Book now: Fantastic American Airlines upgrade availability

Sep 20, 2019

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If you’re sitting on a stash of American AAdvantage miles and are interested in long-haul, international business class, listen up: The carrier has just released what appears to be a fantastic amount of upgrade availability on numerous routes from its U.S. hubs.

As first reported by Traveling for Miles, American is offering multiple seats for upgrades on many different routes, and while it’s not available on a majority of dates, we’re seeing many with an unusually large number. While we haven’t looked into every route the carrier operates, here’s a sample of upgrade availability we found on ExpertFlyer (which is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures).

Los Angeles (LAX) to London-Heathrow (LHR) and back

Miami (MIA) to Santiago, Chile (SCL) and back

Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to London-Heathrow (LHR) and back

Miami (MIA) to Paris (CDG) and back

Note that most of the routes only have upgrade inventory available, which books into the C fare class — and is different than standard award availability. However, I have found some dates with both upgrades and awards (U class) available:

Philadelphia (PHL) to London-Heathrow (LHR) and back

The widest swath of inventory appears to be available starting mid-December through March 2020, though there’s scattered availability into May — which happens to be a fantastic time to visit Europe before the summer tourist season. It’s also worth noting that this inventory is most widely-available on early- and mid-week flights, so if you’re looking to leave on a Friday or Saturday, you’re likely out of luck.

How to book

Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy
Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy

Before you can even think about scoring an upgrade to American business class, you need to ensure you have an eligible, paid ticket. American allows you to upgrade all discounted fare classes aside from basic economy (E) using miles, though most require a cash copay. Here’s what you’d need to pay for a one-way upgrade from the U.S. to Europe:

  • 25,000 miles + $350: H,K,M,L,V,G,Q,N,O,S and Military or Government fares booked in Y
  • 15,000 miles: full-fare economy tickets booked in Y

You could also use a Systemwide Upgrade (SWU) certificate to score an upgrade to business class — again as long as you’re booked into an eligible fare class (a.k.a. not basic economy). These certificates are awarded to American’s top-tier Executive Platinums, but they are fully transferable to other travelers — even if the elite member isn’t traveling on the same trip.

Regardless of the method you use, you’ll need to call American to take advantage of this upgrade space. These can’t be done online. Remember too that upgrading may require the payment of additional taxes and fees, especially if you’re flying from the U.K. or France. These two countries are known for their significant departure taxes, and these are typically higher for premium cabins. Be sure you’re swiping a card that offers bonuses on airfare purchases and provides trip protection — like the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

RELATED: Best credit cards for American Airlines flyers

Finally, if you don’t currently have a paid ticket, you could still get in on this offer thanks to American’s 24-hour, fee-free cancellation policy. You can book a ticket and then call to use your miles (or certificates) to upgrade. If the upgrade space is gone by the time you call, you can cancel for a full refund.

Bottom line

American is known for being quite stingy with both international upgrade and award space, so seeing multiple dates with up to seven seats designated for upgrades is quite surprising. If you have a paid ticket for this December or something in the first half of 2020, I’d go ahead and check your dates in ExpertFlyer — or call American — to inquire about upgrading. This space is bound to be snapped up quickly.

If you do manage to upgrade your flight(s), be sure to tell us about it in the comments section below.

Featured photo by Nicolas Economou/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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