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PSA: AA Business Extra Upgrades Only Work on Published Fares

Here's a short post on something interesting I found out a couple of weeks ago.

Recently, I flew from JFK out to LAX and back for a good friend's wedding in Pasadena. I booked the flight as two one-way tickets. American Airlines had some discounted transcon business class seats available each way, so I paid $659 outright for the outbound leg, and about 41,000 Citi ThankYou points (pre-devaluation) for the return.

 

  My confirmation from Citi  

My confirmation from Citi 

You'll see that this Citi itinerary looks like it booked into American Airlines' "I" class. Since ThankYou points could be redeemed at a fixed value of 1.6 points per cent, one might think that this sort of, maybe counts as a published fare, even though many of us know these tickets appear as bulk tickets to American.

For the outbound, I was able to redeem 650 Business Extra points for a one-way upgrade from business to Flagship First (on which I had a tremendous experience, thanks in large part to my flight attendant, Karen). But for the return, when I called the Business Extra team to try to apply an upgrade to Flagship First, they correctly pointed out that they couldn't do it since my ticket was a bulk fare, and not a "published" fare:

 

  Gotta be a published fare!  

Gotta be a published fare! 

Ultimately, I was able to upgrade my return to Flagship First using 15,000 AAdvantage miles and $175, but as I'll write about in my next post, it was unfortunately not worth it because of a strikingly disappointing crew in the Flagship First cabin.

Moral of the story: Business Extra points are a great way to upgrade a fare, but don't expect to be able to upgrade in this fashion if you purchased your ticket using Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou points, or any other flexible points currency that books as a bulk fare with American. 

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