The Case of the Mysterious Elite Status & 1st Class Upgrade

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1st class upgrade us airways

Getting A First Class Upgrade on US Airways With No Elite Status

As many frequent flyers know March 1st can be a sad time. Those who re-qualified for status need not worry, but then there are those sad folks like me who dropped to the ranks of the non-elites. Or did I?

I am currently in Charlotte to speak at Family Travel for Real Life. Despite having waited until the last minute to see if a better flight opened up, I was stuck on a redeye last night.

When I booked the ticket a couple of days ago using British Airways Avios, I used the Royal Jordanian trick to add my American Airlines frequent flyer number to the booking. I’m not sure why since I am not an AAdvantage elite anymore, but I supposed it is just a habit.

Naturally when I went to choose my seats and check-in for the flight, I didn’t have access to premium seating. (Although I knew I could still probably get a good seat at the airport.) I figured this was the result of my recent demotion, but I was wrong.

Discovering Sapphire

After checking in online I noticed that there wasn’t a frequent flyer number listed on my boarding pass. Once at the airport I entered my AAdvantage number at the kiosk and it printed a new boarding pass. I was surprised to see the lovely word “Sapphire” printed on the top right! (AAdvantage Platinums are OneWorld Sapphires.)

Right then I almost jumped for joy, but I didn’t want to get ahead of myself. It was still a couple of hours until my flight and I was in the wrong terminal for US Airways ticketing, so I decided to hang in the Centurion Lounge and head to the gate an hour before boarding.

A 1st Class Upgrade

Once at the gate I asked the agent if I was eligible for a 1st class upgrade as a OneWorld Sapphire? She looked in her system and then looked back at me and said, “What status do you have?” I thought I was sunk at that point, but I just showed her the boarding pass and she put me at the top of the upgrade list.

As you can tell from the photo above I cleared the upgrade a few minutes later and enjoyed the slightly more comfortable seat for the 1:30am flight from Las Vegas to Charlotte. Lets just say I still didn’t sleep well and my eyes were bright red upon arriving this morning.

I am interested to see how long US Airways will see me as a OneWorld Sapphire. My only flight for the foreseeable future is on Sunday when I fly home, so I hope it sticks around until then. If not, it was fun while it lasted!


Part of this hobby for me is the fun in little victories like this one. Sure the first class upgrade didn’t amount to much on an overnight flight, but it was still fun. Do you have any similar stories? Feel free to share them in the comments!

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  1. Can you actually ask for an upgrade at the gate? Never done it so it will be interesting. I have a flight coming up with BA, Cathay.. which really never gives upgrade but as a Sapphire miles it will be interesting to know

  2. I am an (expiring) USAir Silver and I’d noticed that my status hasn’t expired either – got an upgrade home from LAS last week as well. Still not sure what’s going on, but enjoying it!

  3. Similar thing happened to me once with exec plat status on American for an early March flight. I even told the agents I no longer had exec plat status. They said it showed I did in the system so the upgrade was mine. Couple days later I noticed they had taken my 500 mile upgrade certs. I fought it and after a lot of trouble, got them reinstated. Good luck!

    • I’m not sure. I suspect in my case that American hasn’t updated my status with OneWorld so when US Airways checks the number it still shows as Sapphire.

      Your situation is interesting though since you have status with both. Currently neither my US Airways or AAdvantage accounts show any status at all since I moved to Alaska MVP Gold.

      • @Shawn – I guess maybe that is the crux of the matter, and explains why mine is still at EXP (that they have not updated the status yet). My next question is whether you think this is a mistake/IT issue (which they have not had in years past) or if they are so close to merging the two programs that they are not even bothering to make changes until the transition is over? Either way, it has been a bank error in my favor (and yours), so I guess I shouldn’t be asking too many questions…

        Thanks for writing about your experience. Great post.


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