Did You Buy 500 Mile Upgrades? American Airlines Might Compensate You.

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A couple of months ago, American Airlines announced that it would be revamping its upgrade process.

As part of that process, they advised that anyone with AAdvantage elite status would receive complimentary upgrades – including Gold members.

American Airlines Planes

A consequence of that change was that American would no longer be issuing 500 mile upgrade certificates. For anyone currently holding those upgrade certificates, we were advised that you’ll receive 250 Loyalty Points for each one as compensation.

While that wasn’t overly generous, for some it was better than having them go to waste and not getting anything in return. Having said that, your view would likely be different if you’d paid for those with cash or miles rather than simply earning them through status.

That’s because American Airlines used to sell 500 mile upgrades for $40, or you could redeem 40,000 miles in order to get eight of them, thereby costing you 5,000 miles per upgrade certificate.

For people in that scenario, getting 250 Loyalty Points in return for each 500 mile upgrade certificate was awful, especially seeing as you wouldn’t even be receiving redeemable miles.

As would be expected, many people complained to American about this policy and The Points Guy is reporting that some are having success in getting compensation. In one case, someone who still had 25 unused 500 mile upgrades was awarded 125,000 AAdvantage miles. That’s 5,000 miles per upgrade certificate, so in line with how much American was previously selling them for.

If you still have any unused 500 mile upgrade certificates, it might therefore be worth giving American Airlines a call to see if they’re willing to offer some kind of better compensation than 250 Loyalty Points for each one. Your best bet for getting a better offer will be if you bought those upgrades with cash or miles, rather than earning them through status. I still have 20 of them sitting on my account from when American gave me Executive Platinum status thanks to my Hyatt Globalist status, so I’m going to take the lazy route and take my 250 Loyalty Points per certificate when those get given out rather than calling in to try to get even more out of them.

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Mike

Here is what AA customer service told me regarding “compensation”: I see that you have a few
purchased (500 mile)
upgrades. You do have the
option to request a refund for
those purchased before April
19, 2022, however requesting a
mileage conversion has been
discontinued. Your earned or
complimentary upgrades (5)
will be converted to 250
loyalty points per upgrade by
the end of July

Me: Well, I would rather have the
miles. If needed, I’m sure this
request can be escalated/
reviewed by a supervisor.
Doing some reading, I see
numerous reports of people
getting 5,000 miles per
purchased certificate. Which
is in line with how much
American was charging, in
miles, for upgrade certs for
years

Response: The option was available
previously but we have
discontinued the option to
request miles for upgrades.
this cannot be submitted. In
order to speak to a supervisor/
manager you can call
advantage customer service at…

StevElPaso

I just got off of the phone with a supervisor at the executive “desk” trying to deal with the 10- 500 mile upgrades I purchased before 2017.( I am platinum for life) He said at this point AA will only be giving the 250 loyalty points/certificate and no more than that. He said that MAYBE AA will look into other options in the future.The transfer is scheduled to start in May. He said that the 5000 mile listed in this chat is not true. (In one case, someone who still had 25 unused 500 mile upgrades was awarded 125,000 AAdvantage miles. That’s 5,000 miles per upgrade certificate, so in line with how much American was previously selling them for.)

John W

I called yesterday, AA said they would issue a refund on the ones I bought. They filled out some paperwork for the request & said what for email on further instructions. Hopefully this works & I get my money back.

StevElPaso

John, My understanding is that the 250 mile certificates needed to be purchased since 2017. Mine were purchased in the 2000’s

Ben Edelman

AA offered me a refund or points for my purchased 500 mile upgrades. I had purchased as early as ~2001. Certainly none purchased since 2017.

John W

Just got 60k points for my 12 I bought this year. They also gave me option for 250 loyalty points/each. Refund of purchase back to my CC or $480 voucher. I took the points.

Jb22

Clearly there must have been a terms of purchase saying that this is allowed or even that your 500 mile upgrades purchased for $40/each could become worthless? I’m one of those with hundreds of dollars worth of 500 mile upgrades purchased at $40 each who’s pissed after reading they’ll become a lousy 250 loyalty points each. If someone’s starting a class action lawsuit, please share signup info. Note: Even if you used credit card airline credits, it’s still your money. You paid and annual fee and could have used the airline credit elsewhere. The 500 mile upgrades weren’t free. You should be compensated fairly.

StevElPaso

Jb22, I agree with you, but I’m sure the class action would be difficult to make happen

NK3

The article says we are going to receive AA miles for the certs. Is that true? I thought it was just loyalty points. Or is it both?

prpilot17

I asked the twitter team at AA and here is their response: “At this time, you can continue using them, and for one traveling companion per flight. Currently, it isn’t possible to trade in for miles. We’ve got some great news tho. Later this year, we will convert all existing 500-mile upgrades to Loyalty Points. We don’t have the specifics on a timeframe but, we will share more details at a future date. We see you’re thinking similar, and as we have the deets, you’ll be the first to know!”

Biggie F

Wow. Just wow. That response has American Airlines written all over it.

StevElPaso

prpilot17,Please see my post above. They will start in May with the conversions.

prpilot17

Awesome thanks for sharing! Looks like I won’t need to buy anymore wine to make platinum this year.

Gene

Have you not seen the comments on VFTW? American is NOT giving out 5,000 miles for 500-mile uograde certs. Folks, don’t waste your time…

DSK

Hi. I was one of those commentators on VFTW. What I learned from going up the chain at AA (three levels) is if the upgrade certificates were purchased, you might have a shot, but if they were earned through flying, no such luck. I am LT Platinum so not sure if lifetime matters. They knew that the last time I purchased upgrade certificates was 1999 (they had exact dates) and I used them up three months later, so they clearly have good records (in other words, kind of tough to claim you don’t remember). I got nothing since even though I am lifetime and loyalty points won’t matter to me, all of my remaining certificates were earned through flying. Hope this helps, and YMMV.

Hombre

How do we look and see how many certs were earned vs cash? These have been in my account for ages so not sure how I got?

Jp P

Go to your AA account and select wallet then select 500 miles upgrades then open the deposited section and it will say if it’s purchased or earned.

Spud

I have 25 x certs from Amex platinum $200 AA credit. Does that fall somewhere near a ‘cash’ equivalent?

Andrew

Should, they don’t know if you have a credit or not. It’s cash to them.