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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.

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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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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

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    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees