American Airlines Upgrade Priority & CK/EXP Award Ticket Changes Both Effective May 20, 2017


American Airlines is making changes to the complimentary upgrade process and award ticket upgradeability both effective May 20, 2017.


Upgrades are no longer processed based on the time requested and Concierge Key & Executive Platinum members can now upgrade award tickets as well.

You can access American Airlines web page for these changes here.

Upgrade priority within the elite level:

  • Type of upgrade
  • 12-month Rolling EQDs
  • Booking code
  • Date and time of request

Remember that these upgrades apply to flights: U.S. (including Hawaii), Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Caribbean and Central America

Type of upgrade also determines the order in which members are upgraded at the airport per:

  1. Systemwide and mileage award upgrades
  2. 500-mile upgrades on purchased tickets
  3. 500-mile upgrades on award tickets

Previously, the requested date was the factor for airport upgrades. Now, systemwide and mileage upgrades trump complimentary and 500 miler ones.

The 12-month rolling EQD is used within the elite tier to determine who gets upgraded. This means that those with the higher rolling EQD are upgraded more often.

It is very unlikely that there would be two members with the same EQD amount, so booking code and request date are mostly irrelevant.

Here’s AA calculated the rolling EQD:

  1. EQDs that would’ve been earned for eligible travel August 1 – December 31, 2016
  2. EQDs actually earned January 1, 2017 – now (less than 12 months)
  3. EQDs earned from reaching qualifying spend thresholds on eligible AAdvantage® AviatorTM MasterCard® cards

Over time, this will build to a full 12 months and be updated daily.

Booking code priority:

  • From Business to First (for systemwide and mileage award upgrades only): J, R, D, I, C
  • From Main Cabin to the next class: W, P, Y, H, K, M, L, V, G, S, N, Q, O, T

Award ticket upgrades

Concierge Key and Executive Platinum members are now eligible for complimentary award ticket upgrades along with one companion. These are processed within the tier after upgrades on paid tickets are cleared. CK and EXP members must support companion upgrades using 500 milers.


If you think, processing upgrades based on the time they were requested, regardless of the fare class, made very little sense. Also, processing upgrades that are supported by instruments prior to complimentary ones when the upgrade lists moves to the airport is reasonable change that makes sense.

The losers here are EXP members that barely make the tier because the EQD is now the determine factor. Just bit surprising that American Airlines announced this changes mere four days prior it is supposed to take effect.

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  • Barbarella

    Another reason to stop flying with them. What’s the difference now between their disAAdvantage program and Delta Skymiles? Brand loyalty? Please…

    • I would say that the time of complimentary upgrades on US based programs are mainly gone.

  • Gaijinsan

    I wish United would allow 1K and GS members to upgrade award tickets. As it is now, you have to have one of their Chase credit cards to upgrade awards, which totally screws their overseas customers. I do hold one of their premium cards however issued by one of the Japanese banks, but they are so deeply in bed with Chase that they aren’t giving the same courtesies to holders of their cards issued overseas.

    • It is really unfortunate that many US companies give preferential treatment for their US card partners over overseas ones.

    • Barbarella

      I have a UA branded Chase card and it is …completely useless. Flying within US and with US carriers became an absolutely dreadful experience in all classes of travel. Delta is still trying to maintain some decent quality but AA or UA? Dissatisfied employees formed by labor unions members. It seems like you are traveling in some communist country during the cold war era. It is not a hospitality industry anymore. It seems like dealing with Motor Vehicle Department or Department of Transportation unit “Neeext”;(