A Surprising Route That Is An Incredibly Tough Upgrade on American Airlines

I’m always intrigued on which routes upgrades tend to clear better on that others. Last year, I wrote a post on the top oversold routes on American, and, no surprise, many of them are incredibly tough to get upgraded on.

How to Upgrade on American

  • Anyone can upgrade with a $150 co-pay and 15,000 miles (so long as there’s “A” availability)
  • Elites can upgrade with a $75 co-pay and 15,000 miles.
  • Executive Platinums can use a systemwide upgrade
  • Golds and Platinums can use 500-mile upgrade certificates to upgrade
  • Executive Platinums (and soon to be Platinum Pros) can get upgrades for free, within 100 hours of departure

A Hidden Route That Is Almost Impossible for an Upgrade

There’s a new route that I’ve found to be really diffcult for an upgrade, if you’re hoping for a freebie one close to departure as an elite.

Limited Time Offers Up To 50,000 Points

Surprisingly, it’s the new Dallas/Ft. Worth to Santa Barbara, CA route. It’s a daily CRJ-900 service that started back in June, to compliment American’s several times daily service from Phoenix to Santa Barbara. With the Dallas route, it allows additional connections to be made, and makes it more convenient for east coast travelers so they don’t always have to connect in Phoenix.

I’ve got to say, this is a tough upgrade on this route as an elite.

A Saturday departure (one of the easiest upgrade days of the week) has only one seat for sale up front, with one seat open on the seat map.


This random Friday in December is the same story.


We’re down for only 3 seats for sale on December 16th.

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I was monitoring this route this past summer, and almost every day either had only one seat for sale, or was completely sold out up front. As the fall progressed, more seats were open, but many days it was slim. As it moves into December, you’ll find more days open, but still some slim pickings. During the peak summer months, and surrounding shoulder season, this route is a real tough one to upgrade on!

Even the PHX to SBA flight is a killer on some days. For a small regional route, there’s certainly a lot of people paying to sit up front, although I guess I wouldn’t expect anything less from Santa Barbara. 🙂

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