American Airlines Surveying Whether To Replace Some Systemwide Upgrades With Other Benefits

American Airlines is surveying some top elites on how they might reorganize systemwide upgrades, the upgrades American’s top elites and million milers receive that can be used to secure a seat in a higher cabin than what you purchase any time after booking. They’re looking at how they might replace at least one of these upgrades with other rewards. Here’s what they seem to be testing, according to reports I’ve seen:

  • Whether to take away a sytemwide upgrade from Executive Platinum members and replace it with something else

  • In this world, one systemwide would be earned at the Platinum Pro (75,000 mile) elite tier and two earned at Executive Platinum – instead of 4 being earned by Executive Platinums today

  • Alternatives to a systemwide upgrade include 10,000 elite qualifying miles; a pair of headphones, giving Gold elite status to a friend; carbon offsets; a discount on mileage redemption (such as a percentage of redeemed miles rebated); travel voucher; Admirals Club membership.

  • It could be done entirely as ‘choice benefits’ with 1 taken at the Platinum Pro level and 2 or 3 at Executive Platinum.

This suggests they know that Platinum Pro isn’t a very well-differentiated elite tier and needs to be better.

It also underscores that Executive Platinums often don’t get much value out of their systemwide upgrades – a problem that manifested itself once US Airways managemnet took over and really cut back on the inventory allocated to advance confirmable upgrades.

Of course much of what gets surveyed never happens, and some of the choices are downright silly. It’s one thing to throw in a pair of headphones as an option when considering some sort of ‘choice’ award (where the member selects from a menu of options (something American did back in 2013). But gifting Gold status (which is itself more or less a giveaway level) instead of a confirmed international upgrade is just sad.

One Mile at a Time has his own take on this, that it’s definitely positive, but that depends on whether systemwide upgrades with the same any fare rules remain options and the same number of choices are presented as Executive Platinums receive systemwide upgrades today.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. How about replacing SWUs with SWUs that can actually be used? Shouldn’t have to spend your life on Flyertalk in order to figure out how to actually utilize the things.

  2. LOLs at the options. I’ve had systemwides expire, so I can understand the reason to evaluate their usefulness, but tbh they just really need to make sure there is upgrade space. The revenue management and marketing departments just need to sit down and decide whether they want to spend money on a loyalty program or not.

  3. I have been thinking of switching to AA because ExP qualification is much easier for me than requalifying for 1K with UA as most of my travel is ultra long haul in coach or premium economy. Elite qualification earnings with partners are also better with AA.

    On the flip side, the system wide upgrade certificates are not very useful. PlusPoints have been fantastic for confirmed Premium Plus (or even coach) to Polaris. And they are easy to search for online. So, I have a decision to make for 2021 – easier qualification vs. better benefits as an elite. 🙂

  4. In 5 years of being EXP I’ve missed I think a total of 2 Y-J SWUs on international longhauls. I have no problem getting a ton of value out of SWUs

    Any further cuts to SWU numbers are a huge devaluation – no “Choices” will offset.

    I’ve not been asked to take this survey.

    Of course I have absolutely no idea if when I’ll be back to EXP level flying, unlikely that I will fly enough in 2021 to requalify.

  5. I took the survey and some of the options included 1 SWU after achieving PlatPro and 2×2=4 additional SWUs after EXP. I thought an interesting option was to swap some SWUs for annual AA Club membership. Other options were downward silly.

  6. I like these potential changes. We made similar update to the SPG program back in the day and they were well received. Like the new thinking at AA these days.

  7. I took the survey yesterday. The only options I find useful as current EP are SWUs (the more the merrier) and 1 year onboard WIFI, but only if it includes all platforms (Gogo, AA Inflight and Panasonic). They snuck the WIFI in only 1 of about 7-8 different scenarios. I wish AA would go back to 8 SWUs for EPs.

  8. Looked at the survey… Just confirmed that there is no “loyalty” from AA to its best customers, only dollars matter… The proposed changes to an already devalued “loyalty program” is tantamount to to the exchange of beads and trinkets for the FF “gold” (our loyalty)

  9. Trying to use an AA SWU for an int’l flight and holy crap are they stingy…empty 777s and no upgrade space.

    Will give UA credit with a lot more upgrade space currently available.

  10. Never ever allow any empty Tier 2 Bus/first or empty 3 Tier Bus and First Seats and have 20% open to SWU from published until 6 month before flight then 50% open until 1 month and then assign all ; only way for them to ensure revenue on long haul flights especially econ to bus – but i think Bob usaes the 3rd pary inventory list and tries several different SWU intl or transcon flights

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