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ExpertFlyer just became even more valuable to American Airlines’ flyers

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 10/26/2020 Zach Griff
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If you’re a pro-traveler, odds are that you’ve heard of ExpertFlyer. But even if you haven’t, the latest change from American Airlines should make you consider subscribing.

For the uninitiated, ExpertFlyer is one of the best — and most advanced — tools around for travelers and frequent flyers. The site, which is owned by TPG parent company Red Ventures, not only helps you search for award availability but also has access to airline schedules, live seat maps and more.

You can even set real-time alerts for a specific seat or award ticket — and then receive a notification the minute the alert is triggered. ExpertFlyer Premium costs $99.99 a year plus tax, or you could sign up for the TPG exclusive Hilton Honors cobranded cards to get it for free.

On Friday, TPG was first to report that American Airlines was changing the confirmed upgrade process. Previously, the Fort Worth-based carrier used the “C” and “A” fare class for upgrades to business- and first-class cabins, respectively.

Going forward, AA will continue using “C” and “A” for upgrades, though the number of seats available in those fare classes will be a subset of what they are today. For years, AA has used “A” interchangeably for revenue and upgrade seats.

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Now, the seats available for purchase will be different from those available for upgrades. In doing so, AA will also start selling discounted business-class fares in the “C” fare class.

That poses a problem — how do you know if a seat in the “C” or “A” fare class is available as an upgrade?

You could search route by route on AA.com, but the best way is to use ExpertFlyer. For one, searching is faster since you can see multiple dates and times at once. In addition, you’ll get a sense how many seats are available. Plus, if there’s no availability, you can set an alert to automatically notify you if space pops up later on.

Thanks to a recent update to the web-based software, ExpertFlyer is now able to distinguish between seats available for purchase and those available for upgrades.

Related: The beginner’s guide to ExpertFlyer

If you want to see if an upgrade is available, use the Award and Upgrade Availability feature in ExpertFlyer. Input your desired flight, date and cabin.

The results will display the most up-to-date inventory from American.

graphical user interface, application: Up-to-date upgrade-level availability (Screenshot courtesy of ExpertFlyer) © The Points Guy Up-to-date upgrade-level availability (Screenshot courtesy of ExpertFlyer)

Take a look at the above example of Flight 33 from New York to Los Angeles on Nov. 2. ExpertFlyer shows that there are zero first-class upgrade seats in the “A” class of service. (Note that you could set an alert to see if something opens in the future.) There are seven business-class upgrades available in the “C” class of service.

Taking a look at AA.com confirms the data provided by ExpertFlyer.

(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines) © The Points Guy (Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

Getting a sense for the seats available for purchase in the “C” and “A” classes is a little bit clunky — for now. You’ll need to use the Flight Availability search, but be sure to select the “Don’t Show Interline Connections” option (or change the point-of-sale to a different country). Otherwise, the data provided will only show the upgrade-level data for the “C” and “A” fare classes (which you can already find under the Award and Upgrade Availability search).

table: Seats available for purchase by selecting the “Don’t Show Interline Connections” button (Screenshot courtesy of ExpertFlyer) © The Points Guy Seats available for purchase by selecting the “Don’t Show Interline Connections” button (Screenshot courtesy of ExpertFlyer)

Within the next two to three weeks, ExpertFlyer will release an update that automatically populates the revenue/paid “C” and “A” classes in the Flight Availability search. We’ll update this post when that update is deployed. In the meantime, you’ll need to use the workaround above to see the seats available for purchase.

With AA’s latest change, ExpertFlyer is even more valuable than before. Being able to see the nuance between the seats are available for purchase and for upgrades is a pro-level feature that would take hours to replicate by manually searching on AA.com. Plus, with the ability to set award and upgrade alerts, you’ll never miss that coveted upgrade.

All in, if you’re an American Airlines flyer, there’s really no better time to subscribe to ExpertFlyer.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy. ExpertFlyer is owned by the same parent company as TPG.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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