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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 Jan 18, 2018, 12:33 pm
  #121  
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
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Programs: AA EXP, HH Diamond, Marriott Platinium
Posts: 1,340
You are Exc PLT, you should know by now that AA will open C (or upgrade before opening C) at T96~24 on many international routes, keep in mind LHR-JFK upgrades need to pay an extra fee out of LHR (premium cabin only).
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Old Jan 18, 2018, 12:43 pm
  #122  
 
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Limited advance c space isn't really a new thing and has been going on for some time depending on the route and time of year. While unlikely as a factor, it may also be a defensive strategy from an operational playbook to hold onto more seats until close into the date in the winter months when flights can be subject to widespread irregular operations at major airports and the logistics of getting pax home when an airport or airports are closed for a day or so.

Quite a bit of weather-related themes lately around the North American market so a 20 minute EP hold isn't unheard of either; just again a bit later or when not using Skype, try the call back feature. If you're really in a rush, try a Twitter DM although those responses have been reportedly less thorough and less helpful as of late.
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Old Jan 18, 2018, 12:52 pm
  #123  
nrr
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Originally Posted by fedechat
You are Exc PLT, you should know by now that AA will open C (or upgrade before opening C) at T96~24 on many international routes, keep in mind LHR-JFK upgrades need to pay an extra fee out of LHR (premium cabin only).
I flew AA 64: jfk-zrh (NS) on 1/17/18. I'm CONNECTING ZRH-LHR-JFK on 1/22/18, as a connecting pax, NO "luxury tax"^
My outbound SWU cleared in early Dec. 2017 (at the time of booking). I still haven't sorted out AAs upg algorithm--there have been flts (domestic), with few FC seats available, but I cleared at T-100, while flts with LOTS of fc available and I only cleared at the gate.
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Old Jan 18, 2018, 2:09 pm
  #124  
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
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I "had" 2 SWUs that were expiring at the end of January.

I "used" 1 for a domestic flight last Friday, but my balance was not reduced. Upgraded was cleared at the gate right before departure.

I booked a flight yesterday for a friend for a flight in October, and the SWU cleared immediately (my balance went down by 1). The AAgent made sure to tell me that she would could not use one of my SWUs that was expiring for this, so I was surprised my 2019 balance didn't go down.
I booked a flight yesterday for me for a flight in October (same flight as above), but had to waitlist my upgrade. It cleared today. Now my 2018 balance is at 0. My 2019 balance is still at 4.

Do you think my 2019 will be reduced at some point, or have I successfully used all of my 2018 SWUs despite 2 of them clearing for flights in October 2018.
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Old Jan 18, 2018, 2:24 pm
  #125  
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Originally Posted by robinsondg
Question regarding fees surrounding the use of a SWU -

I have an itinerary on hold BNA-JFK-MXP-MIABNA where aa.com shows that both international legs are available to upgrade economy to business. The total fare (S) (2 people) is ~$2,800 - $600 of which is fees/tariffs. If I am to apply 4 SWUs to go from economy to business, will I incur additional fees associated with the new class of service?

Thanks,
robinsondg
Italy doesn't impose a F/J luxury tax like the UK and France do, so there shouldn't be any additional taxes for using SWU's on your itinerary. Since your trip is on hold, you can always call AA to confirm.
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Old Jan 19, 2018, 11:24 pm
  #126  
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
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Originally Posted by chicagoflyer1976
I "had" 2 SWUs that were expiring at the end of January.

I "used" 1 for a domestic flight last Friday, but my balance was not reduced. Upgraded was cleared at the gate right before departure.

I booked a flight yesterday for a friend for a flight in October, and the SWU cleared immediately (my balance went down by 1). The AAgent made sure to tell me that she would could not use one of my SWUs that was expiring for this, so I was surprised my 2019 balance didn't go down.
I booked a flight yesterday for me for a flight in October (same flight as above), but had to waitlist my upgrade. It cleared today. Now my 2018 balance is at 0. My 2019 balance is still at 4.

Do you think my 2019 will be reduced at some point, or have I successfully used all of my 2018 SWUs despite 2 of them clearing for flights in October 2018.
I have had SWUs that cleared at the gate (all for international flights) take a couple of weeks to be deducted from my account. I once, a couple of years ago, had an SWU that cleared at the gate (for a domestic flight) never get deducted from my account as far as I could tell.
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Old Jan 20, 2018, 9:10 am
  #127  
 
Join Date: Mar 2010
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Is there any news on whether AA may extend some SWUs for 2018 like they did for 2017? I have SWUs expiring end of Jan and no flights before then.
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Old Jan 22, 2018, 11:05 am
  #128  
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
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Searched but cannot find a clear answer:
I am on a trip where I used a SWU to go J to F on the return (GRU to DFW, where there was A availability). Recently the departure trip (JFK to GRU, again in J) just released A inventory. Is it possible to change a SWU from one flight to another? I would prefer to try the JFK Flagship Dining given the flights are about the same length.
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Old Jan 22, 2018, 11:12 am
  #129  
 
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Originally Posted by cvgflyer1
Searched but cannot find a clear answer:
I am on a trip where I used a SWU to go J to F on the return (GRU to DFW, where there was A availability). Recently the departure trip (JFK to GRU, again in J) just released A inventory. Is it possible to change a SWU from one flight to another? I would prefer to try the JFK Flagship Dining given the flights are about the same length.
Not codified into rule as far as I can tell, but if your original booking class (I? D?) is available on GRU-DFW an agent might let you.
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Old Jan 22, 2018, 11:26 am
  #130  
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
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Originally Posted by taxicabnumber
Not codified into rule as far as I can tell, but if your original booking class (I? D?) is available on GRU-DFW an agent might let you.
... Or, if out of SWUs, do a miles+copay and enjoy F both ways!
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Old Jan 22, 2018, 11:30 am
  #131  
 
Join Date: Feb 2017
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Originally Posted by Madison Guy
... Or, if out of SWUs, do a miles+copay and enjoy F both ways!
Have 4 new ones based on hitting EXP last year, but was going to hang onto them in case of vacation and/or company tells me I cant fly Business anymore. As far as miles+copay - I am sitting on a whopping 617 miles in my account after my last redemption round trip J to India for 2 people on EY and QR. Will call AA and see...I'll also post if successful.
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Old Jan 23, 2018, 7:25 pm
  #132  
 
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Can I use my AS frequent flyer number on a flight upgraded with a SWU ?

I think this should be allowed but wanted to double check. I want to credit this flight to AS but dont want to mess with the return flight which has already been upgraded to biz class (PEK-LAX-SFO) with a gifted SWU.
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Old Jan 23, 2018, 8:14 pm
  #133  
 
Join Date: Aug 2004
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Originally Posted by flyingeph12
I have had SWUs that cleared at the gate (all for international flights) take a couple of weeks to be deducted from my account. I once, a couple of years ago, had an SWU that cleared at the gate (for a domestic flight) never get deducted from my account as far as I could tell.
Another one came out of my account today. Oh well, at least I was able to use my expiring ones for flights later in the year.
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Old Jan 26, 2018, 12:37 pm
  #134  
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Originally Posted by Phasers
Is there any news on whether AA may extend some SWUs for 2018 like they did for 2017? I have SWUs expiring end of Jan and no flights before then.
The Points Guy is reporting they won't be extending this year, but when I called, agent said that I had to call back after 2/1 and have it extended. She said that she notated my account so that the agent 2/1 will be able to handle it. Not sure who to believe.
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Old Jan 26, 2018, 4:05 pm
  #135  
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Join Date: Sep 2006
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I think I know the answer to this but just want to verify. In the Wikipost at the top I see:
Q. Can I gift SWUs to others, and will my or their status apply?

You may certainly gift SWU to others. They will have to provide you their information, including PNR, and you will have to call it in. Your status can carry over to one treeling companion (on your itinerary) until the SWU passes to airport control; otherwise, SWU priority will depend on the user's AAdvantage status followed by date of upgrade request.
So I'm looking to book AUS-DFW-Europe. A friend of mine lives AZ and would prefer to fly PHX-DFW-Europe, meeting me at DFW. The Europe-->DFW return flight is currently showing 3 seats available for upgrade on Expert Flyer. However, I don't think I can book an itinerary with the same PNR doing separate origins, can I?
She has AA Gold status, so if she had a separate itinerary, it is doubtful that she'd clear. We'll book PE for the outgoing leg, in the unlikely event that we don't clear

Of course she would be willing to fly PHX-AUS on a separate ticket to meet me (she has tons of miles, as do I), then we'd fly together from here. I told her she could get some barbecue from Salt Lick

Thoughts?
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