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!
WELCOME OFFER: Up to 100,000 bonus miles
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,040
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X miles on United® purchases
*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.
- Earn 80K bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 20K bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
- $250 Annual Fee
- Earn 3X miles on United® purchases, 2X miles at restaurants, on select streaming services & all other travel, 1X on all other purchases
- Earn 3X miles on United Airlines purchases
- Earn 2X miles at restaurants and on select streaming services
- Earn 2X miles on all other travel
- Earn 1X mile on all other purchases
- Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.