All elite members of American Airlines will soon be eligible for complimentary upgrades, as the airline is making significant changes to its complimentary upgrade program.

There is a change to the upgrade process that is positive and I think we can all get behind it.

While American Airlines can upgrade you before you get to the airport, in many cases the upgrade window is only open at the airport, as American holds back first class seats. The process will be simplified in the coming days and weeks.

  • At airports in North America, American will clear airport upgrades 40 minutes before flight departure, if seats are available; once your upgrade clears, you’ll be notified through the app or gate monitor
  • The upgrade process will be automated, meaning that gate agents will no longer manually be clearing upgrades

The changes will offer a more consistent experience and allow customers to know about their upgrade status sooner.

American will clear airport upgrades 40 minutes out

Why this change to the upgrade process is fantastic

American frequent flyers will get excited about this change because it will solve two major pain points of airport upgrades.

In the past, upgrades usually started clearing 30 minutes before departure, around the same time that boarding started. If you were near the top of the upgrade wait list, you would want to wait to board.

While crews should come onboard to upgrade you even after you boarded, that gets tricky in terms of moving around bags in the overhead bin, and not all gate agents are great at following the rules.

The benefit of this change is that you can be sure that the upgrade will be cleared with the correct priority, and reflect the upgrade list. The majority of gate agents followed the correct upgrade order.

The American upgrade process will be automated

Bottom line

It is good news for passengers that American Airlines is improving its airport upgrade process. Gate agents will no longer be able to manually clear the upgrades at the airport. When boarding starts, upgrades will start clearing 40 minutes out.

I think these developments will make a difference for airport upgrades.

What do you think about the changes to the upgrade process?