Unicorns Found – American Airlines Opens Up Great Upgrade Availability To Europe

a seat in an airplane

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Long-haul premium cabin awards and upgrades to long-haul premium cabins have become harder and harder to find on American Airlines since US Airways management took over the airline in 2013, and both have become so scarce that the value of American Airline’s miles has plummeted and top-tier elites can be found questioning the value of the systemwide upgrades they earn each year.

American Airlines Systemwide Upgrades

Still, it’s always worth keeping an eye on what American’s management and revenue teams are doing because you never know when they’ll change tack, try something new or do something completely unexpected.

I’m not sure which one of those categories this falls into but, somewhat amazingly, American Airlines is currently offering an impressive number of Business Class upgrades on routes between the US and Europe.

Los Angeles – London

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve been using ExpertFlyer to try to find upgrade availability on flights between Los Angeles and London to help make the 10-11 hour journey a little more bearable and I’ve been amazed at what I’ve been finding.

In December (which is admittedly a slow month for Business Class travel) it’s not difficult to find days on which there are up to 7 Business Class upgrades available on select flights…

a screenshot of a flight schedule…and the upgrade availability looks good in both directions:

a screenshot of a computer

The great availability on this route (on select dates) extends into January

a screenshot of a computer


a screenshot of a flight schedule


a screenshot of a flight schedule

…and even as far into the future as May:

a screenshot of a computer

I have to confess that I stopped checking this route at this point so there may well be more great availability in the summer months too.

USA – London

My next thought was to check if other USA-London routes are sharing in this upgrade bonanza…and they are!

Here’s an example on Dallas – London route in December where one flight is offering 7 upgrades to Business Class and another is offering 3…

a screenshot of a flight schedule

…and here’s the return journey in the same month showing an incredible 14 Business Class upgrades available on a single day:

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Once again it’s not just in December that you’ll find the great upgrade availability – here’s London- Dallas in February showing 9 upgrades available in a single day:

a screenshot of a flight scheduleHere’s New York JFK – London in February with a staggering 19 Business Class upgrades available on a single day:

a screenshot of a flight schedule

Here’s Chicago – London in March…

a screenshot of a computer

….and here’s Philadelphia – London in April:

a screenshot of a flight schedule

I’m not suggesting that availability on every day looks like the screenshots you’re seeing above, but by any airline’s standards there is still an incredible amount of upgrade availability on offer…and by American Airline’s standards it’s positively miraculous!

USA – Europe

Not satisfied with just checking out Business Class upgrade availability to London I also looked into what availability on other European routes looks like and, although I’m not going to post more screenshots (I think I’ve used enough!), I can confirm that I’ve seen similar results on routes like these:

  • Charlotte – Munich
  • Dallas – Paris CDG
  • Miami – Milan
  • New York JFK – Milan
  • Philadelphia – Zurich

On some of these routes the great upgrade availability may not extend as far into the year as April/May but there are still days where there are upwards of 4 Business Class upgrades on offer….and that’s incredible.

a row of seats in an airplane
American Airlines 777-200 Business Class (select aircraft)

Bottom Line

I’ve just used up my Business Extra points to upgrade myself from cargo Economy to Business Class on a couple of flights so for the very first time in quite a while I’m seeing value in having a currency that can be used to upgrade on American Airlines.

One of the reasons why I’m now crediting most of my oneworld flights to the British Airways Executive Club (and why I gave up Executive Platinum status) is because I could no longer reliably confirm American Airlines upgrades at the time of booking.

In my last few years of Executive Platinum status I frequently found myself giving away (or simply not using) the systemwide upgrades that come with that status so I wonder if this a change for the better from American Airlines or if this sudden boom in upgrade availability is just a flash in the pan?

It will be interesting to watch and see how this develops.

Let me know if you manage to snag any great upgrades from super-cheap Economy Class fares as they’re the best kind of upgrade to get 🙂


  1. What are you using to look up? Because I have never seen that screen on as.com.
    Also all through London is this related to BAs pilot problem?

  2. I’m using ExpertFlyer to search for upgrades.

    This won’t be related to BA’s issues because (a) these are upgrades on American Airlines flights and so have little to do with BA and (b) because we’re seeing good upgrade availability on non-London flights too (as mentioned towards the end of the post).

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