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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 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 -- 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 doesn’t 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 Feb 25, 2018, 4:41 pm
  #151  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: PHL
Programs: HH Lifetime Diamond, AA EXP, Marriott Titanium
Posts: 619
Might be a silly question, but i can't easily find the answer: I have booked PHL --> HKG return in a couple months, with confirmed at booking SWU.

They now show as 'Used' in my account (even though not yet flown). Is that the way it should show?

TYIA
Dad to Rei is offline  
Old Feb 25, 2018, 4:54 pm
  #152  
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Originally Posted by Dad to Rei
Might be a silly question, but i can't easily find the answer: I have booked PHL --> HKG return in a couple months, with confirmed at booking SWU.

They now show as 'Used' in my account (even though not yet flown). Is that the way it should show?

TYIA
Yep, the SWUs are pulled at the time the upgrade clears. This is different from 500-mi. sticker upgrades, which are pulled when you actually take the flight.
JJeffrey is offline  
Old Feb 25, 2018, 4:59 pm
  #153  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: PHL
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Posts: 619
Originally Posted by JJeffrey
Yep, the SWUs are pulled at the time the upgrade clears. This is different from 500-mi. sticker upgrades, which are pulled when you actually take the flight.
Awesome, thanks for the info. This is my first year as EXP, and on that long a flight i dont want anything to go wrong that can be prevented ahead of time.
Dad to Rei is offline  
Old Feb 25, 2018, 5:36 pm
  #154  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Programs: UA 1K, Hyatt Globalist
Posts: 6,093
Originally Posted by Dad to Rei
Awesome, thanks for the info. This is my first year as EXP, and on that long a flight i dont want anything to go wrong that can be prevented ahead of time.
Congrats on clearing what I assume to be both ways to/from HKG! Are you routing through DFW or LAX? And did your domestic legs clear as well? DFW-HKG is probably the toughest SWU in the entire network (maybe on par with LAX-SYD), but from what I hear LAX-HKG is considerably easier (I just confirmed HKG-LAX next January at booking myself).
dkc192 is offline  
Old Feb 25, 2018, 5:52 pm
  #155  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: PHL
Programs: HH Lifetime Diamond, AA EXP, Marriott Titanium
Posts: 619
Originally Posted by dkc192
Congrats on clearing what I assume to be both ways to/from HKG! Are you routing through DFW or LAX? And did your domestic legs clear as well? DFW-HKG is probably the toughest SWU in the entire network (maybe on par with LAX-SYD), but from what I hear LAX-HKG is considerably easier (I just confirmed HKG-LAX next January at booking myself).
Thanks, yes RT, and yes 1/2 of domestics cleared. Both me & my kid, so using all 4 SWU's in one shot.
PHL - LAX (on the 332) not yet cleared, but in the Y+ section or whatever we are calling it these days - though as an EP with highish EQD, i still like my chances on that.
LAX - HKG - cleared and in the mini-cabin
HKG - DFW - Cleared not in mini-cabin though - it's full
DFW - PHL - cleared on the 321 (meh)

That DFW was much harder to find, the LAX was a piece of cake.
Dad to Rei is offline  
Old Feb 25, 2018, 9:16 pm
  #156  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
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Posts: 455
Originally Posted by Dad to Rei
Might be a silly question, but i can't easily find the answer: I have booked PHL --> HKG return in a couple months, with confirmed at booking SWU.

They now show as 'Used' in my account (even though not yet flown). Is that the way it should show?

TYIA
Another note ... if you cancel (or change*) the booking, you will get your SWUs back. I often use expertflyer.com to determine what flights/dates will clear before I make my booking, lock the flight in and then plan my trip around the dates when the SWU upgrades are available.

* assuming you can't upgrade the change.
PhoenixCMC is offline  
Old Feb 25, 2018, 9:39 pm
  #157  
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
Location: ORD
Programs: AA EXP >3 Million miles,HH Lifetime Diamond
Posts: 2,939
Originally Posted by Dad to Rei
Might be a silly question, but i can't easily find the answer: I have booked PHL --> HKG return in a couple months, with confirmed at booking SWU.

They now show as 'Used' in my account (even though not yet flown). Is that the way it should show?

TYIA
What's your full itinerary... hard to get confirmable at booking SWU do love to know what your flights and timing are.
worldiswide is offline  
Old Feb 26, 2018, 3:25 am
  #158  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: PHL
Programs: HH Lifetime Diamond, AA EXP, Marriott Titanium
Posts: 619
Originally Posted by worldiswide
What's your full itinerary... hard to get confirmable at booking SWU do love to know what your flights and timing are.
Honestly, it was kinda easy with ExpertFlyer, well worth the $100. I had some flexibility around dates / times, so used the +-3 Day's feature.

Outbound on a Wednesday flight 700 connecting to 193 (yes, allowed for plenty of time in the lounge at LAX) Landing HKG Friday AM.
And i hear First Wing is worth a visit, not sure if i can go in upon arrival or if i have to wait for departure day
Return on following Tuesday flight 126 connecting to flight 1691

Saw there was 2 (actually the LA flight showed C7 for a while) C bucket so put the reservation on hold, called AA and booked, clearing immediately for all but flight 700.
Dad to Rei is offline  
Old Feb 26, 2018, 6:44 am
  #159  
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Originally Posted by Dad to Rei
Honestly, it was kinda easy with ExpertFlyer, well worth the $100. I had some flexibility around dates / times, so used the +-3 Day's feature.

Outbound on a Wednesday flight 700 connecting to 193 (yes, allowed for plenty of time in the lounge at LAX) Landing HKG Friday AM.
And i hear First Wing is worth a visit, not sure if i can go in upon arrival or if i have to wait for departure day
Return on following Tuesday flight 126 connecting to flight 1691

Saw there was 2 (actually the LA flight showed C7 for a while) C bucket so put the reservation on hold, called AA and booked, clearing immediately for all but flight 700.
Yep, definitely a case where EF paid off. You won't have any access to the departure lounges like the Wing or Pier upon arriving in HKG. But absolutely when you depart HKG, though it's the Pier First Class lounge you'll want to visit, not the Wing (although the Wing is certainly nice, the Pier is the best).
JJeffrey is offline  
Old Feb 26, 2018, 7:08 am
  #160  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Programs: UA 1K, Hyatt Globalist
Posts: 6,093
Originally Posted by JJeffrey
Yep, definitely a case where EF paid off. You won't have any access to the departure lounges like the Wing or Pier upon arriving in HKG. But absolutely when you depart HKG, though it's the Pier First Class lounge you'll want to visit, not the Wing (although the Wing is certainly nice, the Pier is the best).
If OP hasn't been to the Wing F before, that is well worth a visit too for the novelty of the Cabanas, IMHO. The lounge is relatively uncrowded in the early afternoon, prior to AA126's departure time, which hopefully translates a short or nonexistent wait time for one.
dkc192 is offline  
Old Feb 26, 2018, 12:36 pm
  #161  
 
Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 58
I am flying somewhere with a companion leaving on the same date, but returning separately on different dates. For the flight out where we are together, how can I use the SWU so that the companion is tied to me on the waitlist with my status? Is this at all possible? Booking one-ways is not an option.
masamune is offline  
Old Feb 27, 2018, 9:43 am
  #162  
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Originally Posted by masamune
I am flying somewhere with a companion leaving on the same date, but returning separately on different dates. For the flight out where we are together, how can I use the SWU so that the companion is tied to me on the waitlist with my status? Is this at all possible? Booking one-ways is not an option.
Call AA and have them listed as your companion on the outbound and whether you are willing to split if only one seat opens up (getting two at the same time is tough, but doable). You can also gift a SWU for their return, but their status would factor in.
RogerD408 is offline  
Old Mar 1, 2018, 9:32 am
  #163  
 
Join Date: Mar 2018
Posts: 1
Given that: "SWU and EXP UDU have the same priority once the flight and associated upgrade / PALL list has passed to airport control," would an EP traveling alone ever want to keep a SWU once the upgrades have passed to airport control? Its seems like a complete waste of the SWU. Can you cancel the SWU request right before upgrades are passed to airport control?

Also, does a similar thing apply to mileage upgrades?
rob07 is offline  
Old Mar 1, 2018, 10:07 am
  #164  
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
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Posts: 2,142
Originally Posted by rob07
Given that: "SWU and EXP UDU have the same priority once the flight and associated upgrade / PALL list has passed to airport control," would an EP traveling alone ever want to keep a SWU once the upgrades have passed to airport control? Its seems like a complete waste of the SWU. Can you cancel the SWU request right before upgrades are passed to airport control?

Also, does a similar thing apply to mileage upgrades?
This isn't true anymore, at the airport SWUs/Miles+co-pay have higher priority within status levels - so, an EXP requesting a SWU upgrade will be listed higher than an EXP requesting a comp upgrade.
iadisgreat is offline  
Old Mar 1, 2018, 10:16 am
  #165  
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Originally Posted by rob07
Given that: "SWU and EXP UDU have the same priority once the flight and associated upgrade / PALL list has passed to airport control," would an EP traveling alone ever want to keep a SWU once the upgrades have passed to airport control? Its seems like a complete waste of the SWU. Can you cancel the SWU request right before upgrades are passed to airport control?

Also, does a similar thing apply to mileage upgrades?
Originally Posted by iadisgreat
This isn't true anymore, at the airport SWUs/Miles+co-pay have higher priority within status levels - so, an EXP requesting a SWU upgrade will be listed higher than an EXP requesting a comp upgrade.
And even at the airport, SWUs and miles/copay still come from different inventory than complimentary/500-mi. upgrades. All things being equal, AA will still generally release C space before it releases R space.
JJeffrey is offline  

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