American – where upgrades beat out revenue passengers on a full flight

Several weeks ago I booked a ticket which featured early morning segments from JFK to LA and onwards to Honolulu. Roll forwards and the schedule padding to accommodate the runway works at LAX kicks in and AA rebook my flight to a lunchtime departure with a minuscule 40 minute connecting time at LA.

So, today I was awake early and came to standby for an earlier departure at JFK. The 11am seemed fine, the agent in the Flagship Lounge moved my reservation and out popped a boarding pass with a seat assignment.

Yes! I thought.

Roll forwards to the gate where, as I was boarding,  there was a Seat Dupe message! The agent explained that I shouldn’t have been allocated the seat and if I waited they were sure they would get me on. OK, I had a window by the loo, how much worse could another seat be?

‘Mr MilesFromBlighty I am afraid we don’t have a seat for you today’. What?

‘Do you want me to check you in for your other flight?’

There, clearly on the screen were people that they had upgraded in preference to accommodating me, a revenue passenger with a confirmed seat. I did notice at the gate that a number of people seemed to know the gate agents and perhaps that’s how they secured their upgrades, I will never know.

‘I could offer you a seat in the main cabin’. I resisted the temptation to laugh! There were clearly two names on the upgrade list behind the podium

So it seems that at AA, upgrades take precedence.


  1. @JL – indeed however I was No1 on the standby list and they had booked coach tickets. Wouldn’t you expect to clear revenue standbys before doing upgrades?

  2. I would have raised hell. This is also why you should always board first. Once your butt is in that seat, it is much harder to screw you over on a seat dupe.

  3. “Wouldn’t you expect to clear revenue standbys before doing upgrades?” Maybe not always, but in this case, once a BP has been issued, then heck yes.

    I really cannot fathom a GA daring to grab a paying passenger’s BP to make room for an upgrade, unless it is Bob Crandall himself!!

    May we assume that in the end you boarded your original flight and got to LAX, the mess that LAX currently is, without a problem?

  4. This happened to me once on United. Luckily I boarded first and had my butt in the seat. The other guy didn’t get to fly … Board early ..

  5. @Joseph – got on the original flight which then had a mechanical delay so got to LA with 2 minutes to spare for the connection and despite parking right next to the connecting flight they would not open the door for us. Ended up that flight left 30 minutes later but they wouldn’t re-open it. Now waiting 2.5 hours for the next Hawaii flight where I have a seat in the back row of First, next to the loo.

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