American makes domestic premium economy upgrades available to all elites

May 5, 2022

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Editor’s note: American clarified to The Points Guy that premium economy upgrades have been available to Gold and Platinum elites since these members became eligible for automatic complimentary upgrades in March. 

If you’re an American Airlines AAdvantage Gold or Platinum elite, we have good news for you.

AEffective immediately, all AAdvantage elite members are now eligible for complimentary premium economy upgrades on Alaska and Hawaii routes. Previously, these upgrades were only available to upper-tier Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum and Concierge Key members. This news was first reported by View from the Wing.

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Premium economy is available on all of American’s Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft, which operate some flights to Anchorage, Honolulu and Maui. Premium economy differs from American’s extra-legroom economy seating Main Cabin Extra, and features a product similar to American’s domestic first-class recliner seats. Other perks include elevated meals and Casper bedding.

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

AAdvantage elites will be upgraded at the gate if seats are available before boarding. In practice, agents should ask before upgrading a customer to a premium economy middle seat.

Related: Tricks to avoid being skipped on an American Airlines upgrade list

Best of all, this will have no impact on upgrades to business class. Economy passengers on the standard upgrade list will still clear directly into business class if there’s space available. In turn, elites are only upgraded to premium economy when there are no business class seats remaining.

This also doesn’t affect American’s domestic routes that offer premium economy seating but don’t sell it as a separate product.

For example, American routinely flies premium economy-equipped planes from Miami International Airport (MIA) to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Premium economy seats will continue to be sold as Main Cabin Extra (extra-legroom coach) on these routes, and thus free for elites at the time of booking or within 24 hours of departure, depending on your elite level.

While obviously an enhancement for elite members, it’ll be interesting to see if this is a precursor to more restrictive policies on other upgrades. By standardizing these one-class upgrades for all AAdvantage elites, it’s reasonable to suspect that upgrades with miles and Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) could ultimately be limited to a single class — similar to what Delta implemented this year.

Featured photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy.

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