Have Systemwide Upgrades Expiring in a Few Days? Call American and Ask to Extend Them

As in past years, as February 28 approaches there are plenty of Executive Platinum members with systemwide upgrades that are expiring unused.

That’s a shame, and we used to see many of them burned on silly domestic flights like a New York – Washington National regional jet or Dallas – Austin. Of course even that’s rarely even possible anymore now that American doesn’t open up much confirmed upgrade space.

Fortunately — based on a ton of reports from readers and posts in my Facebook feed — American seems to be willing to extend expiring systemwide upgrades for some members through May 31 if you call and ask.

You probably have to be more profitable than the average Executive Platinum member for them to approve this since they don’t seem to do it for everyone — if I had to guess a four- or five-eagle Helix score or its equivalent.

I’ve written about American’s measures of profitability before.

American has long tracked profitability, and assigned scores entirely apart from status level (‘Eagle rating’ and ‘Helix scores’) that have helped to determine whether to grant exceptions to policies.

Probably the best short discussion of Helix scores is this Travelingbetter.com thread.

Regardless, whatever you do, do not sell your systemwides. Do not trade them either. AAdvantage Corporate Security has been on a nearly unprecedent warpath (measured by volume of accounts under audit).

If you made that mistake and got caught, American usually will go light on first-time offenders provided that they ‘come clean’ and are forthcoming about whom a systemwide was sold to or purchased from and what the terms were. They are most interested in serial brokers and are willing to ‘plea bargain’ with minor offenders to get the Evip-lords. There may be a consequence but it should fall short of account shutdown and forfeiture of miles.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. I called yesterday (2/23) to EXP desk and asked if my 2 could be extended. She said only the AAdvantage Desk is the one who makes that decision and transferred me. Same question. He said only the EXP Desk is the one who makes that decision and transferred me. Same question. She said only the AAdvantage Desk is the one who makes that decision and that is when I hung up.

  2. I called 5 times after reading this and not a single person heard of this. Get your facts straight before you post something like this. Never post one off scenarios.

  3. I called again and they said this does not exist. It would be an extreme one off. I spent just shy of 40K last year (maybe close to CK?) and they said if there was any way to do it they would.

  4. It definitely, definitely exists– there’s zero question about that at this point.

    It appears to be for 4 and 5 eagle Helix-rated members, and, might be somewhat complicated by the usual not-all-at-AA-knowing-a-new-policy thing.

    But, I have reports of no less than a dozen of people who’ve a) been approved and, b), almost as many who’ve had the exact policy acknowledged to them.

    Absolutely, positively -not- some kind of extreme one-off or personalized exception.

  5. Sounds like more evidence of the decline of EXP agents at AA since the US merger. Give Gary a break, guys, he’s generally very careful about what he posts, and this is no exception.

    I’ve yet to see an instance where JonNYC was wrong, either, and Gary linked to his (now dated) thread above.

    Happy HUCA, amigos!

  6. I called 2 days ago. Got 4 pushed to May 31st. EP line transferrrd me to the service desk. Took 5 minutes.

  7. Experienced this yesterday without even asking (SWU was wait listed a month out with no upgrade space to confirm) and was advised that the SWU would be available for use by end of May in the event that it didn’t clear – believe that the term used by the agent was that they were going to mark the SWU as “encumbered”

  8. If you ask whether systemwides are extendable you probably get a “no” which is standard policy. But (1) you may need to get transferred to AAdvantage Customer Service, and (2) you may need to ask a second time whether any exceptions could be made and would they check specifically for the ones you have expiring feb 28?

    It always amuses me when I post something, then a reader calls a random person at customer service who gives them different information, then assumes *I’M* the one that’s wrong 😉

  9. Can the readers please not blame Gary? He is the messenger and doing the best he can. Yes, he goes on media trips etc and they try to butter him up, but he always reports in OUR favor, so give him a break.

    I just called again to EXP desk and they said to talk to AAdvantage, I asked agent to do a warm transfer (hoping I would have more authority) and I got the standard “no”. I asked whether any exceptions could be made and would they check specifically for the ones I have expiring feb 28 and she said no exceptions.

    I said I have heard of many people getting them extended. She said she doesn’t know how except for maybe through a company that sends the request in, but I think she was just reaching and did not know what she was talking about.

    She said she was sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

  10. I called just now ..first the EXP desk and then they transferred to Customer Service..The EXP desk did take some time before saying no. It seemed she was checking her system, probably my Helix score. Both said no, both said no exceptions.

  11. I’ve said this is NOT for everyone, but likely based on Helix score and only those with high scores (perhaps 4 or 5) will be offered it.

    Rather than saying you aren’t a valuable enough customer, agents will tell those not being offered it that it isn’t an option.

  12. SWUs that went unused? What a novel idea. I was successful in all 8 of SWU requests in 2016, all on Y to J international long-hauls.

    Glad that they are doing this for certain customers…but its not an issue in my world. Sure would be nice if they’d “extend” my 4 2017 SWUs into 8 though. Hah.

  13. Not blaming Gary but saying this is a one-off. How do you even know its 4-5 Helix rating if no one even knows their Helix rating. Also I called back and still no one knows about it. I called Aadvantage customer service and she said she had to put me on hold, comes back 10 minutes later and says we dont have an option to extend SWU’s. I told her I had heard it was happening to others and she said there must be some sort of circumstance that caused that.

  14. worked for me just now, super easy. called CK desk and asked to extend some SWU’s expiring by Feb 28 (highlighting i knew it likely wasn’t possible they could do all) and was told it should be possible and transferred to customer care. within a few minutes the agent agreed to extend 4 of my expiring 8 SWUs for another 3 months (I do think she was checking my tier as there was a hold and some typing)

    one note- i did try to call the CK desk last night to do this and was turned down, but on some pushing, i was told to call back between 9AM-5PM and ask again, so assume the more empowered agents may be around then? and the customer care desk was open I guess.

    anyway, thanks for the article, wasn’t even going to bother trying but glad I did!

  15. I had success and had 2 left and was able to use them for March. I didnt have to struggle or anything. I dont know what Helix I am but I was EXP for 3 years and I am dropping to Gold on March 1st ( I dont travel AA anymore)

  16. I don’t get it. How does @Elias get 2 moved over to March with only being EXP for 3 years and dropping to Gold and not knowing his Helix score versus people like me who have been EXP for 7 plus years. I don’t get it. There are other unknown factors here. How much did you spend @Elias? Maybe that is a factor?

  17. Helix score is status-independant. And, it is actually not profitability scoring which is yet another, not-visible-to-member ranking. A retiring EXP (or even a Plat, etc) can have a 4 or even 5 Helix score while a EXP for many years can be a 2 or 3 Eagle/Helix ranking– it’s not uncommon.

  18. Im 6 years EXP now, over 120,000 miles per year, half in paid BIZ. 90% of my flight on American stink and are delayed so I switched to Delta but I would still like my systemwide. Not very nice that they do not look at how many years as EXP as a deciding factor.

  19. I have 2 left that they refused to extend. The customer service rep kept saying, after looking at your account there’s nothing I can do. I asked what he was looking at and he wouldn’t say, just kept repeating himself the exact same way. I’m dropping to Gold after EP for 2 years, but I’ve already flown 18k miles and have four more pending trips. Huge AA let down…

  20. I called and NOT the EXP desk but AAdvantage customer service was more than happy to give me a 3 month extension. I’m sorry about the rude replies atop this comment thread. Thanks for the good tip!

  21. Does anyone have one leg they’d be willing to part with? I have a flight from NYC to LHR tomorrow evening at 10 pm.


  22. What a nightmare these people are. Two agents on the Aadvantage customer service insisted the airline NEVER extends systemwide upgrades and would not extend mine. I mentioned that I had friends who extended the upgrades and that I had read this on travel blogs. One agent insisted that the blogs are promoting “false information.” Everything with this airline has been downhill since the USAirways merger.

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