US Airways New Elite Upgrade Enhancements

May 31, 2012

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Don’t worry – these enhancements are actually good ones! US Airways just sent out an email to Preferred (elite) members of its Dividend Miles program announcing the airline has revamped its Preferred Upgrade procedures “to increase your chances of an upgrade,“ by using “new technology” that checks for upgrades several times a day (presumably instead of just once), thereby upping their chances of scoring an upgrade.

This is for elite flyers, and as usual, if you’re the highest-level Chairman’s member, you are eligible starting 7 days from departure, 4 days for Platinums, 3 days for Golds and 2 days if you’re Silver.

When you purchase a full-fare Y or B (economy) ticket, you are eligible for an instant upgrade to First Class and the system will automatically attempt to upgrade you several times a day until a seat becomes available. Full-fare economy tickets are prioritized over all other fares. If you book a discount fare, the airline prioritizes upgrades by Preferred level and then within each Preferred level by the number of elite-qualifying miles a member has flown in the previous 12 months. One non-Preferred traveling companion can upgrade when traveling on the same reservation as a Preferred member with a qualifying paid ticket and will be upgraded at the same time as the Preferred member.

If your upgrade doesn’t go through within that window, you can click on a link to be added to the upgrade standby list when you check in online, and if it still doesn’t go through, you can ask at the airport.

US Airways New Upgrade Policy

What I found interesting in the email, however, is that, “If you didn’t get an upgrade, we’ll tell you why.” I wonder what reasons the airline will have prepared for when their elite flyers don’t get upgrades. Will they say, “Higher-status flyers snagged the last seats.”? Will they be honest and say, “A high-level flyer and their non-elite companion got the last two seats.”?  Or even, “Someone paid for the upgrade at the last minute so we gave it to them instead of you?”

In general, I think this is a refreshing step in the direction of actually enhancing elite flyer benefits vs. the industry trend of watering down benefits and selling them. I think this move is meant to throw salt on the wound of United flyers who have been struggling with an upgrade system wrought with errors since the Continental integration. I’m an Executive Platinum on American and would like some more transparency in their upgrade processing as well, though I do think I’ve been treated very well overall.

Has anyone gotten one of these explanation emails yet? If so, what did it say?

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