The age-old practice of arriving to your gate early to nab a seat upgrade will no longer work on American Airlines flights.

Beginning May 20, American will give top priority for upgrades first by elite status level (from top-tier Concierge Key members down to Gold Aadvantage members at the lowest rung), then by:

  • Type of upgrade requested: systemwide and mileage-award upgrades first, then 500-mile upgrade certificates on purchased tickets, and finally 500-mile upgrade certificates on tickets paid for with frequent-flyer miles
  • Rolling Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) earned over the previous 12 months: essentially a measure of how much money you have spend with American Airlines during the past year
  • Booking code of the ticket purchased: more expensive tickets get priority over cheaper seats

Only after these factors will the date and time of an upgrade request be considered. Previously, the time that an upgrade was requested was the second factor considered after elite status level, according to Smarter Travel.

The change goes hand-in-hand with major US airlines (including American, United, and Delta) reorienting their frequent-flyer programmes to how much money you spend on an airline ticket, not how many miles you fly, USA Today noted.