Using US Airways Mobile “Upgrade List” to Snag Upgrades Out of Turn

So US Airways has always had what I considered to be a funny upgrade process.  It is what they call their “preferred upgrades” process.  US Airways has four levels of elite members – from top to bottom: Chairman, Platinum, Gold, and Silver.  If there are enough seats available in “upgrade inventory” – Chairman get upgrades 7 days out; Platinums 4 days out; Golds 3 days out; and Silvers 1 day out until First class is sold out.  There are many pros and cons of doing it like this.  One major con is that as a Chairman or Platinum, if you are buying a last minute flight, or even one 3 days out, there are most likely no upgrade seats left because All the Preferred members have snagged them already, even Golds and Silvers.  One pro is that as a Chairman on a fare bought at least a week in advance to make it into the furthest out upgrade window, I rarely miss an upgrade.  But I do sometimes.

If you get to 24 hours before your flight and you are not upgraded yet, when you check-in you are put on the upgrade list.  Your priority on the upgrade list is set firstly at your level (in my case Chairman), and then I believe time of check-in is the next tie breaker.  The earlier you check-in, the higher your priority on the upgrade list.  However, if you check in at 23 hours and 59 minutes as a US Airways preferred member of any status – Silver through Chairman, and there is a First Class seat left, it will offer it to you right then and there.  This secret many Silver, Gold, and Platinum members have been using for years to snag that upgrade.  Even more bizarre, if check-in has begun and there is say 12 hours left until your flight, and there is already a lengthly upgrade list, you can  “snag” an upgrade out of torn.  And the new US Airways Mobile “Upgrade List” makes it even easier to do so!  In fact, I did it today Houston to Charlotte (even though I was 1st on the upgrade list anyway).  And I noticed it for Lady Tocqueville and she was able to get upgraded today out of sequence and instantly (without having to wait for it to clear at the gate) on her Birmingham to Charlotte flight.

You see, if there are zero first class seats left at 24 hours then every Preferred member will be put on the upgrade list to potentially be called for an upgrade at the gate if a First Class seat winds up going open because someone missed a flight, changed flights, was re-routed, whatever.  That is how the upgrade list works.  But the glitch in US Airways IT infrastructure is this.  If a first class seat randomly pops up, the next US Airways Preferred member of any level who does check-in (or chooses to change seats on the website if already checked in) will be offered the first class seat, even though there is a whole upgrade list ahead of them.  To repeat, the upgrade list is ONLY good for getting the gate to assign you an upgrade should there be first class seats available at the gate just before boarding.  However, if one or more first class seats that were not available at check-in become available, the next US Airways Preferred to check-in is offered by the web-site the offer to choose a seat in First Class.

To monitor this – I used to use http://www.flightstats.com/go/FlightAvailability/flightAvailability.do (The FlightStats.com Flight Availability Tool).  I would search for my flight and if first class was sold out F, P, and A classes would show a 0.  If there were 1 or more First Class seats available, F, P and/or A classes would show a 1 or more.  I then knew to quickly re-check in to my flight or change my seat to snag the 1 seat that was still there.  Monitoring this has gotten even easier.

The US Airways Mobile Website (http://mobile.usairways.com – NOT the US Air Mobile app) now shows the “Upgrade List” for flights of the same day or next day.  This is a new feature US Airways IT has brought online in the last 6 weeks or so.  You can still access this feature, which is not available on the normal US Airways website, from a desktop computer by navigating to here: http://mobile.usairways.com/mt/www-mobile.usairways.com/home.aspx .  Choose “Flight Status” at the top right and put in the Flight Number, Origin/Destination, and date of the flight you want to monitor.  Here is what it looks like from a desktop:

upgrade1

As an example of how this works, let’s use a sample flight.  On November 1 at 11:22AM, US Airways has a flight from Charlotte to Los Angeles.  This is flight number 1973.  Let’s say you were on this flight and your upgrade did not clear at check-in and you are now on the upgrade lost hoping for that first class upgrade on this 4 hour flight.

upgrade2

You would enter an Origin/Destination search for November 1 AM From CLT to LAX.  Click “Check flight status” and all the AM US Airways Charlotte to Los Angeles flights come up for November 1.

upgrade3

Then click “Status” for flight number 1973 at 11:22AM.

Once there click on “Upgrade List” at the top right.

Upgrade4

This is now the key screen, the upgrade list screen.

Upgrade5

In the case of this flight, here is what each field means:

  • Capacity: This plane has 16 first class seats
  • Checked-In: 8 passengers have already checked-in to first class
  • Available: 0 First class seats are available for upgrade (presumably the other 8 are all sold just not checked-in yet)
  • Upgrade List: The first 3 letters of the last name, and first initial of each passenger on the upgrade list and their rank.  At the gate should a First Class passenger misconnect and miss this flight from Charlotte to Los Angeles, passenger “SHI, M” would get the first class seat (if they have not already boarded).

What I discovered today

I had this screen up for my Houston to Charlotte flight today and was monitoring my upgrade.  Even as a Chairman, I was not upgrade on today’s Houston Charlotte 5:30PM flight even though I booked more than 7 days out.  Yesterday, at 23 hours and 58 minutes before the flight, I checked-in hoping to snag any First Class seats that had become available before anyone else did (none did).  Today on my computer I kept this screen open, and the “Available” field always showed 0.  I was first on the upgrade list out of about 14 people.  Every hour or so, I would refresh the screen in my computer’s web browser (presumably you could keep refreshing it from your mobile device as well).  Sure enough – with luck, at around 1PM today “Available” showed “1” instead of “0”.  I immediatley went to US Airways’s website and checked-in again.  Once at the check-in screen I was told I had already checked in but an option was there to “Just Change Seats”.  I chose the “Just Change Seats” option and sure enough the seatmap showed one seat available in first class, and offered it to me for $0.  I clicked through, finished the seat selection, and my new boarding pass reflected my new first class seat.  Woo-hoo!  (sorry I did not do screenprints of this).  I had been monitoring Lady Tocqueville’s Birmingham to Charlotte flight (she, also a Chairman, was not upgraded, although she only booked her flight 2 days ago when first class was already sold out).  Well just her luck, “Available” showed “1” instead of “0” for her flight about the 3rd or 4th time I refreshed the screen to check it.  I quickly logged-on to US Airways’s website as her and checked-in again.  Boom, Baby!  There it was a First Class seat was now suddenly available. I snagged it for her.

The big news here is that even as a Silver member – you can use this trick and snag your upgrades ahead of everyone else due to US Airways IT Infrastructure.  People may criticize me for posting this because the “word may get out”.  But I don’t think this applies to very many people.  And while I could be negatively affected by those lowly Silvers getting upgrades ahead of me for checking-in before me (or once they realize a first class seat that wasn’t there is now there), I don’t think it will happen much.  And I am usually on my game to check in 24 hours out with regular check-backs on days when I’m not upgraded.  Thanks to US Airways mobile site,  doing this has gotten much easier.  Now if there was a way to automate something to look at the “Available” field for your flight and e-mail or text you when it went from “0” to “1”

 

Cleaners find $1.9M worth of gold bars in plane toilet

That is the headline from USAToday.  Flydubai airline cleaners found the gold buillon in the toilet.  By my calculation that is about 90 pounds of gold spread across 280 little bars.

 

The actual gold found in the airplane lavatory

The article notes that the person who owned the gold was likely smuggling it from Dubai to Bangladesh and got spooked so went to the toilet to dump it.  That begs the question, why should it be illegal to bring your personal gold with you?  If this gold was stolen from someone, that is one thing.  But why not be able to bring your own gold with you wherever you go?

I wonder what the Bangladesh government will do with the found gold?

49. Concluding Thoughts (And a Sophmoric Treatise to Freedom)

49. Concluding Thoughts

[Charlotte, North Carolina]

IMAG1805

American homecoming wall collage put up by some friends

As promised, Concluding Thoughts on The Trip of a Million Lifetimes.

Before I get into it I want to say thank you again for the Blogosphere, FlyerTalkers, Friends, and Strangers who have chimed in to cheer us along on our amazing journey. Your encouragement was endearing and kept us going with zeal.

Well now that we are a couple weeks back in the thick of things at work Lady Tocqueville and I have had some time to let things digest. It was terrific to return home to see nothing adverse had happened to the house. We are thankful to some of our local friends who were looking after things while we were gone. A couple even decorated the house with Americana for our return. It took us a good day and a half to get our lives back in order. And the jet lag finally caught up to us, it was about 4 nights later before we started sleeping through the night.

Going back to work and getting back to our “routine” lives was surprisingly not difficult. You would think it would have been much harder. Hell, for 10 weeks straight we had been cruising the world in First Class or Business Class, staying mostly at 5* hotels or charming alternative accommodations, and doing nothing but being young and in love and basking in copious amounts of leisure time and exploration. What a treat! But this trip, almost as a culmination of all our past travels, really made us appreciate how good we had it back home. Here are some of the things we have begun to appreciate in new light:

  • We have a beautiful, old rental house that is just the right size for us with wonderful character. It is our nest and it is a clean, comfortable place to live in a fantastically fun and charming neighborhood. After seeing how so many others live, from Saigon to St. Petersburg, from Sao Paulo to Sydney, we have an appreciate for how we really have it made. We are so lucky.
  • We are gainfully employed, paid fairly for the work we do, and get to learn and be challenged every day at our job. Yes waking up at 5:30AM on Monday to go visit the TSA on the way to a client site isn’t the most fun. But we could be working so much harder, at so much more painful a task, for so much less money. In fact most of the world does. This trip really made us appreciate having a job. We are thankful to be working.
  • Our health is our biggest asset. We are young and healthy. We have a solid foundation. This trip just reinforced to us what a gift that is to us and how we have to enjoy it every day. Whether raking insane amount of leaves from the 100 year old tree out front or just laying on the couch catnapping, being healthy and happy and sound is such a gift from God. For some reason this trip really helped reinforce this for us.Life is good. We can owe all that is good to our freedom. Our freedom, inherent in our humanity, is God’s greatest gift to us. If you don’t believe in God, then consider human freedom the Earth’s greatest gift to humankind. Governments all over the world artificially restrict this freedom in the name of safety, false equality or libido dominadi (the lust to dominate). While this is a fundamental shame in the world, and yes, certainly in the USA, we try to enjoy what freedom we have left every day. The USA used to be the freest country in the world. That is what made it truly great. That was “American Exceptionalism”. Slowly our freedoms have been restricted by federal and state government and we are no longer the most free. At least we are still in the top 15 or so most free. Freedom is being free to engage in voluntary transactions with others. Freedom is to not be aggressor unto others. Freedom is the just power to fight back when someone brings aggression or restriction unto you. As somebody way more brilliant than I will ever be, Judge Andrew Napolitano, once said, “Freedom is our natural state and is the ultimate natural right.” Seeing others who have more government restrictions placed upon them all over the world made us look on the bright side of our American freedoms remaining in comparison to them.If you don’t exercise your freedom on a regular basis, it atrophies like muscles unused If you don’t use your freedom at all, or allow others to substitute their muscle for yours, you don’t stay strong. And you become subservient to those with stronger muscles than you whether you consent to it or not. What happens when a benevolent government turns evil? Has it happened repeatedly, all over the world, and in our own backyard in our lifetime? Regrettably, most Americans are no longer of the tradition to exercise their freedoms as the government restricts them of their rights which existed before governments ever existed and is guaranteed to the people in their own constitution. Wasn’t it Alexis de Tocqueville that 175 years ago said, and I paraphrase, “Americans are so enamored of equality that they would rather be equal in slavery than unequal in freedom”? This trip reminded us that life is good because of freedom as the natural state of our being, and we still have more than most, even if it is being taken away from us more and more each day. I hope the USA can become the freest nation in the world again. I hope all people in all nations have their artificial restrictions of freedom by their governments reduced in all sectors of society. If they can become more free than us, cheers to them.We saw the good side of people everywhere we went. So many people, of so many nations and tongues, welcomed us with hospitality and open arms. Around the world people shared smiles, stories, and their time with us. As rock and roll hall of fame inductees Rush said, they were… “bearing a gift beyond price, almost free”. And in our case thanks to strategic frequent flier mile and hotel spending it was almost free. There is no price we could pay for the value, learning, insight, perspective, fun, excitement, and enjoyment we gained from meeting and learning from others around the world.We also learned from the bad side of people. As I outline in this FlyerTalk post we got what we felt was an unfair shake by a Brazillian Border Guard. What would you do in our shoes? I found it insightful, interesting, and absurd to read what some other FlyerTalkers thought of us and our perspective on the situation^:td::confused:. Read the thread for yourselves and see what you think. And don’t miss my sophmoric magnum opus on “Responsibilities of a Guest vs. a Host” in a foreign country in response to some of my detractors on FlyerTalk. We are thankful that across our 10 weeks that was the worst that happened to us. There could have been many more bad outcomes from that or other situations while traveling abroad outside of your comfort zone. I guess that is part of the adventure.

    Many people have asked us about the more personal aspects of our trip. That is a fair question considering our blog and FlyerTalk mainly focused on the nerdy Airline and Hotel aspects. Well I will try and share a tidbit or two on each place to paint some more color on the beautiful portrait of a trip we got to enjoy.

  • Cuzco, Peru: Taking the unbelievably full $1.50 public bus the 1 hour trip from Cuzco to Pisac having the opportunity to sit next to some local indigenous people on their giant ruck sack on the hot center console of the bus while having Peruvian mountain flute music blared out on the radio and holding on for dear life around curvy roads.
  • Lima, Peru: Exploring the childhood home of Lady Tocqueville’s mother near the Mira Flores district. Runner up experience: Ceviche in the Chorillos bario.
  • Easter Island, Chile: Renting a ATV/Quad for the day. From beautiful serene sun-up with the Moai keeping watch over us to a dusty day of seeing all the spiritual aspects of the Rapa Nui people and their amazing Moai we enjoyed the adventure cruising around the island.
  • Santiago, Chile: Eating delicious casita empanadas in the historic center of Valparaiso. Runner up: Enjoying a delicious Chillean Asado meat feast in the Andes Foothills after a wine tour at Concha y Toro vineyard outside of Santiago.
  • Mendoza, Argentina: Private wine tasting at Trivento hosted by the head of marketing and a full hour of insight with the Head winemaker himself of one the reserve line of Wines. Runner up: Celebrating my 30th birthday with my lovely wife and her parents in the Andes at a alpine churrascaria in the Historic Manzana village on San Martin day.
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina: Getting a straight edge shave while Lady Tocqueville sipped Fernet at one of the (#7) 10 best places to get a men’s shave in the world
  • Iguazu Falls, Argentina Brazil: NOT the border crossing which is supposed to be easy. What was awesome: After hiking around and viewing the magnificent Iguazu Falls sitting back in the living room of the Secret Garden with our host Bernardo enjoying homemade snacks and delicious caipirinhas.
  • Sao Paulo, Brazil: Crushing a shrimp and cheese pastel at the Mercado Centrale after moseying around some beautiful neighborhoods all morning
  • Istanbul, Turkey After touring the Hagia Sophia getting into a beautiful 45 minute discussion about Iznik tile art and classic middle eastern antiques with a Kurdish shop-keep in SultanAhmet
  • Santorini, Greece Hiking all the way up the volcano to the fascinating ruins of Ancient Thira. Then coming down and raking our thirst and hunger on awesome gyros wraps and ice cold coca-cola.
  • Athens, Greece: Seeing the Acropolis. Holy smokes.
  • Vienna, Austria: Watching Carmen at the Vienna State Operahouse with Lady Tocqueville, an Italian friend of mine, and his lovely girlfriend. Then coming back to the hotel room at 1Am to watch Georgia beat South Carolina in football.
  • St. Petersburg, Russia Being in Russia with my wife, my parents, and four of my good friends from Zurich. Eating a delicious Georgian feast which included the discovery of Khachapuri into my life. The Summer and Winter Palaces, Hermitage, and St. Issac’s cathedral also did not suck. I’ll give the St. Petersburg ballet for their performance of Romeo & Juliet, but by then I was getting a little of tired of enjoying “the classics”. It was over 3 hours long!
  • Saigon, Vietnam: Taking in the assault on all senses. Favorite assault on taste sense included street food and amazing restaurant food serving street food. We even got to meet up with one of Lady Tocqueville’s friends there who brought us to some incredible insider’s restaurants.
  • Tokyo, Japan: Eating the freshest most delicious sushi ever at the Sushi Zanmai by the Central Fish market. Runner up goes to seeing people performing Cosplay at Asakusa Square at about 3PM on a random Tuesday.
  • Kyoto, Japan: Other than seeing a grammatically incorrect Subway Restaurant napkin, walking hand-in-hand down the philosopher’s path seeing all the temples, zen gardens, and Shinto shrines.
  • Hong Kong, China: Hiking up Mt. Victoria from our hotel to see the stunning views of this amazing shrine to the testament to human freedom and capitalism Hong Kong represents. And the Dim Sum was killer too.
  • Auckland, New Zealand: Catching up with a friend on our quick stop in Auckland.
  • Noumea, New Caledonia En sirotant du vin sur un banc de parc avec vue sur la plage et océan magnifique. Runner up: eating pizza made with Roblechon, which is one of my favorite cheeses in the world. It is restricted from consumption in the USA because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t want to let American’s choose for themselves if they want to eat unpasteurized dairy. If I eat this back home, I go to jail. They call this a “Free Country”.
  • Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia: Rambling about the gorgeous Le Meridien Ile Des Pins. Being drunk on how nice and relaxing our private beachside bungalow was. Paddle boarding to uninhabited pine islands and frolicking on private beaches.
  • Melbourne, Australia: Taking in all the interesting neighborhoods and enjoying the Anglophone Commonwealth culture.
  • Port Douglas, Australia Snorkeling the great barrier reef. (A few of you have asked for photos, we took none of the reef itself since we didn’t have the equipment- so here is some consolation photos from Google). Seeing a sleeping tiger shark was pretty cool. So was hiking for a few hours through the Daintree rainforest looking out for Cassowarys. I did not know Cassowarys even existed until we came to this place. We did eventually see one at a nature reserve.
  • Sydney, Australia Hiking for hours around the beautiful eastern suburbs with an old friend who I hadn’t seen in five years. It was a treat to catch up with him. Also watching the Sydney Union Rugby League finals at a local bar in Bondi Beach was a lot of fun. My memories are a bit hazy on that one.Can you believe how much fun we had? What a blessing to be able to have the health and resources to take a trip like this. The world and its people are such a gift. How are we so lucky? Our Parents? God? Hard work? Creativity? I would argue all of the above.As of today the FlyerTalk thread about our trip has over 58,000 views. 58,000! In less than 3 months! The Tocqueville Miles and Points: Putting the Free in Freedom blog has over 20,000 page views in the last 3 months! I never could have imagined the response and readers who have followed us along on our journey. Thank you again for your support.I am happy to answer questions about our trip or share our lessons learned, pitfalls, and game changers along the way. Let me know how I can help. And I can’t wait to learn from you.You saw how much of an appreciation we got for our home on our return based on my blathering introduction at the beginning of this post. With this concept in mind, I leave you with a sage quote Lady Tocqueville taught me before she was even my girlfriend or my wife:

    We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T.S. Eliot