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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.
Print Wikipost

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

Old Apr 18, 2018, 12:55 pm
  #211  
 
Join Date: Sep 2008
Programs: A3 *G, AA exePlat, AS MVP 75k Gold, JL sapphire, UA silver
Posts: 4,049
Here is my take, in theory the CS is right that exp should be upgrade first in order to preserve the integrity of SWU process.

However, the EXP can remove the swu upgrade request, and the companion can be number 1 on the list (assuming no other exp). and the companion can clear first,
and then exp can now re-request the upgrade.
pbd456 is offline  
Old Apr 18, 2018, 6:41 pm
  #212  
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Posts: 11,329
Originally Posted by PhoenixCMC
The EXP has to be assigned the seat. You can two can switch seats in in practice. I've done this with my wife on multiple occasions, just tell the FAs and most will appreciate what a good guy you are for doing so and maybe give you a free drink or whatever that would not normally go the the non-EXP assigned to that seat.
Not for an SWU. They can be assigned to anyone on the PNR. Now if it was a complementary upgrade, then yes, the EXP should be the one assigned the seat. But as stated before, you can give up that seat to your SO and take their seat (but no switching back and forth during the flight). In fact, you can give up your seat to ANYONE if you choose, just let the FAs know what you are doing. I see/hear of many that will offer up their F seat to military.
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Old Apr 20, 2018, 3:04 pm
  #213  
 
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: SBA
Programs: UA & AA 1 million miler
Posts: 1,140
Originally Posted by MrJBoy
I applied a SWU and was waitlisted for C upgrade (LAX-HKG).
Several days later I noticed that there were two exact same flights in my reservation.
One is my original m/c seat and the other was an upgraded b/c seat saying C business, but I couldn't pick my b/c seat.
All flights in the reservation were greyed out and I couldn't change my seat at all.
Today the original m/c seat is gone and I can pick an upgraded b/c seat.
My ticket hasn't been reissued. Is that new?
In the past when a SWU cleared, I couldn't even see my reservation initially, then later the reservation became online after the ticket was reissued.
So do I need to call AA and ask the agent to reissue the ticket?
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Old Apr 20, 2018, 3:24 pm
  #214  
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Originally Posted by MrJBoy
So do I need to call AA and ask the agent to reissue the ticket?
I would certainly call AA to see if your upgrade has cleared or if something else is up...
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Old Apr 22, 2018, 5:38 am
  #215  
 
Join Date: Jul 2013
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Can I use a SWU on a ticket that includes an infant on lap?
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Old Apr 22, 2018, 7:27 am
  #216  
 
Join Date: May 2011
Location: DFW
Programs: AA EXP, LT Gold
Posts: 3,157
Originally Posted by ckx2
Can I use a SWU on a ticket that includes an infant on lap?
Yes, no prob. But AA will charge you some level of tax for it.
econometrics is offline  
Old Apr 25, 2018, 1:48 pm
  #217  
 
Join Date: Apr 2018
Posts: 1
Timing of Systemwide Upgrades, code "C" (to merge’

Hi all,

I am executive platinum on AA & have 4 systemwide upgrades I am hoping to use on a trip to Italy for my wife's 40th birthday. I thought September would be a good time to book since it is immediately after the summer season, but still good weather. I used ExpertFlyer to search for the code "C" systemwide upgrades and was surprised to find zero matches into Milan, Rome or Venice in September. I went out to November before I saw a matching result.

Out of curiosity, I did a search in August, and there were FAR more code "C" options. It got me wondering -- are all code C's released when the flight is announced, or do they open up more code C's if the demand is not there? I ask because I was certain that dates closer to departure would have less availability, so it got me wondering if AA releases more "C" options over time.

My ultimate question is, should I wait and see if September opens up, or should I go ahead and book the trip within the August availability?

Also, is there a way on ExpertFlyer to get alerts for any "C" availability -- its a pain in the butt to have to get alerts flight by flight.

Thanks!

-Pete
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Old Apr 25, 2018, 1:52 pm
  #218  
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They release C inventory when revenue management doesn't expect to sell them. It has nothing to do with when the flight is announced etc.

If you are willing to take a chance, book September and get on the waitlist.
Antarius is offline  
Old Apr 25, 2018, 1:58 pm
  #219  
nrr
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Originally Posted by pete.g
Hi all,

I am executive platinum on AA & have 4 systemwide upgrades I am hoping to use on a trip to Italy for my wife's 40th birthday. I thought September would be a good time to book since it is immediately after the summer season, but still good weather. I used ExpertFlyer to search for the code "C" systemwide upgrades and was surprised to find zero matches into Milan, Rome or Venice in September. I went out to November before I saw a matching result.

Out of curiosity, I did a search in August, and there were FAR more code "C" options. It got me wondering -- are all code C's released when the flight is announced, or do they open up more code C's if the demand is not there? I ask because I was certain that dates closer to departure would have less availability, so it got me wondering if AA releases more "C" options over time.

My ultimate question is, should I wait and see if September opens up, or should I go ahead and book the trip within the August availability?

Also, is there a way on ExpertFlyer to get alerts for any "C" availability -- its a pain in the butt to have to get alerts flight by flight.

Thanks!

-Pete
If you are a subscriber to EF, you CAN set up "C" class alert. As the date of travel approaches they monitor "C" class more frequently.
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Old Apr 25, 2018, 2:01 pm
  #220  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Programs: UA 1K, Hyatt Globalist
Posts: 6,073
Originally Posted by pete.g
Also, is there a way on ExpertFlyer to get alerts for any "C" availability -- its a pain in the butt to have to get alerts flight by flight.
Unfortunately there is not. The "good" thing here is that EF caps the number of alerts you can set at 30, which shouldn't take more than half an hour to do.
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Old Apr 25, 2018, 2:02 pm
  #221  
Moderator: American AAdvantage
 
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Welcome to FlyerTalk.

Revenue Management issues are dynamic, and to the flying public not very transparent. C inventory is released sporadically, dependent on actual and produced sales.

For more about SWU, see https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/amer...er-thread.html. In particular, read the Wikipost at the top of the page.

We will probably merge this into that existing thread.

Moderator
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Old Apr 25, 2018, 3:29 pm
  #222  
 
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My suggestion is to search for ANY route that has C available for the dates you want, including routing via LAX, DFW, ORD, etc and connecting in LHR or elsewhere. Personally, I do not book long-haul coach and hope C space opens up since it is now prioritized by 12-month rolling EQD instead of time of request.
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Old Apr 25, 2018, 4:41 pm
  #223  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
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Originally Posted by anabolism
My suggestion is to search for ANY route that has C available for the dates you want, including routing via LAX, DFW, ORD, etc and connecting in LHR or elsewhere. Personally, I do not book long-haul coach and hope C space opens up since it is now prioritized by 12-month rolling EQD instead of time of request.
To amplify upon anabolism's sage advice, nowadays the customer has to do the research. If you're looking for, let's say, ORD-FCO, the AAgents are trained to check the one obvoius non-stop flight. If you want the AAgent to check connections, you have to specifically ask: can you please check ORD-MAD? Can you please check DFW-FRA? Can you please check JFK-CDG? Can you please check via HEL on AY? etc. Nowadays it's easier to check these routings yourself with a tool such as expertflyer. Of course there are still a few GREAT AAgents who harken back to the glory times of yesteryear, and who will help a customer find award inventory. These AAgents are rare, and that's a blessing: it makes us appreciate them even more.
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Old Apr 25, 2018, 10:48 pm
  #224  
 
Join Date: Aug 2010
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Originally Posted by pete.g
I thought September would be a good time to book since it is immediately after the summer season, but still good weather. I used ExpertFlyer to search for the code "C" systemwide upgrades and was surprised to find zero matches into Milan, Rome or Venice in September. I went out to November before I saw a matching result.

Out of curiosity, I did a search in August, and there were FAR more code "C" options.
Others may have a more expert opinion than I do, but here's my 2-cents. In much of Europe, August is a "dead" month for business. People shut down their business and go on vacation. I used to have some customers in Rome and they had standing orders to us to NEVER ship anything to them that would arrive in August, as their office was closed down with no one available to receive packages.

Not a lot of business travelers are going to Italy in August, thus more "C" inventory available.

Personally, I do not like going to southern Europe in August. The cities are like deserts with many restaurants and others tourist serving outfits shut down for the month. I've seen restaurants in the middle of Paris with "Closed - August" signs on the door.

Italy has weather similar to that here in Southern California and August here is hot and miserable. When I go to Italy or Spain, I much prefer November when it is cooler, less crowded and pleasant.

Again, I do invite correction or clarification from others who have more experience traveling in Italy.
QueenOfCoach is offline  
Old Apr 30, 2018, 10:32 am
  #225  
 
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Malibu, CA
Programs: AA CK / Marriott Worthless Ambassador
Posts: 1,158
Availability?

Help...is anyone having issues finding the link to SWU availability on AA.com? Ive never had issues before. I'm EXP, have SWU in my account, have tried two separate browsers the last two days and cant get any link to show on the left hand side on any flight for 2019? Probably an IT issue, or something with my network, but makes me concerned a bit...can someone please reassure me this works for 2019, or advise me on what i may be doing wrong? I'm logged into AA as an EXP...thanks
JBauer is offline  

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