One of the best benefits of American Executive Platinum status are the four Systemwide Upgrades (SWUs) you receive each time you qualify. SWUs are redeemable one-class upgrades on any American Airlines operated flight. The only issue is that the airline has to make SWU-eligible seats available for you to book them. If you want to upgrade from Economy to Business on a New York — London flight, the eligible seat may not be available. It’s important to have an idea whether or not your flight is upgradeable before you book, as this will undoubtedly save you headache and possibly miles later on down the line.
If you’re not able to call American’s Executive Platinum desk (1-800-843-6200) don’t worry, you can use one of my favorite tools to check SWU availability — ExpertFlyer.
1. Inputting flight information
The first thing you should do when you get to ExpertFlyer’s home page is sign in and select the ‘Awards & Upgrades‘ link. This will take you to the page where you can search specifically for award inventory.
Next, input your flight and dates. ExpertFlyer allows you to search by round-trip, but I find that I feel more comfortable searching by segment. After you input your origin/destination, make sure you select American Airlines and check the box for First – Upgrade and Business – Upgrade which are the ‘A’ and ‘C’ booking classes, respectively. This is the class that SWUs are assigned to.
2. Check availability
Once you fill out the search form, click submit and wait for the results. As you can see with this example, there are 4 eligible seats on the New York to London flight #100. The key thing you should remember is that SWUs only allow you to go up one class meaning you can’t go from Economy to First on a three-cabin airplane. You can go from Economy to First on a two-cabin airplane like the A319/A320/A321 legacy US Airways aircraft.
Finally, to book your SWU, call the American Executive Platinum desk to make the request.
Can you earn more than 4 SWUs?
While Executive Platinums get 4 SWUs at qualification, you are able to earn up to 4 more (if you fly a ton): 2 at 150,000 EQMs and 2 at 200,000 EQMs. Additionally, Million Miler members get 4 systemwide upgrades when reaching 2 Million Miles and for every Million Mile level after.
Do my SWUs expire?
Yes. SWUs are usually valid for one year. For example, upgrades earned based on your 2016 flight activity are valid through January 31, 2018; upgrades earned based on your 2017 flight activity are valid through January 31, 2019.
Can I share my SWUs with a loved one?
Yes. You can share your upgrades with anyone you choose, whether you are traveling with them or not. Call American to apply the upgrade.
Can I use SWUs on an award ticket or basic economy fare?
No and no. Though you can’t use SWUs on award tickets, American’s new policy now allows for award ticket passengers to be included on the upgrade list. For example, I was flying from San Juan to Philadelphia in May on an Economy award ticket. I was upgraded to Business as I was number one on the upgrade list. My girlfriend was also upgraded because she and I were traveling on the same ticket.