I struck a nerve a while back when I opined that I really hoped the current upgrade system in place with American AAdvantage remains in place following the combination of the AA and US frequency programs. OK, I struck a nerve recently as well. Most recently this issue has resurfaced thanks to a rumor (and I believe that’s probably all it is) about comp upgrades at Delta. There’s also the rumor that we’ll be seeing a new combined AAdvantage program soon. In my post on the Delta rumors, I called the idea of “complimentary” upgrades for all “folly” and I stand by that. I’ve never thought the forward cabin should be “given away” and I’m not just saying that to get a few clicks on a Friday night.
Yes, road warriors deserve something for all that time spent with an airline, but a “free” seat in the front cabin has never been my idea of what that should be. Let’s back out the meal changes AA made not too long ago and then backtracked a good bit. There’s a reason AA has historically offered a bit more in the domestic first class meal arena – it was funded, either through earned upgrades, paid stickers, or (gasp) people buying the product….yeah, that actually happens. The other airlines went the “comp” route for reasons I’ve never quite been able to determine, and in the process cheapened their product. AAdvantage came up with a reasonable compromise in my book, complimentary upgrades for top tier Executive Platinum elites, and earned upgrades for others. The end result was that Executive Platinums got a little something extra for the extra flying, and the rest of us got a system that worked well enough…..offering lower tier elites a real shot at clearing the upgrade because every single elite on earth wasn’t on the list.
No matter what choice American (or Delta) makes, I’ll still sleep well at night. There are a lot of opinions and emotions at play, and I completely respect those who don’t agree with me. But the mere fact that a lower level elite has had a real shot at an upgrade with a truly comprehensive network airline is reason enough for me to support the idea that the current AAdvantage elite upgrade system is the way to go.
-MJ, October 24, 2014