Friday Flyday: An unexpected and unconventional upgrade

My scheduled layover in Miami this morning was just under two hours. Not horrible for an international to domestic connection and really the best I could get given the scheduled arrival time of my flight from Brazil. I would have preferred the 40 minute connection but that doesn’t meet the minimum connect time rules and, especially with a terminal change necessary, doesn’t meet the standards of rational thought. We landed about 20 minutes early and there was no line at Global Entry for immigration. Yeah, I still had to get from terminal J to D but I had an hour yet until the earlier departure. The game was afoot.

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My first check was on TripIt to see if it showed the early flight as available. No love there. As a backup query I sent a tweet to the @AmericanAir team asking if there were seats available. The results were not promising.

But I was already in the terminal and headed to the gate; I was still going to try.

I asked the agent to place me on the list, noting my oneworld Sapphire status thanks to the AirBerlin TopBouns program. I don’t have my card with me (I do have the number) but the agent didn’t seem to mind; soon I was listed and number one on the list. Definitely optimistic for clearing, even with 20+ others listed and multiple announcements about how full the flight was.

Then things got interesting. I was paged to the counter about 15 minutes prior to departure. But instead of being given a boarding pass for, presumably, a middle seat in the back I was told that the only way I could clear was to buy upgrade stickers. I have no status on AA (and not on a full-fare ticket) but the agent insisted that the system showed me as eligible. Despite my general inclination to not want to pay for the change and also confusion as to how they could only clear me into first but not economy I asked how much it would cost.

My account has no stickers in it (at least it shouldn’t) but I was told I only needed to buy one. So $35 to clear into first class on the earlier flight home. Yeah, I’ll take that deal.

It was a bit strange, having been told there was no other way to clear on to the flight, to watch another ten passengers come on board after me. Two of them were even in first class, too; I have no idea if they used stickers.

As for the rest of the trip, it was what I’ve been led to believe is a typical AA first class morning flight. I had the quiche for breakfast, got a bit of work done and I made it to New York an hour earlier than originally booked.

All in all, that’s a win to me.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. FCM: first class monetization. Something Delta loves doing and perhaps AA is following suite.

  2. Indeed, a win, and a bizarre gate experience. I’m wondering how an agent even captures one sticker when you need multiple stickers for the upgrade. Wonder if that sticker will still be in your account in a few days.

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