American extends travel window for expiring systemwide upgrades

Nov 15, 2019

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Attention American Airlines elites: Are you sitting on a bunch of systemwide upgrades (SWUs) you’ve been wondering how you’ll be able to use before they expire at the end of January? If so, there’s some good news! You’ll get a little more flexibility using them next year if you’re among the carrier’s top-tier elites.

American says its Concierge Key or Executive Platinum AAdvantage elite members will now be able to use their SWUs for travel beyond the Jan. 31 expiration date of their upgrades. Previously, SWUs had to be redeemed and used for travel prior to their expiration. View from The Wing, one of the first to report the change, noted American had previously allowed some elite members to extend their SWUs for about three months.

With the change in rules, which American confirmed to TPG, all of American’s Concierge Key and Executive Platinum members now can travel beyond the Jan. 31 expiration date as long as the SWU is redeemed before it expires.

“We are making this exception for our members this year to improve their experience and give them more opportunities to try to use their systemwide upgrades,” American said in a statement to TPG. “If customers have any issues, they can ask to speak to a supervisor.”

To extend the life of expiring SWUs, however, members must find confirmed space for the SWUs  — which is often easier said than done.

Related: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on American Airlines

SWU’s are one of the most-coveted perks that come along with American’s Executive Platinum and invitation-only Concierge Key status. Advantage members earn four SWUs after qualifying for EP status by racking up 100,000 elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) plus the related $15,000 “elite-qualifying dollar” spending threshold. Additional SWUs can be earned at 150,000, 200,000 and 250,000 EQMs.

As the name suggests, the SWUs can be used anywhere across American’s system — including on American’s high-profile overseas flights from the U.S. The upgrades are good for a one-class upgrade, either from economy to business or from business to first on international flights.

They can also be used on domestic flights to upgrade from economy. But the most-valuable use of SWUs typically comes on long-haul international flights, where SWU-holders can move from a standard economy seat to a lie-flat business-class seat on routes to destinations like London, Tokyo, Sydney and Buenos Aires, among others.

But finding confirmed space to use the SWUs can be difficult, even for the most flexible of travelers. Even when the business-class cabin is relatively empty on a flight, American is known for being stingy in making confirmed upgrade space available for holders of SWUs. If confirmed space is not available, SWU holders have the option of being put on a waiting list to be upgraded when (or if) space opens up. Frequently, SWUs clear at the gate — meaning an elite SWU-holding passenger may not know if she’s been upgraded until her long-haul flight is ready to depart. That can be a stressful situation.

Related: How to use American systemwide upgrades

In part because of the difficulty some flyers have in finding confirmed SWU options, some American elites head into the year’s end with unused SWUs and a shrinking window in which to use them.

American’s change should add a little more flexibility. That is likely to be appreciated by its Executive Platinum and Concierge Key members.

Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.