Hacking the US Airways First Class Upgrade List (Until the AA/US Merger)

Good evening everyone.  The details of this post come from my friend Whitney, who flies US Airways quite a bit.  She told me about this trick at FTU DFW last weekend and I asked her to explain her process.  Unfortunately, this trick is likely to end when American Airlines and US Airways finally merge, which is supposed to be sometime this month.

Before I continue, there are 2 important notes:

  • You have to be traveling on US Airways metal (no codeshare flights)
  • You needed to have US Airways status prior to the merger of US Airways Dividend Miles with the American Airlines AAdvantage frequent flyer program

1.  Check-in at exactly 24 hours.  Obviously, status is the first thing that determines your placement on the upgrade list.  If there are 2 American Airlines Executive Platinum members on the upgrade list, the Executive Platinum member who checked in first, get’s the #1 spot.  So, I always check-in right at the 24-hour mark.  The very moment that clock strikes 24-hours prior to my flight, I’m online ready to check-in.

2.  Once checked-in, use any method to monitor the upgrade list.  I use the website if I’m at work or the app if I’m away from a computer.  I check every hour or so throughout the day, but I find that it’s usually a few hours before the flight when (and if) seats open up.  There are various reason why a first class seat may become available at the last minute.  Someone could have missed their connection; a business traveler could have made a last minute change to his/her itinerary; someone could have been re-routed, etc.  To reach the upgrade list from the app, follow these steps:

From the home screen on the US AIrways app, select My Trips at the bottom.

US Airways Screenshot 1

Select the trip that you want to upgrade.

US Airways Screenshot 2

Click the gray arrow below the word Depart.

US Airways Screenshot 3

Click on Upgrade in the lower right corner.

US Airways Screenshot 4

The upgrade list will show 3 numbers:

  • Capacity: the number of first class seats in the cabin.
  • Checked-in: the number of confirmed first class travelers who have checked-in for the flight.
  • Available: the number of unassigned first class seats available.

US Airways Screenshot 5

Note: you can also monitor the upgrade list from a computer using the mobile website.  You need to go to Flight Status, instead of Check-In and once you’ve selected the specific flight, click on Upgrade List.

US Airways Screenshot 6

3.  The moment you see the “available” number show any number other than 0, go to the US Airways mobile website (not the desktop or mobile app), enter your information, click Check-In.

US Airways Screenshot 7

4.  Click Change My Seats and select an available first class seat.

US Airways Screenshot 85.  As long as you are already on the upgrade list, you will see at least 1 purple (available) seat in first class.  Snag it!  It does not matter whether you are number 1 or last on the upgrade list, you will be able to snag that seat at no charge.

If traveling on an award ticket, you will most likely not be placed on the upgrade list (by some miracle it has happened to me before, but I have no idea how or why).  Your best bet is to get to the airport early and butter up the agent at the ticket counter.  Find the nicest way possible to ask them to add you to the upgrade list w/o mentioning that you’re on an award ticket.  Sadly this will only last until the merger mid-October, but I hope that at least some of you are able to take advantage of this over the next 2 weeks.

A big thank you to Whitney for sharing the upgrade process.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment below.  Have a great weekend everyone!

Whitney and Baeo

Whitney and her Bulldog (Baeo)

20 thoughts on “Hacking the US Airways First Class Upgrade List (Until the AA/US Merger)

  1. Juno

    I have a flight from DCA to BOS next week on US Air metal. But I am only a platinum with AA. I will give this a try and report back!

  2. HP

    This is not a hack, if there is a seat available in first class, you can go ahead and change your seat to a seat in first class. I usually check in and then go to change my seat to see if anything is available.

    1. Grant

      I guess “hack” is not necessarily the best word to use, but you get the idea. Glad you have been using this “trick” or “loophole” before. Have a great day.

    2. Jose

      It allows you to leapfrog people that have a higher status than you. You could be 50th on the upgrade list and yet still get the first class seat. Upgrades are supposed to go in order of status.

      So either you don’t understand what’s happening here or you’re playing a semantics game. As Grant said, it’s definitely a trick/loophole.

  3. Jose

    I’ve been doing this for years, and I’m actually glad that the AA merger will eliminate this option… Since you would’ve ruined it by telling everyone.

    I’m honestly surprised US never fixed it. I even did it one time while talking with a US Rep when she had just printed me a ticket for coach. Asked her to print me a new ticket. She was understandably confused so I explained it all to her.

      1. whitney

        the only reason I decided to write this up was because I knew it would die with the merger in a short time frame. i would never ruin such a great trick ;)

  4. Joe-SC1

    Grant, two quick points:

    (1) I have used this trick for some time (discovered on a blog that I don’t recall), but only since the AA/US merger started up and primarily when I should have been upgraded in the normal window, but wasn’t. Bought US Air ticket through AA.com and then stuck at the 24 hour window instead of earlier:


    (2) Easier solution – for the next 12 days or so – is to use the “NotiFly Me – for US Preferred” app. You set the app for the flight and the frequency, and it looks for first class seats. If you are notified, just log in (any method) and change your seat.


      1. Joe-SC1

        May be Android only. Just did quick search on FT and found this short discussion from last year:


        but no notice of iOS version. Web page linked to is down as well. Sorry.

        An ExpertFlyer rep did comment on that thread, though, so it ties with my followup comment on the Seat Alerts app.

        Interesting to see what happens after October 17.

  5. Joe-SC1

    None that I’ve found that utilizes such a process in that airlines’ procedures. I’d suggest the closest equivalent is the Seat Alerts app from ExpertFlyer. It will check various conditions on multiple airlines. “Fremium” business model, though, with search limits based on subscription level and additional configuration limits on free accounts. Also, on the app description – “physical seat availability has nothing to do with Award, Upgrade, or fare ticket inventory”. So, you have to do more homework with it.

  6. Pingback: New Writer Q&A with Whitney

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