On Monday I wrote a quick post on what I consider to be my near miraculous AAdvantage elite upgrade percentage as a Gold member. Fact is, it is miraculous….and awesome. However, reader Disco wrote with a fair question.

“You said you spent $60 on upgrade stickers for ATL-DFW.  In theory, couldn’t you have just used “FCM” on Delta for roughly the same amount of money (or more, depending on your coach ticket price) and guaranteed the first class seat?  I know, it’s never guaranteed, the FCM price could be a lot higher, etc.  But while it’s great that you were upgraded on AA (who wouldn’t want an 89% upgrade percentage as a low-level elite?), it’s not much different than paying the same price to confirm your seat.  Again, in theory.”

That’s a valid point, and one I’ve thought about from time to time in my various posts about my AAdvantage in Atlanta experiment. Let’s look at an example.


Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 9.51.42 PM

My recent roundtrip purchase to Miami on American for the same dates looked like this.

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 9.55.56 PM

If you’re counting, that’s two tickets for $204.40 vs 1 ticket for $235.40 or $470.80 for the two of us on Delta. If both my wife and I clear first class on American, that is an extra $120 each way ($30 x 4 500 mile upgrades) – $324.40 vs $470.80. The Delta FCM price – $444.50 each. So in this case, I’m pretty pleased with my AA decision.

In fairness, I bought that Miami fare last week. Looking at it last night, I found the fare had risen substantially.

Screen Shot 2015-06-23 at 10.00.02 PM

Bottom line – I scored buying when I did whether I have to pay for my upgrades or not. In either case, the theory of buying “FCM” doesn’t work in this case, but that’s just one snapshot in time. There are a number of examples where Disco’s question would definitely carry water, with a recent flight search to Orlando coming to mind. In fact, there are too many to point out here. The real point is that air travel is an individual decision and very market based. Buy what you want to buy based on research. I’ve had some very good value experiences of late in maximizing AAdvantage elite benefits, even if I am a lowest tier elite. No matter what, it’s not a given that buying a first class seat and buying upgrades on a lower base coach fair are the same deal. First class monetization can also be your friend. Like most things airline related, YMMV.

-MJ, June 24, 2015