Easy Ways to Increase Your Elite Status Upgrade Odds

One of the biggest complaints I seem to hear from airline loyalty program elite members is the lack of elite upgrades – or the frustration of not getting one. While these upgrades are by no means a guarantee, there are several strategies you can use to increase your odds.

Choose the Right Program

While this one isn’t an option for everyone, you can increase your upgrade odds simply by flying with a loyalty program that doesn’t give out the upgrades as freely. Currently, American Airlines is the only legacy US carrier that still charges a fee for mid and lower tier elites to upgrade. It’s not unlikely to see only a few folks on an upgrade list, since the folks on that list (aside from top tier Executive Platinums) have chosen that they want and value that upgrade and are willing to pay a fee (assuming the flight is beyond 500 miles). For them, they’ll pay a small $30 “sticker” fee for every 500-mile segment of their trip. It’s not uncommon to see only several elites on the list, whereas with Delta and United, over 50+ some odd members. MJ on Travel has had great experience with the American system as an AAdvantage Gold.

Fly at Odd Times

Because no one in their right mind purposely chooses a 6am flight…

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Choose a flight where not a lot of people will be on it – that’s usually flights before 6:30a, and those after 8p. Think of the commuter schedule and the working day – when people need to land and get to their meetings, and when their meetings finish up and they’ll want to get home. Flying at these “off” hours increases your chances at an upgrade.

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Fly on the Right Days

Generally, Monday mornings are a killer for upgrades – it’s tough, even as a top-tier. Generally Thursday evenings are also tough since consultants are flying back home. Wednesday seem to generally be “dead,” so a hump-day flight may prove successful on the upgrade list. Friday’s seem to be fairly decent for availability, despite it being an obvious end-of-work-week day. Saturdays and Sundays are of course less-business heavy, though a Sunday evening route can sometimes be crowded as folks look to start their week early.

Fly Out of Odd Airports

Your chances of securing an upgrade from Washington DC Reagan to Dallas are hit or miss on American, especially depending on the day. Instead, try Washington Dulles or Baltimore – two “off” airports that generally have less elites, and less competition for seats. Keep in mind, though, that both of these airports (and several examples around the country) have less flights in and out of them on the respective carrier, so availability can be slim in that regard.

Baltimore/BWI is generally great for upgrades!

Baltimore/BWI is generally great for upgrades!

Watch Availability

While not too scientific, it’s worth looking at the availability of seats for sale.

Take this Dallas to Boston flight, for example. 7 seats (at minimum – the system only displays a max of 7) are still available for sale in First Class (“F7”), and 7 (at minimum) award upgrade seats are available, too (using miles/cash co-pay). Upgrade odds are pretty good with these numbers, so if you’re booking a last minute flight, if you see high numbers, it may look good for your chances.

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It’s also worth looking at the seat map – even if it only shows 2 seats available for sale, you may still see 4 open for seating, indicating a possible upgrade opportunity depending on where you are on the list.

Look at Economy Seats

Another trick is to look at the economy class seat selection and which seats are taken. Try it out for yourself – it works wonders for me.

What strategies do you use to increase your elite status provided upgrade odds?

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  1. says

    “Because no one in their right mind purposely chooses a 6am flight.” Maybe so, but our local airport is full of outbound pax at 6 AM.

  2. Jed says

    How is looking at the economy class seat selection a trick and what does that have to do with increasing your chances of upgrading?

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