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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 Dec 2, 2017, 8:08 am
  #31  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
 
Join Date: Aug 2014
Programs: Top Tier with all 3 alliances
Posts: 11,876
Originally Posted by dkc192
+1. Since you're going to have to call to upgrade anyways, might as well call to have them upgrade and ticket in one fell swoop.
Ok, thanks both, I did.
nk15 is online now  
Old Dec 4, 2017, 6:16 am
  #32  
 
Join Date: Dec 2016
Programs: AA EXP
Posts: 214
Additional SWU

I'm probably going to end this year ~175-185k EQM, I've already been granted an additional 2 SWUs for crossing 150k, but do you think there's any chance that AA would be willing to grant me 1 additional SWU (instead of 2) as I'm halfway from 150k to 200k? I'm not sure if anyone has had any experience with this, but figured it's worth calling AA to see if they can at least grant me an additional 1 of 2 SWUs as I'll pass 175k EQM. I hope they're flexible given I've spent $25k+ this year...
Finsup72 is offline  
Old Dec 4, 2017, 8:55 am
  #33  
 
Join Date: Jul 2001
Programs: AA EP
Posts: 2,203
No. Why should they?
Originally Posted by Finsup72
I'm probably going to end this year ~175-185k EQM, I've already been granted an additional 2 SWUs for crossing 150k, but do you think there's any chance that AA would be willing to grant me 1 additional SWU (instead of 2) as I'm halfway from 150k to 200k? I'm not sure if anyone has had any experience with this, but figured it's worth calling AA to see if they can at least grant me an additional 1 of 2 SWUs as I'll pass 175k EQM. I hope they're flexible given I've spent $25k+ this year...
AAExecPlatFlier is offline  
Old Dec 5, 2017, 1:09 pm
  #34  
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: SFO
Programs: AC SE, AA EXP MM, UA Gold MM, Hyatt Glob, Marriott Titanium, HH Dia, IHG Plat
Posts: 4,798
Single SWU across multiple fares/tickets?

Heres a question for the experts.....can a single SWU be applied to multiple fares/tickets in the same direction assuming the 3-segment limit is observed?
Explore is offline  
Old Dec 5, 2017, 1:38 pm
  #35  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 529
I was told no.
anc305 is offline  
Old Dec 5, 2017, 1:55 pm
  #36  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Programs: AAdvantage, Hilton
Posts: 3,191
Everything needs to be on one ticket number. So under that scenario, stopovers and breaks in fare would be allowed.
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Old Dec 10, 2017, 4:45 am
  #37  
 
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: RDU
Posts: 2,266
Anyone have experience working with AA to open up SWU space on a routing which has SWU space on another flight that same day?

Specific case... flying LHR-ORD. There are 4 flights the day I'm flying: 3 have zero C availability, and 1 flight has 4 C-seats available (but not the flight I'm on).

I'm guessing there's an algorithm as to why that one specific flight has upgrade availability. Is it worth a call to see if there's any hope to open up a couple seats on my flight, essentially 'pulling' the seats from the later flight?
dave_261 is offline  
Old Dec 10, 2017, 5:34 am
  #38  
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
Location: PHL
Programs: AA Executive Platinum; Hilton Diamond
Posts: 2,671
Originally Posted by dave_261
Anyone have experience working with AA to open up SWU space on a routing which has SWU space on another flight that same day?

Specific case... flying LHR-ORD. There are 4 flights the day I'm flying: 3 have zero C availability, and 1 flight has 4 C-seats available (but not the flight I'm on).

I'm guessing there's an algorithm as to why that one specific flight has upgrade availability. Is it worth a call to see if there's any hope to open up a couple seats on my flight, essentially 'pulling' the seats from the later flight?
I seriously doubt they will do this.
apeortdz is offline  
Old Dec 10, 2017, 8:01 am
  #39  
 
Join Date: Mar 2017
Posts: 102
Can SWU be applied to a milesaaver award ticket if you are EXP?
jrb CO is offline  
Old Dec 10, 2017, 8:02 am
  #40  
 
Join Date: Jun 2016
Location: NYC,MIA,XFL
Programs: AA EXP, B6 Mosaic, DL PM
Posts: 863
Originally Posted by jrb CO
Can SWU be applied to a milesaaver award ticket if you are EXP?
No
jay_dubya is offline  
Old Dec 10, 2017, 8:38 am
  #41  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: USA & UK -- AA EXP 3.5MM, Hyatt Diamond, SPG Plat, Avis President's Club
Posts: 6,411
Originally Posted by dave_261
Specific case... flying LHR-ORD. There are 4 flights the day I'm flying: 3 have zero C availability, and 1 flight has 4 C-seats available (but not the flight I'm on).

I'm guessing there's an algorithm as to why that one specific flight has upgrade availability.
Secret algorithm: the empty flight has availability.

Typically the daytime flight (leaves ORD in the morning, gets to LHR late at night) is less popular than the other (depart afternoon / arrive morning) flights.
CloudCoder is offline  
Old Dec 11, 2017, 9:10 am
  #42  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Manhattan Beach, California
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Posts: 6,367
I thought would end with around 120k eqms but due to the heathrow ice storm yesterday all of my booking is being rebooked into J bucket. It looks like BA zerod out all the other fare buckets and has AA just moving people into J even if originally booked in I. Outbound already posted w 3x multiple. As a result i will land tomorrow w 145k eqm, but not sure i have any gumption to fly 5k more after this disaster of a weekend! Bummer, more SWUs would be nice.
stephem is offline  
Old Dec 11, 2017, 9:13 am
  #43  
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: Aspen, CO
Posts: 792
Originally Posted by stephem
I thought would end with around 120k eqms but due to the heathrow ice storm yesterday all of my booking is being rebooked into J bucket. It looks like BA zerod out all the other fare buckets and has AA just moving people into J even if originally booked in I. Outbound already posted w 3x multiple. As a result i will land tomorrow w 145k eqm, but not sure i have any gumption to fly 5k more after this disaster of a weekend! Bummer, more SWUs would be nice.
Fly to the opposite coast for lunch/dinner
Gino Troian is offline  
Old Dec 13, 2017, 11:51 am
  #44  
 
Join Date: Jan 2011
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Posts: 1,990
Originally Posted by Gino Troian
Fly to the opposite coast for lunch/dinner
OT, but not everyone lives on a coast... when I'm in San Diego, I find that many people forget this. Sometimes I wonder whether they could even pinpoint a city like St. Louis on a map. All that stuff in between is just flyover country, I guess. But it's a good point nonetheless -- for people doing end-of-year MRs, being on a coast certainly helps for accumulating needed miles on domestic transcons, and it's amazing how cheap advance fares can be these days.
metallo is online now  
Old Dec 13, 2017, 1:47 pm
  #45  
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Manhattan Beach, California
Programs: BMI Diamond Club Gold forever
Posts: 6,367
Originally Posted by Gino Troian
Fly to the opposite coast for lunch/dinner
I gave it brief thought. Unfortunately I am in SoCal for a few days with my family (award tix on AS), then from there go straight to Montana (also AS award tix) for Christmas. There are a couple of days where I will be back in SEA before the New Year, but those are unlikely to be cheap transcons and after sitting in Heathrow for 2 days I am not sure I want to tempt fate on a winter flight to/thru ORD/NYC/WAS/BOS during the holiday period. Probably too much ca$h to justify two more SWUs and logistically more than I want to get myself into.
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