Airways charges quite a bit more to redeem US domestic flights in first class.

Unfortunately for AAdvantage elite members, award tickets are also ineligible to be placed on the upgrade list for a complimentary upgrade. So, if you book an economy flight, expect to fly in economy. Fair enough.

Last week, however, I got upgraded not once, but three times on award tickets — my fourth flight was on an economy-only Bombardier CRJ-200 regional jet anyway.

I was able to get upgraded to first class, even on an award ticket.
I was able to get upgraded to first class, even on an award ticket.

As it turns out, there is a way to potentially get an upgrade on an award ticket. Last week, I booked four flights for 4,500 Avios each for my Admirals Club trip. As expected, I wasn’t on the upgrade list as an AAdvantage Executive Platinum. Two things worked in tandem for my upgrades, however: US Airways’ MoveUp policy and US Airways’ complimentary upgrade policy.

In my experience last week, all three times where I asked for a MoveUp (free for all elites), I was confirmed straight away into first class (also free for all elites), without me asking. US Airways allows you to confirm a change into any available seat departing up to six hours prior to your booked flight.

This differs considerably from American’s policy, which requires a special inventory class to be available. The downside is that you need to be at the airport to do this, as agents aren’t able to do it over the phone, and you can only move to an earlier flight, not a later one.

But, combined with award inventory that is often more available on the emptier flights late at night, this is a powerful tool that could save you a lot of money or miles.

You can use ExpertFlyer to check which flights have open seats before asking for a MoveUp.
You can use ExpertFlyer to check which flights have open seats before asking for a MoveUp.

Of course, when American and US Airways reservation systems merge on October 17, this won’t work anymore. But if you have an upcoming award flight and are able to take an earlier flight, try it out! ExpertFlyer is a great resource to see if there are any open seats on your desired flight ahead of time.

As always, your mileage may vary, but as The Points Guy likes to say, it never hurts to ask! Be sure to let us know in the comments if you were able to, or were unable to, upgrade on an award ticket this way.

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