Yesterday we reported that American Airlines has wide open Business and First Class award availability on many routes. Now, MileCards reports that upgrade availability is even better. Milecards showed that it’s sometimes possible to snag upgrades for flights to Australia, for example, even when no business class award space exists.
I checked a few routes myself, using ExpertFlyer (affiliate link), and found that upgrade space availability is almost unbelievable. Here are a few examples (note: I’m sure that many other routes and dates are wide open too. There’s nothing special about the routes/dates I checked):
Dallas to Hong Kong
On July 6th, I see 4 business class award seats (which is amazing in itself) and 7 business class upgrade seats:
Philadelphia to Venice
On July 9th, I see 0 business class award seats and 5 business class upgrade seats:
Philadelphia to Rome
On July 9th, I see 3 business class award seats and 7 business class upgrade seats:
Philadelphia to Zurich
On July 8th, I see 2 business class award seats and 7 business class upgrade seats
How to find upgrade space
Why book upgrades instead of awards?
Ideally you either have AA upgrade certificates or have a friend willing to part with a few. If so, you can book economy cheaply and then upgrade to business class. In return, you’ll earn miles for your flight. Ideally, use bank currencies to book coach (e.g. use Citi Prestige ThankYou points for 1.6 cents per point value). Please see: A great combination: American Airlines status plus Citi Prestige.
Upgrade with miles
It is possible to upgrade with miles plus a cash copay, but it’s expensive. You can find AA’s upgrade award chart here. For most international flights from North America, the cost to upgrade is 25,000 miles one way, plus $350. So a round trip upgrade to Europe would cost 50,000 miles plus $700 (not counting the coach fare itself). Most people would be better off booking a business class award, but if business class award space is not available or if you need to earn elite qualifying miles for your trip, it may be worth it.