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American is rolling out a new behind-the-scenes airport upgrade process

Feb. 28, 2022
3 min read
American is rolling out a new behind-the-scenes airport upgrade process
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American Airlines continues to make changes to the upgrade process.

The latest move includes a revamped process for clearing waitlisted upgrades in the minutes before boarding begins.

While complimentary upgrades theoretically start clearing as early as a few days before departure (depending on your status level), in many cases, you’ll need to wait until boarding begins to see if you get a bump, especially if you have a lower tier of status.

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And American is now implementing a new system to clear upgrade requests at the airport.

Starting at 40 minutes prior to departure, American’s new behind-the-scenes automation will automatically clear all upgrade requests if seats are available. This new automated process will only be applied to flights within North America.

For those waiting for a systemwide or mileage upgrade award, an agent will continue to manually clear upgrades.

(Upgrade waitlist courtesy of American Airlines)

If your upgrade is confirmed, you’ll receive a notification via the airline’s mobile app and you’ll see your name on the gate display.

This new automation is mixed news for elites. For those making last-minute changes to flights, you’ll want to make sure that you've checked in at least 40 minutes before departure, if possible. That way, you can maximize your chances of an upgrade.

If you check-in for a flight after the new automation runs, odds are that the first-class cabin will be filled.

American can still add you to the list for an upgrade request within 40 minutes of departure, but you’ll need to see the gate agent and hope that a seat is still available.

The upside, of course, is that the automated system will hopefully eliminate any instances of seeing your name “skipped” on the upgrade list, and will ensure that requests are processed in the correct order.

Plus, it’ll hopefully fill the first-class cabin with all remaining requests, instead of a gate agent possibly skipping over this step during a hectic boarding process.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

American confirmed to TPG that the new upgrade waitlist automation is being rolled out in the coming days and weeks, with more details about the implementation expected soon.

Automated waitlist processing is only one of the handful of changes coming to American’s upgrade process.

On Monday, the Fort Worth-based carrier announced that it would make upgrades complimentary for all elites within the North American region.

Previously, Gold and Platinum members would need to redeem 500-mile upgrade coupons to have a chance at scoring an upgrade. Along with expanding the upgrade pool, American is officially retiring 500-mile coupons later this year.

For more about the changes, be sure to check out our comprehensive post.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Annual Fee

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases