Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight review, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further.
Complimentary Upgrades on Flights less than 500 Miles
All American Airlines elites and up to one traveling companion receive complimentary upgrades when purchasing paid non-Basic Economy tickets on flights less than 500 miles long. However, only Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum, and Concierge Key elites receive complimentary upgrades on all paid non-Basic economy tickets for flights greater than 500 miles within North America. Executive Platinum and Concierge Key members also receive complimentary upgrades on award tickets within North America. American Airlines defines North America for the purposes of 500 miles upgrades as the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
Earning 500 Miles Upgrades
Only Gold and Platinum elites earn complimentary upgrades for every 12,500 elite qualifying miles flown during the membership year. The American Airlines membership year extends from February 1st-January 31st and elites can track their progress in their wallet on aa.com or in the American Airlines app. One key thing to know about 500 mile upgrades is that earning 500 miles upgrades only starts after the elite member qualifies for Gold status so any flights taken prior to earning elite status do not count. All other American Airlines elites do not earn 500 miles upgrades and must purchase the upgrades to upgrade their companions on flights greater than 500 miles.
Purchasing 500 Miles Upgrades
Any elite can purchase a 500 mile upgrade for $40 per 500 mile upgrade or 40,000 AAdvantage miles for 8 upgrades. However, in my experience these upgrades don't post immediately and may take a few hours to post to your account. The upgrades can be purchased through multiple American Airlines sales channels including on aa.com, most Admirals Clubs, during check-in, and through American Airlines reservations.
Using 500 Miles Upgrades
One 500-mile upgrade is required for each 500 miles flown rounded up to the nearest 500 miles. For example, a flight from DCA-LAX is 2,311 miles which would require 5 500 mile upgrades. There are many way for elites to request an upgrade on a 500 mile eligible flight including: 1) during the booking process, 2) opening the reservation, 3) calling American Airlines, 4)during check-in, 5) at the airport. The easiest way to determine the number of 500 mile upgrades required is reviewing the number required during the booking process or in the reservation after booking.
500 mile upgrades don't expire but can only be utilized by current elite members. If an elite member loses status they will have to regain status or travel with another elite member in order to utilize any unused 500 mile upgrades. An elite member is not required to have sufficient 500 mile upgrades in their account to request an upgrade but the member will be unable to check into their flight if the member does not have sufficient 500 mile upgrades. At this time the member's options are to purchase additional upgrades or cancel the upgrade request by calling American Airlines.
Using 500 Miles Upgrades for Companions
Elites can upgrade one companion using 500 miles upgrades. If an elite member is traveling with a companion then the members need to have sufficient upgrades in their individual accounts or enough 500 mile upgrades in one account for both of them to be upgraded. If the companion is not on the same reservation then the elite member can call American airlines to link the reservations and utilize 500 mile upgrades. If there are more than two individuals on a reservation then the elite member will need to call to request an upgrade.
Once a 500-mile upgrade is requested upgrades clear based on the status of the highest-level elite requesting the upgrade, type of upgrade requested, and then the 12 month rolling elite qualifying dollars. Booking code then time/date of the request serve as tie breakers. If an upgrade clears then the elite member will receive an email notifying the member starting from their elite upgrade window up until three and a half hours before the flight. If the upgrade doesn't clear then the elite is added to the airport upgrade list for the flight.
American Airlines Upgrade Order