Giveaway Results and: Gary Leff took my First Class Upgrade!


Actually, Gary didn’t take “my” upgrade, the more accurate headline would be “How I missed an upgrade while on the same flight as Gary”.

I just got back from BAcon, which was the name of the Boarding Area blogging conference that was hosted by Randy Petersen in Colorado Springs, and one of the many great tips I learned was that it’s important to write an exciting headline, so pardon my enthusiasm if I got a little carried away with the title of my post.

Anyway, back to how I lost out on an upgrade. American started rolling out Main Cabin Extra (MCE) last year, and I’ve been really lucky since then because I’ve flown almost 85,000 domestic miles without missing an upgrade.

Frankly, I’ve been surprised that even with Executive Platinum status I’ve gone this long without missing one. Many of those flights have been on some pretty tough routes heavy with EXPs (such as DFW/San Jose, DFW/SFO, DFW/LAX, and DFW/LGA), and since American’s system assigns a higher upgrade priority to connecting passengers (within the same tier) I’m usually a little lower priority because most of flights begin or end in Dallas.

But through a mixture of luck, and carefully selecting my flight times, I’ve been able to enjoy the extra legroom and the baked on board cookie. I’ve had some close calls with breaking my streak and there have been a few flights when the gate agent came on board and moved me up to the front just before closing the door. But like I said, I’ve been really lucky.

American has finished installing MCE on most of their fleet, and it’s available now on almost all of their 777-300s, 767-300s, 757s, 737s, and MD-80s. I’ve been hoping, well maybe not hoping so much as planning, that when I missed an upgrade I’d turn lemons into lemonade and use the opportunity to try out Main Cabin Extra and review it for the blog.

That hasn’t happened, so when I booked my flight to Colorado Springs I decided to not request the upgrade on the return flight because it’s so short (about and hour and twenty minutes) and there’s no meal service. I figured this would be the perfect time to give it a try, take some photos, and get some material for the blog.

Well yesterday when I got to the airport and went to the kiosk to print my boarding pass I was presented with the option to stand-by for the upgrade.

I had every intention of riding in the Main Cabin…..I’m not sure what happened, maybe it was just habit, or perhaps a small earthquake caused my finger to hit the screen, a computer glitch, or just the overwhelming desire for a baked on board cookie, but my finger selected the “request upgrade” option. It was a last minute request and my flight was leaving within the hour, but I figured that since it was a fairly empty flight and a small airport, my chances were pretty good.

I was thinking “How many Executive Platinums can there possibly be on a flight from Colorado Springs on a Sunday Evening?” Well….more than I expected!

Gary, his lovely and gracious Executive Platinum wife, and AJ (from Live from a Lounge) were all supposed to be on an earlier flight from COS to DFW. Their flight had a flat tire and when the mechanics tried to change it, they found that it had a problem with the brakes so the flight was going to be delayed until later in the evening.

Of course, both Gary and his wife, and AJ had already called the EXP line, confirmed seats on my flight, and were wait-listed for the upgrade by the time they got off the plane. All three of them are pros, so all of this happened before I even checked in at the airport!

I got through security and ran into them and they told me what happened to their flight. At that point I realized my upgrade chances were’t looking so good.

Upgrade priority is determined by status, and then within each tier it’s determined by:

ā€¢ Whether the passenger is connecting (connecting passengers have a higher priority over originating passengers)

ā€¢ Fare class (full Y/B fare passengers have higher priority)

ā€¢ Date/time of upgrade request

With a suddenly full flight, the fact that my flight was terminating at DFW, my super cheap fare, and the last minute request, my upgrade streak came to an end.

But having my streak broken by Gary is a little like holding the record low round at your home golf course, and having Phil Mickelson come play it and set a new record: it’s more of an honor than a disappointment to be bested by a legend, and it makes for a great story!

Now I have some new material for the blog (including an update about the ‘Buy on Board’ menu items – American has introduced some new snacks since the last time I was in coach) and I’ve got a great story to tell: How Gary Leff ended my longest upgrade streak!

Actually I have another story to tell: Gary suggested turning down an upgrade.

I was telling him about how I haven’t had any luck trying out Main Cabin Extra yet and that I’d really like to write about it for the blog.

He said “Well, you could always turn down the upgrade”. I kid you not, Gary Leff suggested declining an upgrade!


Reader Giveaway

Last friday I asked readers to answer this question for a chance to win a free Gogo wifi code:

When traveling to other countries have you (or would you) stop at an American fastfood restaurant for a little taste of home?

Here are the results from the random drawing:

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Congratulations to Spencer F.!!


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And thanks to everyone who participated!


    • @ Michael W Travels – It was a big treat to finally meet you too, I’m already looking forward to next time!

  1. Great to see you at the airport and sorry for Bogarting your upgrade!

    A couple of minor clarifications, you know this but anyone coming along and reading might not.

    “Iā€™m not sure what happened, maybe it was just habit, or perhaps a small earthquake caused my finger to hit the screen, a computer glitch, or just the overwhelming desire for a baked on board cookie,”

    For what it’s worth, not even a cookie on that flight!

    Re upgrade priority within status tier —

    “Whether the passenger is connecting (connecting passengers have a higher priority over originating passengers)”

    For the sake of clarity, this priority only applies to the onward leg of your journey. A passenger flying LGA-DFW-SJC would have priority as a connecting passenger on DFW-SJC only, not for the LGA-DFW leg.


    • @ Gary – Thanks for your comments, and especially for clarifying the rules on the inbound segment.

      It was great fun talking travel and thanks for sharing your thoughts on writing. I hope you and your wife have a wonderful time on your upcoming trip – safe travels!

  2. See what happens when I leave you at the airport with that stubby finger on the button! great story! I was wondering what happened when I saw the twitters flying!

    • @ Pointsandtravel – I should have known not to trust my finger, and instead should have asked you to help me check-in for my flight! šŸ™‚

  3. Wish I had know you had not done Domestic MCE – as you know I did 767 MCE on LHR-DFW in November – I did MCE on a 737 on DFW-LAS with the Family in March – being a mere mortal Platinum I don’t get upgraded every time – plus I have to shell out for the “stickers”. I would have done pics if I had known

    Anyhow – I will say MCE is a definite consolation prize if you don’t get upgraded, definite legroom improvement – I would say the same as the 767.

    Now I have a Dilemma – this Summer – my Son and I are flying to the UK – at the moment American are now all 777 on that flight – do I take the new 777-300 with MCE seats – BUT they are 3 across – or do I go for the old 777-200 with the old 2 seats in Coach. Decisions Decisions!

  4. First and foremost, apologies I could not see you after deboarding, because I got on the phone trying to move things to get back to NYC ASAP.

    Secondly, I don’t know how it went for Gary, but for me, the agent rebooked me into F so that I did not have to worry about the upgrade, because he was going to put me on a main cabin middle seat after on a sold out flight. Plus I’d believe the travel disruption bit for Gary, his wife and myself might have played a role too!

    • @ Delta Points – It was good to finally meet you and Lisa!. Thanks for the Delta Points bag tag, I proudly hang it next to my EXP tag on my laptop bag. šŸ™‚

      @ David F. – I’ve been eager to try out MCE on the 737. I hear it’s the roomiest, and that on a few flights a couple of the rows have the middle seats blocked.

      About your choice of aircraft to to LHR……Hmmmm, well this may make your decision a little tougher: not only do you get more legroom with MCE on the 777-300ER, but the seats are almost 3 inches wider.

      Row 16 – the bulkhead – offers direct aisle access (especially seats A,B, C, and J,K,L). The person sitting by the window can pretty easily step into the aisle without disturbing the other people sitting on the row.

      You lose privacy with the three across seating, but it’s a far more comfortable seat.

      Let me know what you decide to do and thanks for the comment!

      @ Scottrick – Ah yes, of course, thanks for pointing out the distinction! šŸ™‚

      @ Bothofus2 – Appreciate the comment and thanks for reading!

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