How to Upgrade to First Class American Airlines

Latest posts by Joe Elvin (see all)

As a freelance writer who has traveled the world working for five years, I have become somewhat of an expert at finding reasonably-priced flights – and what would be better if I manage to do it in first class? Of course, when selecting my flight, I mainly look for a price that is right for my pocket, but it’s nice to do so with a bit of luxury, especially if it comes at no extra cost! 

American Airlines is one of the favorite options for travelers due to its diverse range of destinations. In this article, we’ll talk about some tricks that could help you travel in the luxurious first class of this airline for free.

The Bottom Line

The best way to improve your odds of being upgraded to first class with American Airlines includes: using its AAdvantage loyalty scheme, checking promotional emails, and speaking with staff about any problems you’ve experienced. The most important thing is to ASK, otherwise, you have no chance of getting what you want.

That might not be enough on some occasions, but it might just be your lucky day. 

What Is It Like To Travel First Class On American Airlines?

american airlines first class

American Airlines is one of my favorite airlines due to the versatility of its affordable flights, and it’s also widely considered one of the best airlines for first-class services. It’s regularly described as an experience that you cannot miss if you’re someone who enjoys treating yourself.

The feeling of peace and intimacy while flying over the hectic cities is unique, especially while being pampered and trying unforgettable meals. It doesn’t matter if your trip is for work or pleasure. You can rely on American Airlines to always pamper you, from your arrival at the airport while you wait for your flight in the VIP lounge, where you can enjoy a refreshing drink or some snacks.

Sometimes, the wait to board a plane is usually tedious, but the experience is totally different when you have the benefits of traveling in first class with American Airlines, since you will have priority check-in and boarding. Once on board, you can enjoy the comfortable seats that convert into 2-meter-long beds, so you can rest on the clouds, accompanied by a soft cotton duvet. On top of that, you’ll have access to a working shower. 

You will have everything at your fingertips, from the power outlet to charge your devices, a WiFi connection, and a satellite phone to keep in touch with your loved ones while you fly. Plus, you’ll enjoy various entertainment content that this airline has for you on its giant screen with Bose headphones and “QuietComfort” technology to enjoy to the fullest.

You will enjoy privacy during the flight since each place has dividers, creating a more personal environment. You will also have large pillows, comfortable bedding, and an elegant bag with quality personal hygiene products.

Are you a hungry traveler? That’s no problem since you can enjoy a service of up to five meals on your flight, accompanied by wine from its award-winning menu on long flights. On top of that, you’re free to enjoy snacks such as fig bars or chips, alongside coffee, sodas, wines, or beers.

As well as boarding, you’ll be given priority when disembarking and when picking up your checked baggage. The whole experience will be agile without waiting. 

What Are The Other Class Options On American Airlines?

other class options on american airlines

The other types of flights that you will find on American Airlines are:

Tourist Class

I have no problem with the American Airlines’ tourist class. It’s my favorite option due to the accessibility of the prices. You won’t enjoy the same comfort as first class, but you’ll still have a pleasant space, with access to onboard entertainment and power outlets to charge your devices. 

On longer journeys such as the Boeing 777 flights from London, you’ll have screens on the back of the seats, so you can enjoy headphones to enjoy your favorite music, movies, TV shows, or documentaries. During the flight, you can consume food and beverages offered by the airline that you can pay for during the flight. Have your credit or debit card ready since it’s rare for cash to be accepted. 

Business Class

This is not only preferred by people who travel for business, but it is also an excellent option for anyone who wants to travel more comfortably. The business class provides you with comforts like those in first class for a lower price, albeit with less spacious seats, private attention, and entertainment options.

In this space, you can work, sleep or have a good time in the heights while enjoying the diversity of entertainment on a 25.4 cm screen. You will also have access to power outlets to charge your mobile devices.

What’s more, you’ll be able to enjoy a compact seat with more space for the legs and unadjustable lumbar support, foot-rest and headrest in one of its six different positions. You’ll be provided with soft bedding, pillows, and a bag with personal hygiene products too. In short, you’ll be spoiled with everything you need to make your trip pleasant.

How to Upgrade to First Class on American Airlines

Getting promoted to first class is not an easy task, but I have gathered some tricks that may make it possible. These have been gathered during my five years of globetrotting speaking with various tourists and travelers. Some of these tips have also been shared by some of the world’s most famous and trustworthy travel bloggers.

You’re not guaranteed to get your first-class upgrade, even by attempting all the ideas in this list, but it’s going to boost your odds of success by quite a distance.   

Hey, you have nothing to lose by trying!

So, let’s dive in. 

Pay Attention to Your e-mail

After making your reservation, I recommend keeping an eye on your email, as sometimes you could receive a last-minute offer from the airline to upgrade to First Class or Business Class for a minimum fare. In most cases, this will be much lower than the fare you’ll find online.

Check Your Seat

first class on american airlines

When you arrive at your originally assigned seat, there may be some damage, either with the seat belt, the backrest, or even an uncomfortable companion. In such cases, you can kindly ask a flight attendant to support you with the relocation. In the case that the tourist class is full and there is a seat in the gap of the other classes available, it could be your lucky day, although it is something uncommon.

Check in as Late as Possible

Sometimes the allocation of seats in economy class is over-booked and you could be lucky to be assigned a seat in first class. This isn’t too common, but the best chances of you being the one upgraded will happen if you check in as late as possible. If this were to happen, it is more likely that they will try to place you in Business Class first.

Arriving incredibly early might be fruitful too if the check-in staff are already aware that they’re overbooked in Tourist class.

Accumulate Miles

accumulate miles

With the AAdvantage loyalty scheme, you can achieve this desired upgrade to first class thanks to the benefits of this loyalty program. With this scheme, you can redeem your miles for flights with 1,100 different destinations. You can earn miles with Loyalty Points while you fly, rent a car, or reserve a room for your vacations, with participating companies such as Hyatt Hotels.

Have a Word with a Friend who Works for American Airlines

If someone you know works for this airline, maybe it’s time to take advantage of this contact. Sometimes, they will be able to allow you to make certain movements that could see you upgrade to first class with your tourist ticket.

A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way

I’ve heard stories of men and women who have earned themselves an upgrade to first class after flattering staff with an honest compliment, and even with a small gift.

This wasn’t for American Airlines, but the power of kindness is universal. It certainly boosts your chances more than being rude or demanding.  


Put simply, if you don’t ask, you don’t get! The squeaky wheel gets the oil.  If you’re hoping for staff to miraculously upgrade you to first class without you asking, you may as well buy a lottery ticket while you’re at it. The odds are likely to be similar. No matter which of the above strategies you decide to use, it’s unlikely to work unless you make the necessary effort to actually try and obtain your first-class upgrade. 

In the case of attempting to get an upgrade from the staff at the airport, that means asking nicely. It will help if you have a reason for asking. If something has gone wrong with your booking, you might choose to ask for an upgrade as an apology or compensation for your shabby treatment. If you’re celebrating a special occasion like a wedding anniversary (real or fake), this might serve as another reason to ask.  

The Advantages Of Trying To Upgrade To First Class For Free

  • Your trip will be more comfortable and pleasant
  • Check-in and priority boarding
  • Access to the VIP waiting room
  • Greater diversity in entertainment options
  • Food and drinks included
  • Personalized attention from the onboard staff

The Disadvantages of Trying to Upgrade to First Class for Free

  • You will not always be successful in moving up for free. Maybe you find it a tad embarrassing, but ultimately you lose nothing by trying. 

How does American Airlines First Class Compare to other Airlines?

american airlines

American Airlines arguably ranks above all the other U.S based airlines when it comes to its first-class tickets. In all honesty, most of the perks you can expect in first class are similar to American Airlines’ competitors, including Delta, United Airlines, and JetBlue. 

However, American Airlines offers some of the cheapest first class tickets out of all these airlines. You can expect to pay between $500-900 for a domestic first-class ticket, and at least $4,000 for an international ticket. That’s a hefty chunk of chance but you’ll often pay more with American Airlines’ competitors. 

American Airlines also beats its competitors when it comes to the hold baggage offered with first class tickets. You’ll get three baggage items in the hold with this ticket, compared to only two with JetBlue, Delta, and United.


Question: Are Food and Drinks Free in the First Class with American Airlines?

Answer: Yes, on international or long-distance flights they’ll offer you a full range of meals and drinks as and when you want them. On short-haul flights, you can enjoy snacks such as Biscoff cookies or Pretzels.

Question: If I Upgrade to first class, do I Have to Pay the Full Original Price of the Seat?

Answer: Everything will depend on the conditions of the airline. If you upgrade as part of the American Airlines loyalty program, you will probably be able to ascend through your accumulated miles. If you upgrade through one of the airline’s promotions or by speaking with a staff member, you’ll be informed of what you would have to pay.

Question: Does Traveling Alone Boost my Chances of an Upgrade to First Class?

Answer: Not really. Although perhaps, in the case the airline is only able to relocate one person to first class, you might have more of a chance of receiving the upgrade.

Question: Is it Possible to Upgrade to First Class More than Once?

Answer: Sure! It’s rare to be handed an upgrade for free even once, but lightning can strike twice! It’s certainly possible for you to be able to upgrade using loyalty points if you’re a frequent flyer.

Question: How Many Miles do I Need to Upgrade to First Class on American Airlines?

Answer: You may need up to 15,000 AAdvantage miles, plus $75 to upgrade from economy to first class in the United States, Alaska, and Canada.

How to Upgrade to First Class American Airlines: Final Thoughts

Traveling itself is already an adventure, but upgrading to first class with American Airlines can add some extra magic to your trip. With these tips to do so at a discount, you could be flying on Cloud Nine. These tips aren’t all a surefire ticket to the high life, but they’re worth trying if you fancy a punt at a first-class upgrade. If you’re lucky and one of the tips works for you, count your lucky stars and enjoy the experience.

You earned it by having the guts to try!