AA Systemwide Upgrades Will Bypass Premium Economy – for Now
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.
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.
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.