A Tip & my experience with AA A321T upgrade as Platinum Elite

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I recently took the LAX to JFK flight and was hoping for an American A321T upgrade.

It was my first time on the plane and I was quite impressed. It has 80 less people flying on it compared to the configuration of their other A320s, but it’s staffed with 2 additional flight attendants. As many have reported: the A321T has 3 cabins of service 1st, business, and Econ ( ok there is main cabin extra but…it’s the econ they gave us in the 90s plus a tv- let’s be honest). Other than nabbing an upgrade on a 767,787,or 777 flying a domestic positioning route, the A321T upgrade is the pinnacle.

Business class A321T
Business class A321T

There are currently 3 ways a Platinum can get an upgrade domestically on American.

  1. Auto upgrade under 500 miles
  2. Use one 500 mile upgrade for every 500 miles of your flight ( these can be auto requested and you’re put in the queue 72 hours head of your flight)
  3. Use cash and points
    1. 15k +$75 in discount econ
    2. 5k in full fare “y” econ
    3. 15k +$175 in discount biz
    4. 15k in full fare biz
  4. *You could also ask for a paid LFB ( Load factor based ) upgrade where they will discount the next level of service – but that’s sort of open to anyone and this flight is rarely undersold. Doesn’t hurt to ask, YMMV.

A lot of corporate flyers are restricted from booking into the first class cabin as their companies won’t pay for it. So, if you’re already in business class, it’s good to  remember that, in theory, you could use 500 mile upgrades to get into First Class. But cross your fingers, knock wood, and vow a life of celibacy because the odds are stacked against you. But, then again, we do fly 7 miles in the sky, in a metal tube, going 500 mph – anything can happen. Here’s first class in case you’re wondering.

American Air A321T First Class
American Air A321T First Class

Aaaaaaanyway, back to our LAX-JFK flight….

I wanted Biz so bad….SO BAD!!!! But we also wanted to see if our 500 mile upgrades would clear. I know, what were we thinking.?!? But I’m cheap, and Miles is so serious about his job that he wanted to be able to provide his readers some anecdotal evidence if they ever end up in this situation. Which, honestly, I think is a little unfair ‘cause he sleeps in my backpack regardless, and it’s a flat lie if he tells you he doesn’t know how much I love to lie flat.

I was salivating at the thought of getting upgraded with 500s

American Air A321T business class
American Air A321T business class

Being American Platinum in LA is kinda like being a Wildling in Game of Thrones –

Yeah, every once in a while you’ll sneak into Westeros and enjoy the proximity of power, but don’t think you’ll wield it. There are just too many flipping exec plats and concierge keys out there. Sidenote, this is potentially how I’d be as a Concierge Key.

Screen Shot 2016-06-11 at 8.52.00 AM

I checked-in 24 hours ahead so thought maaaaaaaaybe I had a chance.

At one point, there were 3 ‘c’ seats avail for the A321T upgrade on Expertflyer and 8 seats total in the cabin that hadn’t been selected yet. I thought the lottery was mine for the winning!!!

an example of 'c' avail
Not my flight but an example of ‘c’ avail

But, when I got to the airport, and much to my chagrin, I was 14th on the list.

Within 15 minutes I was moving down!!!!!!  To 19th at one point.  By now, Miles was breathing into a paper bag, don’t feel bad for him, he wanted to gamble with my transcon experience! But suddenly he had an epiphany – what if we call into AA and ask to use cash and points for my A321T upgrade!

Read here for tips on getting an agent on the phone faster

We waited less than 20 seconds for an agent. I thought maybe she could do some remote phone agent, jedi seat bump magic, but at this point I wasn’t too hopeful as I  saw on expertflyer that only 3 seats were avail and none of them were ‘c’ buckets. She said there was nothing she could do, but recommended I see the gate agent. UGH. I thanked her, hung up, and went to the gate agent.

Told the gate agent my sitch

He said If I’d done it earlier when the ‘c’ buckets were avail it probably would have worked, and even now it’d move me up 6 or 7 spots, but that the confirmable upgrades were gone, and he was waiting til the last minute to fill the 3 available seats. Bummer. But, good info to know – the cash and points rate ranks higher than 500 mile upgrades, which I pretty much already knew, but this was real evidence.

So here’s my strategy going forward

  1. request the 500 mile upgrade when I book the ticket so they are auto requested at the 72 hour mark
    • maybe it’s totally empty and they’ll clear – I know, a pipe dream, but it’s worth trying
  2. at the same time – put a seat alert on expertflyer for upgrade avail
    • if the alert goes off that upgrade space is avail and I don’t get confirmation from American that I’ve cleared, THEN
  3. Call up AA and tell them I want to do cash+points upgrade
    • it’ll prioritize my upgrade on the list and hopefully clear cause it’s revenue producing
    • there could be Exec Plats and Concierge Key that have requested SWU – not sure how this would rank against it, but it doesn’t hurt my chances
    • it’s worth it to me b/c it’s nearly an international business class experience, domestically.
    • saves the 500 mile upgrades for lesser volume flights that have a higher probability of clearing.

Let me know your experiences!

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Welcome Offer

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Annual Fee


Points Earned

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There is currently an 80k offer after $4k spend in 3 months available in branch, and up to 90k after $6k spend in 6 months. I suspect some version of this will be online soon if you don’t want the hassle of going into a branch.

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