Last week I wrote about how I got targeted for an instant upgrade to American Airlines Platinum status. Flying AA becomes much more enjoyable with status as you are entitled to a number of perks, one of which being 500-mile upgrades. Getting upgraded is sometimes tricky, though.

As part of my Platinum status enrollment I was given 12 500-mile upgrades to use and I receive four each time I hit 12,500 EQMs.

These 500-mile upgrades work like credits and are redeemable in 500 mile chunks of flight distance, rounded up to the nearest 500 increment.

For example, if you are flying PHL-MCO, the flight distance is 861 miles. With my Platinum status I received 12 500-mile upgrades so for this flight I would only need to redeem two of my credits (861 miles rounded up to 1,000).


Use a tool like to estimate distance between two points.

I’ve been flying PHL-LAX weekly which has a distance of 2,400 miles so I’d have to use five of my 500-mile upgrades.


Increase your chances and how to upgrade

Once you book a flight, you have to request to be placed on the upgrade standby list. The speed with which you request an upgrade factors greatly in which order you’re placed on the list, along with your status level.

Also, the flight has to have open first class seats, but that goes without being said.

The key here is to first and foremost be smart about which flights you request an upgrade on. I typically never upgrade on morning flights because 1) I don’t want alcohol, 2) the food is not very exciting, and 3) I want to sleep. Upgrading on these flights is a waste of 500-mile credits, in my opinion. Additionally, flights under three hours are also a waste.

Once you know the flight that you want to upgrade, sign into your account on, find your flight under “My Trips” and request upgrade.

You can request an upgrade from or the AA app!

You can request an upgrade from or the AA app!


Lastly, check the seat map of the flight to get a sense of how good your chances are by looking at the first class map. I exclusively use ExpertFlyer as, in my opinion, it’s the best tool out there for this! (Disclosure: ExpertFlyer link is an affiliate link. Click here for the non-affiliate link.)

As you can see below, if this flight was leaving tomorrow, I’d have a near 100% chance of being upgraded unless, of course, the economy section was full of Executive Platinums 😉


ExpertFlyer is a great source for seeing first class space!

Once you get to the airport, it never hurts to double check with the gate agent about availability and your chances of being upgraded!

Bottom Line

I personally use my upgrades on either afternoon or evening transcontinental flights or flights over three hours. My upgrade isn’t always cleared, but don’t worry, you won’t use any of your credits unless that big metal tube leaves the ground with your butt in a first class seat – so you have nothing to lose. Make sure you request the upgrade as soon as you book!