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FAQ: What's a Systemwide Upgrade / SWU / VIP and how to use? (Master thread)

Old Dec 12, 2015, 8:55 pm
FlyerTalk Forums Expert How-Tos and Guides
Last edit by: Prospero
FAQ: What's a Systemwide Upgrade SWU (ex-VIP / VIPOW / "eVIP") 2017 on
Please read this wiki for important information not documented elsewhere.
NOTE: CHANGES

NOTE: SWUs are no longer automatically awarded upon achieving Platinum Pro (PP) or Executive Platinum (EXP) status. Starting in the 2021 calendar year, AA switched to Elite Choice Awards. When a member achieves PP status, the member earns one Elite Choice Award. If the member goes on to achieve EXP status, the member earns two additional elite choice awards. Each elite choice award can be redeemed until 12/31 of the following year (example: a member who reaches PP in July 2021 has until December 31, 2022 to redeem the elite choice award). A PP elite choice award can be redeemed for one SWU or other choices; each EXP elite choice award can be redeemed for two SWUs or other choices. Therefore, a member who reaches EXP can choose from one to five SWUs. When an elite choice award is redeemed for one or two SWUs, the SWU(s) are immediately deposited, and expire one year from the day they are deposited.

NOTE: SWUs awarded in 2019 expiring 31 Jan 2021 have been extended through 31 July 2021; this is now reflected in online accounts.

NOTE: Upgrade waitlist priority is 1) Status, followed by 2) type of upgrade, 3)Rolling EQD earning for last 365 days as of 20 May 2017. Link to FT thread.
  • Executive Platinum members receive an additional two SWUs (or may choose bonus miles or to gift status) when they reach 120,000, 160,000 and 200,000 EQMs in 2021 (which includes January and February 2022).
(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.

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 theres 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 -- flights 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. Award flights may not be upgraded with SWU. See post #683 by JonNYC:

Invalid (for SWU upgrade)
  • 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 of 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 show if a flight has SWU availability, provided the member is logged in and has sufficient SWUs in their account. One can see required inventory (A or C) using ExpertFlyer Upgrade and Award query (not Flight Availability query) 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?
The app as well as the web page shows requested and confirmed upgrades.

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 traveling 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?
They will borrow your status if they are flying as your single traveling companion on the same flights. Otherwise, their status will determine their position on the upgrade wait list. This "borrowed" status was previously lost once the flight has gone to airport control; it doesnt now, but it pays to check and see if it has been mismanaged by software - it can be restored when it has passed 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

● Members who achieve Platinum Pro (PP) status receive one Elite Choice Award, which may be redeemed for one SWU (among other choices). Members who achieve PP between 1/1/2021 and 2/28/2022 have until 12/31/2022 to redeem the Elite Choice Award. If an SWU is chosen, the SWU is immediately deposited and expires one year from the date deposited.

● Members who achieve Executive Platinum (EXP) status receive two Elite Choice Awards, each of which may be redeemed for two SWUs (among other choices). Members who achieve EXP between 1/1/2021 and 2/28/2022 have until 12/31/2022 to redeem their Elite Choice Awards. If two SWUs are chosen for an award, the SWUs are immediately deposited and expire one year from the date deposited.

● Members who reach 120,000, 160,000 or 200,000 EQMs between 1/1/2021 and 2/28/2022 may choose two SWUs (or additional redeemable miles or a gift of status) upon reaching 120,000, 160,000 and 200,000 EQMs.

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. A customer may use an SWU to upgrade a flight that departs after the SWU's expiration date, provided the SWU clears (the upgrade is confirmed) and the ticket is (re)issued before the SWU expires. (Previously this had been allowed only for 'high value' customers). See for example:

https://thepointsguy.com/news/americ...wide-upgrades/

● N.B. In the good old days, if there were not sufficient C space (e.g., a party of three but only two upgrades available), agents could ask Revenue Management to release an additional seat, which revenue management sometimes would. This is no longer done, even for CK.

● 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. Note: it's possible that the domestic segment has SWU upgrade inventory initially, but by the time the international flight becomes available to upgrade, availability is gone on the domestic flight.

● 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.
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FAQ: What's a Systemwide Upgrade / SWU / VIP and how to use? (Master thread)

Old Jun 5, 2022, 6:11 am
  #1501  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: NCL
Programs: UA 1MM/*G. DL Gold for one more year.
Posts: 5,305
Thank you very much indeed — this is extremely helpful.
Passmethesickbag is offline  
Old Jun 5, 2022, 5:20 pm
  #1502  
 
Join Date: Apr 2011
Programs: AA PLT Pro (2MM), HH DIA, IHG PLT
Posts: 496
SWU's to Amsterdam

I will be flying in September to Amsterdam and want to use my systemwide upgrades. I can leave out of virtually any US based city to get there. I have looked endlessly for flights operated by AA but can find nothing where the SWU's can be used (except for a minor upgrade to FC on my last leg home). Most everything is codeshare with British Airways and cannot use them on the codeshare. Any advice on a more efficient way to look for what flights might have that availability?
Maui Time is offline  
Old Jun 6, 2022, 7:59 am
  #1503  
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: DFW
Programs: AA EXP, LT Gold
Posts: 3,156
Originally Posted by Maui Time
I will be flying in September to Amsterdam and want to use my systemwide upgrades. I can leave out of virtually any US based city to get there. I have looked endlessly for flights operated by AA but can find nothing where the SWU's can be used (except for a minor upgrade to FC on my last leg home). Most everything is codeshare with British Airways and cannot use them on the codeshare. Any advice on a more efficient way to look for what flights might have that availability?
ExpertFlyer.com. Run a search for "Awards & Upgrades". Put in the different NONSTOP flight routes you're looking for (e.g. PHL-AMS, DFW-AMS) and search for "Business - Upgrade (Including 2-Cabin Domestic First) (C)"

You're looking for C(>0) in the results.

If you see C(>0), there's space to upgrade immediately.
econometrics is offline  
Old Jun 6, 2022, 10:31 am
  #1504  
 
Join Date: Feb 2021
Location: San Francisco
Programs: Alaska MVP Gold 100K, Hyatt Globalist, and Marriott Titanium Member
Posts: 268
SWUs Availability on Married Segments

Hello, Im hoping to use 2 SWUs on my Itinerary. My itinerary consists of 2 flights, 1 is an International long haul route, and the next is a connecting domestic flight. I believe the name of this type of Itinerary is a married segment.

When I use Expertflyer, I found 0 C class fares on the long haul international route. However, when I search with the connecting flight I found 7 C class fare types.

Do these married segmentitineraries yield more C class availability? It would make sense in a way, since connecting flights via a Hub are typically cheaper overall.
sfflyer415 is offline  
Old Jun 6, 2022, 10:49 am
  #1505  
PHL
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Join Date: Dec 2000
Location: PHL, NYC
Programs: AA PLT, DL SLV, UA SLV, MR LTT, HH DIA
Posts: 10,130
When using the "awards & Upgrades" search on EF, you *HAVE* to search segment by segment. It will almost always show C7 when you search a routing with 2+ segments, which is obviously not accurate. I recommend you set up alerts for C space on the long haul leg. If/when it opens up, grab it and then check to see if the domestic leg has C availability. You can also wait list, but be sure to let them know to only waitlist you for the long haul leg. Otherwise you may never get it, even if it opens up only on that segment.
PHL is online now  
Old Jun 6, 2022, 12:37 pm
  #1506  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 10,904
Originally Posted by PHL
You can also wait list, but be sure to let them know to only waitlist you for the long haul leg. Otherwise you may never get it, even if it opens up only on that segment.
That's not quite right. Segments are waiisted individually. If you apply the SWU to all segments and just one segment opens up, your SWU will be pulled and you will be upgraded on that one segment, and you will remain waitlisted on the other segments.

The reason people like to apply the SWU only to the long haul segment when they waitlist is that they don't want their SWU being pulled to only upgrade the short segment. But there is no risk of missing the upgrade on the long haul if it opens up.
VegasGambler is offline  
Old Jun 6, 2022, 2:17 pm
  #1507  
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Zurich / Europe / New York
Programs: LH, BA, AA
Posts: 1,326
Is AA restricting business to first upgrade for their JFK-LHR route, I saw plenty of A class but they are not available for SWU?
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Old Jun 6, 2022, 5:51 pm
  #1508  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 10,904
Originally Posted by LHSEN
Is AA restricting business to first upgrade for their JFK-LHR route, I saw plenty of A class but they are not available for SWU?
Revenue A or upgrade A?
VegasGambler is offline  
Old Jun 7, 2022, 11:07 am
  #1509  
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Zurich / Europe / New York
Programs: LH, BA, AA
Posts: 1,326
Upgrade from revenue I/D/R to A … In the past, if I remember all instances I used SWU from revenue C to A, for as long as there is A, upgrade is available. It isn‘t like LX (Swiss) A availability does not mean upgrade is available.
LHSEN is offline  
Old Jun 7, 2022, 12:41 pm
  #1510  
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Join Date: Feb 2001
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Posts: 12,738
Originally Posted by LHSEN
It isnt like LX (Swiss) A availability does not mean upgrade is available.
It is now exactly like that with AA. Revenue A space available does not mean that upgrade A space is available.

ExpertFlyer can tell the difference though as long as you're using the Awards & Upgrades search function for AA.
JJeffrey is offline  
Old Jun 7, 2022, 12:47 pm
  #1511  
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Zurich / Europe / New York
Programs: LH, BA, AA
Posts: 1,326
Thanks since when they‘ve changed - just recently?
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Old Jun 7, 2022, 12:50 pm
  #1512  
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Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: RDU <|> MMX
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Posts: 12,738
Originally Posted by LHSEN
Thanks since when theyve changed - just recently?
Looks like October 2020...

AA changes the confirmed upgrade (C and A ) process [EF now updated]
JJeffrey is offline  
Old Jun 7, 2022, 2:16 pm
  #1513  
 
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Charlotte
Programs: AA EX PLAT
Posts: 89
SWU / Premium Economy process?

Hi all,
Planning to book a flight to Israel in mid July, either MIA-TLV or JFK-TLV (whichever route that has a better chance of an SWU clearing into Business). If the SWU does not clear at the gate, do they offer you Premium Economy automatically if there is a seat available, or is that even an option at that time? (I am EXP)

Thanks in advance for any info.
airmarc is offline  
Old Jun 9, 2022, 12:23 am
  #1514  
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Programs: Alaska Gold 75K, AA EXP, United 1K
Posts: 473
Sharing in case others are noticing this too. In years past I would say I pretty reliably got EF notifications of C for SWUs that were waitlisted and upon calling my SWU hadnt cleared and calling in helped ensure upgrade (and potentially jumping the line although also likely at the top of the line anyway).

In the last month Ive had 4 SWUs waitlisted and in each instance upon getting EF alert for C availability my SWU had been cleared already and in one instance never got EF alert and SWU had already cleared. Wonder if they are doing a better job running the SWU upgrade sweep either more frequently or having it coincide with when they know RM is opening up availability or simultaneous to when other triggers that create C class availability happen (eg seat cancellation). I had been checking pretty regularly so I dont think this was an instance of EF C notification itself came late because EF doesnt check on a continuous basis. It actually feels like they improved the processing of the waitlist or that it is better coordinated with RM than it used to be. Anyone else experience this?
lightbulbs is offline  
Old Jun 9, 2022, 10:01 am
  #1515  
 
Join Date: Oct 2013
Location: SFO
Programs: UA 1K, AA EXP, Hyatt Glob, Hilton Diamond, Marriott Plat, Total Wine & More Reserve
Posts: 4,670
Originally Posted by lightbulbs
Anyone else experience this?
Yes, I've had several waitlisted SWUs clear this year without ever receiving a EF alert for those flights.

A few years ago, it seemed more common that I would receive an EF alert without clearing, and then have to call in.
econ is offline  

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