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How do automatic upgrades work vs available unsold 1st class seats?

How do automatic upgrades work vs available unsold 1st class seats?

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Old Oct 11, 18, 12:04 pm
  #1  
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How do automatic upgrades work vs available unsold 1st class seats?

I have a flight coming up this weekend that flies thru Chicago... I'm Plat Pro and I received the upgrade (at the 72hour mark) to 1st on the second leg but not the first so out of curiosity, I checked to see if there were any 1st class seats available to purchase and there were... so I was curious - does anyone know when AA makes these seats available for upgrade to members vs trying to sell them?

I thought (clearly incorrectly) that any unsold seats went into the upgrade pool. Clearly I'm wrong but I was wondering what the protocol was - if it was known at all.

Thanks!
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Old Oct 11, 18, 12:23 pm
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Originally Posted by schwachs View Post
I have a flight coming up this weekend that flies thru Chicago... I'm Plat Pro and I received the upgrade (at the 72hour mark) to 1st on the second leg but not the first so out of curiosity, I checked to see if there were any 1st class seats available to purchase and there were... so I was curious - does anyone know when AA makes these seats available for upgrade to members vs trying to sell them?

I thought (clearly incorrectly) that any unsold seats went into the upgrade pool. Clearly I'm wrong but I was wondering what the protocol was - if it was known at all.

Thanks!
No one really knows the specific algorithms AA uses for releasing upgrades. Seats may be open but AA might believe (whether correctly is another matter entirely) it can sell those seats. Second when Y is sold out or oversold AA might be able to get flyers to pay for F in order to have a confirmed seat assignment. Third, AA might want to keep open F seats in the case of misconnects for paid F paxs. Generally AA holds back one or two seats until departure time and assigns those upgrades based upon the upgrade order (again that's not always 100% practice).
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Old Oct 11, 18, 12:47 pm
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Excellent and thank you for your quick reply!
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Old Oct 11, 18, 12:51 pm
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While AA's algorithm will be different than both UA and DL, all of them would prefer to sell an F seat before giving it away for free.

Additionally, there are people in paid F on another flight who may want to change to your flight and there may be people flying F/J from overseas who misconnect. Those folks all come ahead of you, at least until it is time to finalize the flight.
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Old Oct 11, 18, 2:05 pm
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It would be poor financial management if they gave away all unsold seats at the respective upgrade windows. In your case, 3 days prior to flight, they still have plenty of time to sell those seats to late bookings. I'm guessing the flight you got the early upgrade had generally light loads.
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Old Oct 11, 18, 2:10 pm
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It is much more than loads. It is predictive. AA has access to tens of millions of data points and can use those the same way it allocates seats within fare buckets, overbooks and does any number of other things.

I routinely head for LGA or BOS and book a Shuttle seat while I in an Uber to DCA. That may not be standard, but it isn't uncommon.
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Old Oct 11, 18, 2:18 pm
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Originally Posted by newyorkgeorge View Post
No one really knows the specific algorithms AA uses for releasing upgrades. Seats may be open but AA might believe (whether correctly is another matter entirely) it can sell those seats. Second when Y is sold out or oversold AA might be able to get flyers to pay for F in order to have a confirmed seat assignment. Third, AA might want to keep open F seats in the case of misconnects for paid F paxs. Generally AA holds back one or two seats until departure time and assigns those upgrades based upon the upgrade order (again that's not always 100% practice).
Ahhh so it doesn't just go to the non-revs
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Old Oct 11, 18, 2:53 pm
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All makes sense. Was mostly just curious how it all worked.
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Old Oct 11, 18, 3:48 pm
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Do auto upgrades use "C" class or some invsible fare class?
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Old Oct 11, 18, 3:57 pm
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Originally Posted by Daniel Solis View Post
Do auto upgrades use "C" class or some invsible fare class?
They use "R" class which is a different bucket than "C" and is not visible in Expert Flyer. When you get a comp/500 mile upgrade you'll see the class on your BP will be "R" versus the "C" that SWUs / mileage + copays clear into prior to the airport list
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Old Oct 11, 18, 4:31 pm
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DL UA AA should end the charade of free elite upgrades in favor of 25 to 50% discounts, higher discount for higher elites, on paid upgrades.
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Old Oct 11, 18, 5:09 pm
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Originally Posted by Colin View Post
DL UA AA should end the charade of free elite upgrades in favor of 25 to 50% discounts, higher discount for higher elites, on paid upgrades.
Already, Gold and Plat pay $40 every 500mi for the upgrade stickers; that's been $200 one way for me before if I had not earned the stickers from flying.
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Old Oct 11, 18, 5:43 pm
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Originally Posted by Colin View Post
DL UA AA should end the charade of free elite upgrades in favor of 25 to 50% discounts, higher discount for higher elites, on paid upgrades.
There's no doubt in my mind that other than for CKs and maybe EXPs the free upgrade will eventually go away. One airline will do it and the others will immediately follow.
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Old Oct 11, 18, 7:04 pm
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Originally Posted by Colin View Post
DL UA AA should end the charade of free elite upgrades in favor of 25 to 50% discounts, higher discount for higher elites, on paid upgrades.
It's not a charade. Works quite well for this EXP. And if it didn't, that would imply they are selling the seats, so why would they discount?
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Old Oct 11, 18, 9:19 pm
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Originally Posted by newyorkgeorge View Post
There's no doubt in my mind that other than for CKs and maybe EXPs the free upgrade will eventually go away. One airline will do it and the others will immediately follow.
They do have to provide something to encourage people to fly. In my case, I'm spending a lot of money on F fares to get to Plat Pro because I expect to travel a lot next year on elite-light routes. If I couldn't aim for a target with free upgrades I'd be flying less and flying Y. And it will never make sense to go out with empty F seats because they won't upgrade high elites.

But I do agree that the carriers are in a race to the bottom. I think coach pitch used to be 34" back in the 1980's or 1990's. Soon MCE won't even be that much.
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