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FAQ: What's a Systemwide Upgrade / SWU / eVIP / VIP? (Master thread)

FAQ: What's a Systemwide Upgrade / SWU / eVIP / VIP? (Master thread)

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FAQ: What's a Systemwide Upgrade SWU (ex-VIP / VIPOW / "eVIP") 2017 on
Please read this wiki for important information not documented elsewhere.[/center]
NOTE: CHANGES

NOTE: Upgrade waitlist priority is 1) Status, followed by 2) Rolling EQD earning for last 365 days as of 20 May 2017. Link to FT thread.
  • Executive Platinum members automatically earn four SWU when they earn 100,000 EQM (these expire at the end of the following status year).

  • Executive Platinum members will automatically earn two further SWU at 150,000 and 200,000 EQM
(No further SWUs are forthcoming at 250,000 EQM or after, though CK often have access to two more.)

Remember: EQM earning will vary from 0 to 3.0 EQM per base mile, based on eligible fare class and marketing airline, on EQM earning fares.
NOTE: As of January 2017

"The way your upgrade request is prioritized is you'll be listed according to your elite status level followed by (the type of upgrade - SWU and Upgrade Award, aka miles + copay), the number of EQD (Elite Qualifying Dollars) earned in the (rolling) last 12 months."

Upgrades are prioritized first by the following elite status levels:

Concierge Key SM . (up to 120 hours out)
Executive Platinum (up to 100 hours out)
Platinum Pro . . . . (up to 72 hours out)
Platinum . . . . . . . (up to 48 hours out)
Gold . . . . . . . . . . (up to 24 hours out)

After status tier, upgrades are prioritized by the type of upgrade (SWU and miles + copay before 500 Mile e-upgrades / UDU; your last 12 months' Elite Qualifying Dollar spend on AA. See FAQ: Earning EQD / Elite Qualifying Dollars on AA and partner airlines (2017 on) (EQD will include the EQD offset one might earn from spend on their Barclaycard Aviator Red or Silver card, as announced elsewhere in this forum.)

Date of request has no bearing on upgrade priority other than after all other priorities have been met and there’s a highly unlikely tie.

From AA.com... "Before you get to the airport, requests for systemwide and mileage award upgrades are processed independently from 500-mile upgrade requests.

At the airport, upgrades requested will be prioritized in this order:
  1. Status tier (CK, EXP, PPRO, PLT, GLD, no status)

  2. Upgrade type
    • Systemwide and mileage + copay upgrades
    • 500-mile upgrades on purchased tickets
    • 500-mile upgrades on award tickets for eligible status tiers
  3. Rolling last 12 month EQD spend

  4. Fare booking code (highest to lowest )

  5. Date/time of the request

  6. Load Factor Based Upgrades (after all other upgrade requests have been fulfilled)
See: https://www.aa.com/i18n/aadvantage-p...am-updates.jsp

Systemwide Upgrade FAQ:

Q. What are Systemwide Upgrades, exactly?


Electronic Systemwide Upgrades, abbreviated SWU, also previously referred to as eVIPs or VIPs, are electronic instruments earned as stated previously. SWU generally allow the owner to upgrade up to three segments, more or less in the same direction, on any flights AA flies with their own aircraft (not valid on partners or codeshares - must be marketed and operated by AA), on most paid, published fares to the next class of service. (Successful upgrades on a single SWU include EZE-MIA-JFK-LHR, NRT-LAX-DFW-LHR.)

Q. When do SWU clear?

Upgrades can clear immediately if the appropriate inventory is available (e.g., Coach to Business (and domestic First on two class aircraft) requires "C" class to be available, Business to First requires "A" class to be available). Otherwise, SWU may be waitlisted in priority of AAdvantage status, followed by last 12 months EQD spend (and within those, by fare class if they are full fare Y).

Q. Can I use SWU on codeshares operated by AA?

No. (Though 001 AA ticketing is not a requirement), the flight must be marketed and operated by AA.

Q. Are any fare classes ineligible / invalid for SWU upgrades?

Some government and consolidator fares may not be upgraded; Basic Economy flights may not be upgraded. Award flights may not be upgraded with SWU. See post #683 by JonNYC:

Invalid (for SWU upgrade)
  • Basic Economy tickets, regardless of status level
  • Military fares*
  • Government fares*
  • Agency/industry discounts
  • Employee travel booked in E
  • AAdvantage/promotion free or companion tickets
  • Ticket designators that require a certificate (CEN20, etc.) - contact MSD to verify
  • MSD Site products (ticket designator SITE)
  • CAT25/CAT25 Group Fares for MCLA
  • Charter flights
  • Infant tickets
  • Purchased extra seats (one passenger)
  • Opaque fares
  • Award tickets
*The reason for not allowing SWU / eVIP upgrades to be used in conjunction with a military/government fare is not based on the fare level (although they are discounted), but rather it is based on the full flexibility those fares provide. Military/government fares provide a huge benefit to the customer already in that they can be booked at the last minute and canceled or changed with no advance notice and no penalties. As such, they are not allowed to be used in conjunction with a SWU.

Can I still make use if my SWU and credit the flight(s) to another airline?

You are not supposed to. If switching from AAdvantage to another scheme's FFN, please be aware: Benefitting from a privilege granted for your AAdvantage status and changing your FFN to earn on another airline is generally prohibited by AAdvantage Terms and Conditions. Doing so might risk that benefit (e.g. upgrade).

From the AAdvantage Terms and Conditions (link)

Q. Can I see SWU eligible flights on aa.com? If not, where?

aa.com will also reflect if a SWU can be used as you book - not that there is availability. One can see required inventory (A or C) using ExpertFlyer or other tools.

Q. What is the priority order for SWU wait list clearing?

Priority for wait listing is based first on AAdvantage status of requestor, then by rolling EQD earning during las 12 months; within those criteria, full fare (J or Y) trumps discounted fares.

NOTE: once the booking goes to airport control you may have to request your SWU request be reactivated. Those travel companions previously prioritized by the sponsor's status no longer revert to their own status at airport control.

Q. How do I know if my SWU request has been waitlisted?

You can see it online only 2-3 days prior to your depature. It will say "Systemwide Upgrade Requested". Otherwise, there is no way to know unless you call AA again and ask. In AA app you can see upgrade waiting list from 4 hours prior to the departure. Thank you (link) MrJBoy for clarifying).

If my SWU clears on AA but the flights is cancelled or delayed, and I get put on another AA or partner flight, will my Upgrade be preserved / honored?

On AA and Joint Business Venture partners (AY, BA, IB, JL, QF), AA will attempt to honor the upgrade. On other airline partners it is unlikely.

Q. Can I gift SWUs to others, and will my or their status apply?

You may certainly gift SWU to others. They will have to provide you their information, including PNR, and you will have to call it in. Your status can carry over to one treeling companion (on your itinerary) until the SWU passes to airport control; otherwise, SWU priority will depend on the user's AAdvantage status followed by date of upgrade request.

Q. What if I apply a SWU to a traveling companion?

That traveling companion "borrows" your status in terms of priority on the upgrade waitlist until the waitlisted passes to airport control.

Q. Can I sell or purchase SWUs to / from others (e.g. on eBay or CraigsList)?

While SWU may be gifted to others, AAdvantage rules prohibit selling / purchasing, trading or bartering various instruments, including SWU. A sold SWU will, if caught by AA Corporate Security AAdvantage Fraud (and they actively seek these out), cause SWU / upgrade cancellation at minimum and may even include closing the seller's account with forfeiture of miles, upgrade instruments and even elite status.



Further useful details about using SWU

. . . . Four SWUs are earned by Executive Platinum AAdvantage members when they cross the threshold to EXP, and their expiration is essentially the same as the earned status - January 31 of the ensuing status year (e.g. earn May 5 2017, the status and SWUs are good through 31 Jan 2019).

. . . . Two SWUs are earned by Executive Platinum AAdvantage members when they cross the 150,000 and 200,000 EQ EQ Miles; their expiration is essentially the same as the earned status as described above. (Further increments of 50,000 EQM past 200,000 earn no more SWU.)

. . . . Two SWUs (more) are earned by Concierge Key members.

. . . . Four SWUs are earned by those crossing Million Miler thresholds of 2MM and every Million Miles milestone thereafter.

. . . . ● SWUs may be transferred or gifted (not bargained, bartered or sold) to anyone the owner chooses - the owner must authorize the transfer and provide at minimum the designated person's name, frequent flyer #, and PNR. Note fees and taxes may be due, such as APD / Air Passenger Duty due for flights originating in the UK (or with connections exceeding 23:59).

. . . . ● AA tends to protect passengers granted upgrades with SWUs if IROPS move them to other oneworld flights, particularly JBV partners (AA, AY, BA, IB, JL, preserving already granted upgrades (not waitlisted).

. . . . ● N.B. AA will no longer attach expiring (31 Jan 2017 or -18) SWUs to be attached to existing upgrade inventory 1 Feb and after unless one is a very high value customer; AA now has software in place to prevent this, but if you consider yourself a high value customer, you can ask. Speculatively, EXP through 31 Jan 2018 with Concierge Key and / or 4 or 5 Helix / "Eagles" rating and lots of D and above revenue. See FAQ: New changes 90%+ eliminate post-expiration SWU use (Jun 2014)

. . . . ● If you don't want to wait list your SWU so that it automatically encumbered when a domestic segment becomes available for upgrade, but only want the domestic segments to clear if the international segment clears, ask the AA EP agent to waitlist the international portion but "DSR" the domestic segments; that way, the domestic segments will only clear if the international segment clears.

. . . . ● SWU application can include co-terminals: JonNYC, post #601: "This is the current list of MAC airports, and, as far as I understand it, are generally recognized for revenue tickets including SWU application to same:
  • WAS (DCA, IAD)
  • DFW (DFW, DAL)
  • HOU (HOU, IAH)
  • NYC (JFK, LGA) (I think there is a separate rule that says EWR is always part of NYC for this purpose as well)
  • LON (LGW, LHR, STN)
  • SLU (UVF, SLU)
  • TYO (HND, NRT)"
. . . . UK Air Passenger Duty / APD for LHR/UK departures: (Often incorrectly called "Luxury tax"): Departing from the UK (or on a layover of 24:00 or longer via the U.K.), you'll be charged the full APD (the lowest cabin class - usually economy - pays only half APD). This applies for upgrades to business only. Upgrading business to first doesn't incur this, (since your business ticket already included the full APD). This does not apply TO the U.K. or to connecting in under 24:00 in the U.K. Other airports may impose other taxes, e.g. HKG is USD $2.80.

. . . . ● Through (two flights with the same flight number, or through flights with stops) flights pose challenges insofar as upgrade availability must exist on all sectors. You may have to call AA to use a SWU on through flights.


Suggested reading:

aa.com: SYSTEMWIDE UPGRADES AND FAQS

FlyerTalk: Upgrades / SWUs / eVIPs and UK APD / Air Passenger Duty questions

New *internal* changes will 90%+ eliminate post-expiration use of SWUs by JonNYC

This post in the thread entitled "Reversing Use of SWU. Is this possible?" (it is not. AA no longer allows cancelling a SWU and substituting "stickers".)


MODERATOR NOTE

Archived posts from 2017 may be read here.

Posts prior to 2016 may be read here: ARCHIVE: SWU / VIP / eVIP Systemwide Upgrade questions

NOTE: This thread is for the discussion of the mechanics of AA systemwide upgrades. For "chance of upgrade clearing" questions, please use this thread: 2015 Chances of Upgrade Clearing and Upgrade Availability Discussion (consolidated)

Please note there is a separate thread discussing lost / missing/ misappropriated SWUs:

Missing / someone else used / unauthorized use my SWU / VIP / eVIP (merged)

American AAdvantage Forum Moderator Team


FAQ: Internal IT changes eliminate 90+% of post-expiry SWU use 26 Jun 2014
Q. I've been able to encumber expiring SWU past their expiration date if I find the proper upgrade inventory available prior to that date. Is this feature still available to Executive Platinum members?

A. Not for most. The option was possible due to software limitations. New software, AAcoRN, put into place 26 June 2014, will prevent this from occurring for "unqualified" members; only "qualified" members will be allowed to encumber SWU past their expiry date in the future. (See post #1)

Q. How do I know if I am a "qualified" member?

A. You can try to call and encumber expiring SWU past their expiry. If you are not allowed to, you aren't.

Q. So, exactly who does AA consider "qualified"?

A. A very high value AAdvantage member, as measured by the internal "Helix" system, which assigns an "Eagles" ranking from 1 to 5 (the more, the better).

Q. I've never heard of this. When did it start?

A. AA's rating system was originally based on three colors, green, yellow and red, which changed to 1-3 Eagles and was later expanded to 1-5 Eagles.

Q. How are Eagles scores assigned? Are they static, or do they change?

A. It has been said spend and fare classes (think lots of annual travel in fare classes of D and above) may affect your Eagles score, as well as OSO and negative incidents you have experienced that might result in your moving your custom to another airline. It is also said your Helix score is updated periodically, perhaps even nightly.

Q. How can I find out my Helix score / how many Eagles I have?

A. You can't. AA employees are not empowered to discuss the Helix system with customers. If you normally get extra SWU once you've made EP, are allowed to extend SWU use and find EP desk agents are willing to bend rules for you often, speculative, you might have 4-5 Eagles rating.

Q. So, this is a hidden tier higher than Executive Platinum?

A. No, because it doesn't give you privileges beyond EP beyond those mentioned, e.g. courtesy Club membership or additional priority for boarding or upgrades, like Concierge Key may.

Q. Do others than Executive Platinum have Helix / Eagles scores?

A. It can be safely assumed all AAdvantage members have such scores.

For further information, see discussions on:

JonNYC's Traveing Better

The Boarding Area

Thanks to JonNYC for most of the information available to the public on this topic.

Updated 6 Oct 2016 - JDiver
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Old Dec 14, 17, 11:00 am
  #61  
Moderator: American AAdvantage, Travel Safety/Security & Texas
 
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I just made EXP with a flight that posted this morning. When I log into my account, it shows that I have 4 SWU's earned, but 1 used and 3 available. How do I have 1 used when I wasn't EXP before today?

The only thing I can think of is earlier this year a friend gifted me SWU's that I used for DFW-NRT/NRT-DFW.

I did email customer service, but curious if anyone else has seen anything like this.
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Old Dec 14, 17, 11:07 am
  #62  
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Originally Posted by aztimm View Post
I just made EXP with a flight that posted this morning. When I log into my account, it shows that I have 4 SWU's earned, but 1 used and 3 available. How do I have 1 used when I wasn't EXP before today?

The only thing I can think of is earlier this year a friend gifted me SWU's that I used for DFW-NRT/NRT-DFW.

I did email customer service, but curious if anyone else has seen anything like this.
BINGO! I had this happen to me where AA did not process the gift properly and it was several years before I earned EXP so history records were long gone. Fortunately the EXP had notes and the EXP desk was very helpful in restoring my SWU even when the AAAuditor was adamant about taking it away.

Get the EXP to check his/her account to see if it came back when they failed to use it for your flight. If AA would have provided access to SWU balances as a Plat I would have resolved this issue at the time of the flight and everything was fresh.
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Old Dec 14, 17, 11:20 am
  #63  
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Originally Posted by RogerD408 View Post
BINGO! I had this happen to me where AA did not process the gift properly and it was several years before I earned EXP so history records were long gone. Fortunately the EXP had notes and the EXP desk was very helpful in restoring my SWU even when the AAAuditor was adamant about taking it away.

Get the EXP to check his/her account to see if it came back when they failed to use it for your flight. If AA would have provided access to SWU balances as a Plat I would have resolved this issue at the time of the flight and everything was fresh.
I checked with my friend and he thinks that they only took 1 SWU, so that's probably it. I let him know what is going on and that they'll probably take another. Would be nice if there was a way for a non-EXP to see what's going on so we can fix these issues sooner.
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Old Dec 20, 17, 10:16 am
  #64  
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Originally Posted by aztimm View Post
I checked with my friend and he thinks that they only took 1 SWU, so that's probably it. I let him know what is going on and that they'll probably take another. Would be nice if there was a way for a non-EXP to see what's going on so we can fix these issues sooner.
Just an update, I've been logging into my account daily to check on this, and yesterday I noticed that the SWU wasn't used, so I have 4 again.
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Old Dec 21, 17, 9:46 pm
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Wife and I are Waitlisted for a flight next week. My exp number is in the reservation, as is my wife's alaska number. Will having her alaska number in there prevent the swu from clearing? Would it be better to have no frequent flyer number attached? Does she need to put in her AAdvantage number?
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Old Dec 22, 17, 10:06 am
  #66  
 
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Originally Posted by jay_dubya View Post
Wife and I are Waitlisted for a flight next week. My exp number is in the reservation, as is my wife's alaska number. Will having her alaska number in there prevent the swu from clearing? Would it be better to have no frequent flyer number attached? Does she need to put in her AAdvantage number?
Does she have status on AA? Having her Alaska number won't hurt anything, but for SWU upgrades I don't think she inherits your status day-of so if she has her own, it might increase the probability that you'll both get upgraded. If she doesn't have AA status, no reason to change the way things are set up.
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Old Dec 22, 17, 1:01 pm
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Originally Posted by jordyn View Post
Does she have status on AA? Having her Alaska number won't hurt anything, but for SWU upgrades I don't think she inherits your status day-of so if she has her own, it might increase the probability that you'll both get upgraded. If she doesn't have AA status, no reason to change the way things are set up.
No AA status. Thanks!
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Old Dec 22, 17, 2:32 pm
  #68  
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just successfully redeemed two swu's at booking, dfw-lhr and back in May coming back Memorial day. Non stop 77W flights.

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Old Dec 22, 17, 2:34 pm
  #69  
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Originally Posted by enviroian View Post
just successfully redeemed two swu's at booking, dfw-lhr and back in May coming back Memorial day. Non stop 77W flights.
Y to J, or J to F?
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Old Dec 22, 17, 2:56 pm
  #70  
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Originally Posted by SFO777 View Post
Y to J, or J to F?
Y to J. So if you are in that AA lounge in May and start snappin' pics when I'm there I'll be in a better mood
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Old Dec 22, 17, 3:11 pm
  #71  
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Originally Posted by enviroian View Post
Y to J. So if you are in that AA lounge in May and start snappin' pics when I'm there I'll be in a better mood
LOL.
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Old Dec 22, 17, 3:59 pm
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Originally Posted by enviroian View Post
just successfully redeemed two swu's at booking, dfw-lhr and back in May coming back Memorial day. Non stop 77W flights.

See it does happen.

I'm 3/3 so far on 2018 SWUs clearing at booking.
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Old Dec 22, 17, 4:54 pm
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Originally Posted by bse118 View Post
See it does happen.

I'm 3/3 so far on 2018 SWUs clearing at booking.
I booked LAX-HKG-LAX for next fall. SWUs confirmed for both of us each way at booking. They're definitely out there!
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Old Dec 22, 17, 6:43 pm
  #74  
 
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Originally Posted by dciolli View Post
I booked LAX-HKG-LAX for next fall. SWUs confirmed for both of us each way at booking. They're definitely out there!
Agree -- ExpertFlyer is your friend. Some routes have [way] more space than others! Over the past 3 years I've redeemed 16 SWUs, all intercontinental (1 Asia, 1 South America, the rest Europe); 14 cleared at booking, 1 cleared off the waitlist about 30 days before departure (LAX-GRU), and 1 cleared about 30 hours before departure (JFK-LHR). I'm going to miss JFK-ZRH when it goes away, for example -- it was one of the easiest routes to find several upgrade seats on no matter when you looked.
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Old Dec 23, 17, 12:37 am
  #75  
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Originally Posted by taxicabnumber View Post
ExpertFlyer is your friend.
This.

The only way I found those C seats were because of this. Sure I could find them via aa.com but the time it would have taken is crazy.

EF has paid off itself in one swift move.

Originally Posted by bse118 View Post
See it does happen.
You're right it does.

I think AA is releasing more C space. One thing I know from experience though is if it doesn't clear at booking, your arse is 73C.

YMMV.

Last edited by JY1024; Dec 25, 17 at 5:14 pm Reason: Merged consecutive posts
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