New Rules for How to Use Expiring American Airlines Systemwide Upgrades

American Airlines systemwide upgrades have new rules for how they can be used prior to expiration, and it’s more generous and flexible for AAdvantage members.

Some Members Could Extend Expiring American Airlines Systemwide Upgrades in the Past

Systemwide upgrades are given to Executive Platinum and ConciergeKey members each year that allow moving from coach to business class, or business to first class, from any fare. Million milers also receive these upon achieving the 2 million mile milestone and at each subsequent million mile level.

In recent years the official rule has been that travel must be complete by the expiration date of a systemwide. In practice, however, there were two exceptions.

  1. If you’d already requalified for elite status and had systemwides that weren’t expiring, when you requested an upgrade in the future it would pull the closest expiring one first. As a result requalified Executive Platinums and ConciergeKey members were able to use expiring systemwides for travel after their expiration date (as long as upgrades could be confirmed prior to a certificate’s expiration).

  2. ConciergeKey members and Executive Platinums who have a customer score of 4 or 5 (out of 5) were allowed to extend their expiring certificates by 3 months.

american airlines business class boeing 787-9
American Airlines Boeing 787-9 Business Class

New More Generous Approach to Expiring Systemwide Upgrades

American has changed things slightly this year. As first reported by JonNYC, American is continuing to allow their top customers (ConciergeKeys and 4- and 5-Eagle Executive Platinums) to extend their systemwide upgrades and is allowing all members to use expiring systemwide upgrades for future travel as long as the upgrade gets confirmed prior to expiration.

In other words it’s possible to book travel now and use a January-expiring upgrade certificate for travel after January, if you can confirm the upgrade now.

An American spokesperson tells me, “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. If customers have any issues, they can ask to speak to a supervisor.”

american airlines flagship lounge new york jfk
American Airlines Flagship Business Class Lounge New York JFK

Last weekend I actually had mixed success with this – I managed it without difficulty the first time, but on the second request an agent told me it wasn’t possible. I will now find a good way to use that last systemwide for sure! This is very helpful of American.

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. Hmm.. hasn’t it always been this way, as long as you can confirm it, it is used up and applied even if you lose status the next year….or has been been only because I qualified for the next year as Exec Plat?
    Sadly after this year I will drop to Plat as I was fedup with AA customer service and the increase in requirements yet peanut benefits.

  2. @ Gary — I wish this had been the policy when I booked and confirmed our last SWUs a couple months ago for travel to Europe early next year. I would have preferred to travel later in 2020 with those SWUs. On a side note, we will be sitting out re-qualification for EXP next year unless some incredibly cheap opportunity (new credit card provision that allows earning more than just $3k EQD, international F error fare on a partner airline or something else) arises.

  3. Agree with @Mike. This has always been the case in my experience. Indeed, my last year as EXP ended this past January. A few days before the end of January 2019, I used my last SWU for a July 2019 trip. And I doubt that I had a high Eagle score.

  4. American Airlines holds their customers hostage to whatever they want and those that remain paying passengers must obey or have their loyalty perks turn into a pumpkin

  5. Just tried this and getting some odd and mixed responses. EXP desk said “yes, this is the new policy, but AAdvantage CS handles it.” She also said that even this new all member rule is only for a 3-month extension, i.e. not for anything booked post-expiration.

    When I got to AAdvantage CS, he had not heard of the rule change, but said that it could be extended for up to 3 months. However, he said that it has to have expired first, i.e. post Jan 2020, before they can apply it. That sounds quite wrong.

    At this point we have a trip in April where we’ve used some SWU from a friend who has already requalified. I want to swap ours in and give his back, but this guys wouldn’t do it.

    Seems that this should be a HUCA case, although both did mention the 3-month thing and I don’t see that in Gary’s or Jon’s comments.


  6. The 3 month thing both gary and I both mention is for 4/5 Eagle members + all CKs.

    And, no, it definitely has not always been official policy to allow all members to use post-expiration.

  7. Jon,
    Thanks. I did see the explicit mention of the 3 months for the high Eagle and CK folks. So, basically, this *should not* apply to the more general “all member” rule as far as you know? So, a reservation booked, say, for August, should be able to use an expiring SWU if it can be confirmed prior to the expiration?

    To your second point, many of us have had them applied for post-expiration trips, but it was certainly *not* the rule, as Jon says.


  8. Yes, 2 entirely separate mechanisms (or maybe 3 depending on how you look at it) :

    Pre Expiration For 4/5-Eagle Customers and ConciergeKey Customers
    AAdvantage will grant a 3 month extension on up to 2 upgrades, from the original date of upgrade expiration, for 4/5-Eagle customers and ConciergeKey members (regardless of Eagle ranking) upon request. The upgrade must be confirmed (regardless of travel date) prior to the new expiration date.

    Post Expiration for 4/5-Eagle and ConciergeKey
    AAdvantage will grant a 3 month extension on up to 2 upgrades, from the original date of upgrade expiration, for 4/5-Eagle customers and ConciergeKey members (regardless of Eagle ranking) upon request. The upgrade must be confirmed (regardless of travel date) prior to the new expiration date. The member will receive an email confirmation once the deposit is made.


    All customers members may request to travel beyond the upgrade expiration date:

    • If the upgrade is confirmed prior to the expiration date of the SWU, everything will be processed as normal, regardless of travel date
    • If the upgrade is unable to be confirmed prior to the expiration date, the SWU will expire as normal

  9. I have NEVER been able to use my 2019 SWU & have already qualified EP for 2020. Sat in alot of middle seats this year. Such a privilege to fly AA LOL

  10. Just tried to used SWUs for a trip in Feb with C availability. On hold with EP desk for a while and the response came back (from a supervisor) that the policy was for extensions this year (after Jan 31, 2019). Also, AA has not made a decision for post 1/31/2030 yet, but may do so later this year. Will HUCA.

  11. Quick update…HUCA this morning and the agent knew all about the extension. She said an email was sent out to agents last week. Was able to use the SWU on a Feb trip with no problems.

  12. @Skydiver,
    Thanks for the update. From the information you received, does the agent’s view match what Jon said above: that this is not so much an “extension” in the old sense, but an application of the to-be-expiring SWU for any trip booked prior to expiration that has availability, not limited to the old 3-month duration.

    Basically, I want to confirm that they see it not as granting an extension (which requires a review by AAdvantage CS), but as a normal application beyond the expiration, as Jon said. I trust in what Jon said, but want to make sure that the agents agree with this as well. “Jon said it” won’t carry much weight with them 🙂


  13. @BRP
    On my second call I stated I wished to apply the SWU to a booked but not ticketed flight. I then indicated that the flight was beyond the expiration date of my SWUs. She immediately responded that there was a new policy that allowed use of SWUs after expiration if applied before Jan 31.

    Since my extension was less than a month, there was no consideration of any 3 month limit but I got the impression that the only qualification was to apply before it expired as Jon had indicated.

    Sorry, that is not real definitive but my gut feeling is that you will get the longer extension.

  14. @skydiver,

    Thanks! I just called to try this out for an April reservation. It is already upgraded using a friend’s borrowed 2020 SWUs, but I swapped those out and my expiring SWUs in. I asked specifically about the time range issue, and she was very clearing in saying that her understanding was also just as Jon said it was supposed to be- no limit as long as it can be confirmed.

    As mrs. brp also hs some expiring SWUs, we’ll have to see how we can make this work for us 🙂


  15. Anyone know how it works if it’s a two-leg trip and one leg confirms right away and the other is waitlisted? The agent said it should be ok since the SWU is deducted right away, but I’m sort of scared if the second leg clears it’ll pull a SWU from next year’s stash. Oh well, I guess I already applied it so what happens happens.

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