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You can now apply American Airlines systemwide upgrades on basic economy fares

Oct. 01, 2020
3 min read
You can now apply American Airlines systemwide upgrades on basic economy fares
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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.

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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.

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Basic economy fare difference on a sample JFK-CDG ticket (Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)
Basic economy fare difference on a sample JFK-CDG ticket (Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

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.)

Related: The ultimate guide to American systemwide upgrades

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 image by Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
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

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
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.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
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

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • 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.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023