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A new upgrade process coming to American Airlines next week will prioritize wealthy travelers over those on a budget.

Changes to the upgrade procedure on American Airlines are about to go into effect, and high-spend travelers are going to get the best end of the bargain.

The bulk of the changes, which were announced in November, are built to add further weight to AAdvantage’s new revenue-based loyalty program that went into full effect this year. That program, like its competitors at Delta and United, ties elite tiers to a minimum spend with the airline, requiring a low level elite member, for example, to travel 25,000 miles and spend $3,000 in each calendar year to earn status and the perks that come along with it.

Under American’s new upgrade policy, which goes into effect on May 20, flyers who spend more with the airline on an annual, rolling basis, will be prioritized higher than other travelers when all other variables are equal.

According to a spokesperson for the airline, “upgrade requests will be prioritized within each elite status level, then by: upgrade product type, [spend over] the last 12 months, purchased booking code and request date/time.”

If two top tier Executive Platinum members show up at the gate with identical tickets in June, this means that the traveler who spent the most in the last year will get the upgrade first. If a Gold (lowest-tier) member shows up with a higher rolling annual spend and the exact same upgrade instrument, however, the Executive Platinum member will get the upgrade.

An additional benefit that American is also adding on May 20 is the ability to upgrade award tickets for top-tier elite members. Until now, tickets booked with AAdvantage miles have not been upgradeable. Moving forward, however, members will be able to use 500-mile “sticker” upgrades (which can be purchased online) to swap cabins.

Overall, many elites may not see a big change to upgrades on May 20 as so many variables influence the process. But in hub cities such as Dallas and Miami where there are a substantial volume of elites with similar status, the higher-spending elites may soon see a larger share of the first class cabin — while the rest stay in back.

Full details of the new upgrade plan launched on American Airlines this morning at


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Tags: aadvantage, american airlines, loyalty

Photo credit: A promotional image of a customer at American Airlines' renovated Admiral's Lounge. The carrier will now factor in the amount of money a loyalty member spends when awarding upgrades. American Airlines

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