You can now apply American Airlines systemwide upgrades on basic economy fares
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
American Airlines is busy making lots of adjustments during the pandemic.
It all started in April when the carrier announced elite status extensions and other updates to the AAdvantage loyalty program. Over the past six months, we’ve seen the Fort Worth-based airline pause mileage expiration for minors, add free inflight Apple TV+ streaming and more.
Perhaps the most exciting change was announced in August. AA joined Delta and United in permanently eliminating most change fees, including for awards. But AA’s announcement went even further.
Effective Oct. 1, the carrier is loosening restrictions on basic economy tickets. Going forward, all flyers can purchase extra-legroom seats, same-day changes, upgrades and priority boarding.
The story’s even more exciting for elites. AAdvantage elites who purchase basic economy will now receive all their benefits when purchasing a basic economy ticket, including complimentary upgrades and extra-legroom seat assignments. The only downside is that come Jan. 1, 2021, you’ll no longer earn any elite-qualifying miles, segments or dollars from basic economy tickets.
But there is another exciting, flyer-friendly change to basic economy tickets. As of Oct. 1, you can now apply systemwide upgrades (SWUs) to basic economy tickets, as confirmed by an AA spokesperson.
Each year, top-tier Executive Platinum and invite-only ConciergeKey members receive four systemwide upgrades when qualifying or requalifying for status (you can get additional SWUs for doing more flying past the Executive Platinum thresholds). These upgrade certificates are valid for a confirmed, one-way bump from coach to business class or from business class to Flagship First.
A huge advantage of SWUs is that all published fare classes are eligible. And that now includes even the cheapest basic economy tickets.
For example, if you’re looking to upgrade a flight from New York to Paris, you’d previously need to book a Main Cabin ticket to be eligible to use a systemwide upgrade. Now you can save the price difference, purchase a basic economy ticket and still confirm your upgrade. (Just note that you’ll earn miles based on the purchased fare class, meaning that upgraded basic economy tickets won’t help you towards requalifying.)
This is a positive development for American flyers. Plus, AA’s systemwide upgrade policy is now the most generous of the Big 3 U.S. Both Delta and United don’t let elites use upgrades certificates on basic economy fares.
In addition to systemwide upgrades, you can now apply 500-mile and standard mileage upgrades to basic economy tickets.
With all the positive changes AA is making to basic economy, I’m going to have a hard time justifying the splurge for a standard main cabin ticket.
Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
Welcome to The Points Guy!
Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.
With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.
- Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
- Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
- Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
- Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
- Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
- Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
- Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees.
- $250 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- See Rates & Fees