AA Systemwide Upgrades Will Bypass Premium Economy – for Now

Jan 19, 2017

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. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.


Update 1/20/17: We have received the following confirmation from an American Airlines spokesperson:

When Premium Economy launches as its own class of service, upgrades from Main Cabin to Premium Economy will not be available via mileage or systemwide upgrades and will clear from Main Cabin or Premium Economy into Business. We’re developing temporary options to give our best customers a way to upgrade into this new class of service and we’ll announce more details once they’re available.

American Airlines is in the process of launching a new premium economy section on its aircraft. For now, only the carrier’s five Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners have premium economy seating. These aircraft are currently operating on flights between Dallas (DFW) and Sao Paulo (GRU), Madrid (MAD), Paris (CDG) and — starting February 16 — Seoul (ICN).

One of the biggest questions we had about the rollout of American’s premium economy cabin is how it will impact the systemwide upgrades earned by top-tier Executive Platinum elite members. The terms and conditions of systemwide upgrades note that you’ll receive an upgrade “to the next class of service.” Once American Airlines launches premium economy as a separate class of service on April 2, technically, this would be the next class of service after economy.

While AA’s new premium economy seats are nice, the 787-9 business-class seats are significantly better.

It’d be a major bummer if using a systemwide upgrade only got you a bump to premium economy on the 787-9 — instead of the 787-9’s spectacular business-class product. If this were the case, it’d be easy enough to simply avoid using systemwide upgrades on the 787-9. However, AA plans to retrofit premium economy sections onto existing aircraft, in which case the value of the systemwide upgrades would continue to be eroded.

Well, we have some good news and some bad news. While we’re still waiting for confirmation from an American Airlines representative on the matter, AA has just updated its premium economy webpage with the following info:

Systemwide and mileage award upgrades from Main Cabin to Premium Economy won’t be available right away, but we’ll add this option later. Until then, you’ll be able to upgrade to Business Class from both Main Cabin and Premium Economy.

So, the good news is that systemwide upgrades will continue to upgrade you from economy to business class, regardless of whether there’s premium economy seating on the aircraft. It remains to be seen if the “option” that AA will add later will actually be an option — or if a systemwide upgrade will only upgrade you to premium economy.

Bottom Line

This is the only confirmation we’ve gotten so far that systemwide upgrades will still let you upgrade from economy to business class on American Airlines. We’re certainly happy to see this! However, we are wary of what’s to come when AA adds the “option” to upgrade from economy to premium economy.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X points on dining and 2x points on travel, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
  • Enjoy benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining and 2x on all other travel purchases, plus more.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel.
  • With Pay Yourself Back℠, your points are worth 25% more during the current offer when you redeem them for statement credits against existing purchases in select, rotating categories
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more.
  • Get complimentary access to DashPass which unlocks $0 delivery fees and lower service fees for a minimum of one year when you activate by December 31, 2024.
Regular APR
16.74% - 23.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the 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.