How To Find American Airlines Systemwide Upgrade Availability (2024)

If you’re a top-tier American Airlines elite member, you’re probably familiar with systemwide upgrades (SWUs). While earning a “free” upgrade to a fancy seat may seem like a dream, redeeming these certificates can be challenging as there is often little to no award availability.

Despite this, there are a few ways you can search for upgrade space and ways you can be a bit more strategic in finding upgrade availability. Here are a few of the tips and tricks to maximize systemwide upgrades to elevate your next American Airlines flight.

What Is a Systemwide Upgrade?

If you’re an American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Pro, Executive Platinum, or ConciergeKey, you’ll have the opportunity to choose systemwide upgrades as part of your Loyalty Choice Rewards (starting at 175,000 Loyalty Points). These certificates are extremely valuable, allowing you to upgrade your ticket for free to the next class of service, so long as there is upgrade availability.

A systemwide upgrade is meant to be used primarily on American Airlines. Still, there are opportunities to use it on British Airways as well, and certificates are good for up to 3 segments. So, in theory, you could use it to fly from London to New York to Los Angeles to Sydney on 1 upgrade certificate.

»Related:How Systemwide Upgrades Work on American Airlines [In-Depth]

Best American Airlines Routes With Systemwide Upgrade Space

Let’s draw an example here. Suppose you want to travel to Sydney, Australia, during the Southern Hemisphere summer (our U.S. winter) and just before New Year’s. During this peak travel season, you likely won’t find much upgrade space available on American’s nonstop flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.

If you’re willing to be flexible, however, there are some ways you could find upgrade space on popular routes. The first thing you need to do is choose a strategic routing and look at positioning flights, as some of American’s flights have a lot more upgrade availability than others.

Popular Flights With Decent Upgrade Availability

  • New York (JFK) to London (LHR) — This is a surprising route that tends to have lots of space to use a systemwide upgrade as there are up to 22 daily frequencies, giving you better upgrade chances. Even if a particular flight doesn’t have it, it’s likely that there’s a New York to London flight within a few days that does have the space. The daytime flight from New York to London tends to have more upgrade availability than other flights, as do the later departures from New York.
  • Boston (BOS) to Los Angeles (LAX) — For transcontinental flights, you’ll find more space on the Boston to Los Angeles route than on the New York to Los Angeles flights. Consider hopping up to Boston if you want an elevated cross-country experience.
  • Flights to Spain — Flights to Madrid (MAD) and Barcelona (BCN) also seem to have more upgrade availability than other routes in Europe.

Popular Flights With Fewer Upgrade Seats

  • Flights to Venice and Athens — Smaller European markets like Venice (VCE) and Athens (ATH) tend to have much less business class upgrade availability. Similarly, flights operated by Americans that operate seasonally or only once a day, such as those to Copenhagen (CPH) or Nice (NCE), will have fewer upgraded seats available.
  • Flat-Bed Routes to Hawaii — These routes, mostly out of Dallas (DFW) or Phoenix (PHX), are very tough to come by for upgrades. If you’re willing to sacrifice a flat-bed seat, you may want to consider narrow-body planes out of Los Angeles, where there are more frequencies and upgrade space is more plentiful.

Hot Tip:

Upgrade availability can change at a moment’s notice. When you see upgrade space, take it or risk losing it if it disappears.

Upgrade Your British Airways Flight

One of the newer ways to use systemwide upgrades is also among the best ways. It’s now possible to use a systemwide upgrade on a British Airways flight, so long as there’s at least 1 American Airlines flight in the record.

For example, you could fly:

  • Washington, D.C. (DCA) to New York (JFK) on American Airlines
  • New York (JFK) to London (LHR) on British Airways
  • London (LHR) to Nice (NCE) on British Airways

All legs can be used with a systemwide upgrade since the first leg is flown by American Airlines.

Do note that British Airways only allows upgrades from one cabin to the next, and the airline treats premium economy as an entirely separate cabin. This means you can upgrade from main cabin to premium economy, premium economy to business, or business to first — but not from main cabin to business as American Airlines allows.

How To Find American Airlines Systemwide Upgrade Availability (1)

British Airways determines if you can use a systemwide upgrade or not based on award availability. Fortunately, British Airways has phenomenal award availability in all classes. This means that you could book a premium economy flight and then upgrade to business class without having to hunt around for upgrade space since British Airways tends to release a lot of seats. In comparison, American Airlines is rather stingy with award availability.

To look for the opportunity to be upgraded on British Airways, the best way is to perform a normal award search on the American Airlines website as if you were using miles. In the image below, we can see there is a business class award flight available from Washington, D.C. (IAD) to London (LHR), so you’d be able to upgrade a purchased premium economy ticket to business using a systemwide upgrade.

How To Find American Airlines Systemwide Upgrade Availability (2)

However, remember that at least 1 segment of your entire trip, either outbound or return, must be on American Airlines.

Use ExpertFlyer To Find Systemwide Upgrades

One of the best ways to view American Airlines upgrade availability is to use a service like ExpertFlyer, which requires a $99-a-year subscription.

To do this, head to the Awards and Upgrades tab and enter your desired flight information:

How To Find American Airlines Systemwide Upgrade Availability (3)

Under classes, be sure to select the one that says Business – Upgrade (C). When you search, you’ll be presented with the availability for that day.

In this example for New York (JFK) to London (LHR), we see that 4 flights are offered, 2 of them have upgrade space (noted by the C inventory), and how many seats are available. The 8:30 p.m. flight has 2 seats for upgrade from main cabin to business class, and the 10:25 p.m. flight has at least 7 seats. (ExpertFlyer will not display more than 7 seats available, even if more are available).

How To Find American Airlines Systemwide Upgrade Availability (4)

With this information at hand, you could call American Airlines and instantly confirm into business class using a systemwide upgrade on either flight. Should you wish to take the first 2 flights without seat availability, you would need to waitlist and hope the upgrade clears later on, so it’s generally advisable to book a confirmed flight when you can.

Upgrade to First Class on American’s 3-Class Aircraft

American Airlines is slowly phasing out true first class on its widebody planes and domestic premium flights operated on the A321T aircraft. For now, you can use a systemwide upgrade on these planes to go from paid business class to first class.

It’s entirely up to you whether you think this type of upgrade would be worth it and a good use of your SWU, but the option is certainly there.

In this case, you’d search for A inventory in ExpertFlyer’s award and upgrade search tab. You can also call American, and they can check the space for you. Generally, there is far more A availability than C.

My Experience With Systemwide Upgrades

I have a personal rule of thumb that I will not use my systemwide upgrades unless they can be immediately cleared. I do not like to waitlist flights and hope that the upgrade will clear, as American has been very aggressive lately with buy-up offers. Furthermore, there are many elite passengers with more Loyalty Points than I have, so I might not be at the top of the upgrade list.

How To Find American Airlines Systemwide Upgrade Availability (5)

That said, I have had great success upgrading (and confirming) flights with systemwide upgrades. Some of these flights include:

  • Chicago (ORD) to Tokyo (NRT) — Back when this flight existed
  • London (LHR) to Washington, D.C. (IAD) — Upgraded from premium economy to business class
  • New York (JFK) to London (LHR) — The flight I’ve used an upgrade on the most
  • Philadelphia (PHL) to Zurich (ZRH)

Upgrades are becoming more difficult to use because it’s harder to find available space, though with some persistent searching and flexibility, it can certainly be done. I personally find it a lot easier to use an upgrade to or from Europe than the South Pacific (Auckland (AKL) or Sydney (SYD), for example), so I’m strategic about where and when I decide to use these certificates for maximum redemption.

Final Thoughts

While it can be tough to find ways to use your American Airlines systemwide upgrades, there are a few ways you can make it easier on yourself. With a few tricks under your sleeve, you’ll be able to quickly find seats available for upgrade so these SWUs don’t go to waste!

How To Find American Airlines Systemwide Upgrade Availability (2024)

FAQs

How To Find American Airlines Systemwide Upgrade Availability? ›

Log in to aa.com or the app and make sure you have systemwide upgrades available in your AAdvantage

AAdvantage
American Airlines AAdvantage® credit card members will earn one Loyalty Point for every one eligible AAdvantage® mile earned from purchases using their U.S. or internationally-issued AAdvantage® credit card.
https://www.aa.com › aadvantage-program › loyalty-points
® account. When booking your flight on aa.com, look for the systemwide upgrades link to find cabins with upgrade seats available. Call your AAdvantage® status service desk to request your upgrade.

How far in advance do systemwide upgrades clear? ›

It could clear a day after you book, a week after you book, a month after you book, or an hour before you fly. As you might expect, upgrades are generally clearing closer and closer to departure, as American is doing everything it can to sell premium seats before upgrading people.

Are AA systemwide upgrades worth it? ›

Long-haul international flights are the best use of systemwide upgrades because you can go from economy class (including basic economy if you're an AAdvantage elite) to business class, with its comfortable seats and elevated service, on a longer flight. Not all flights have seats available for systemwide upgrades.

How does American Airlines decide who gets upgraded? ›

Upgrade offers are made based on passenger eligibility, which may include passenger elite status, fare class, upgrade requests, ticket status and purchase history. Upgrade offers that you receive on the day of departure cannot be put on hold and must be paid for when the offer is made.

Can you see the upgrade list on AA app? ›

How the American upgrade list works. Once you're on the waitlist tab, it'll default to showing the upgrade waitlist. The app will show the number of available seats at the top right, and then it will show the upgrade waitlist in order of priority.

How do I get American Airlines to answer? ›

Passengers Can Call American Airline by dialing the (No Wait Time) Phone Number at / 1-888-829-1172:1[888-829-1172] x (No Wait Time) or - 1-888-829-1172 - (REal Human)/ get a quick answer on the call.

How to get free first class upgrade on American Airlines? ›

Free upgrades on American Airlines are mainly given to AAdvantage elite members. Higher-tier members (Executive Platinum, Platinum Pro) are more likely to receive upgrades than lower-tier members (Gold, Platinum). The frequency depends on status, flight route, and seat availability.

Does checking in online reduce chance of upgrade? ›

On airline websites check in is usually 24 hours before departure. Upgrades have nothing to do with when you check in. They have to do with status. The higher a person's status is the better chance they have of getting an upgrade.

Does checking in early help with upgrades? ›

Arriving early for check-in could be the perfect strategy for you to elevate your flying experience to the next level. You increase your chances of being upgraded to First Class by showing up at the airport well before your scheduled departure time.

How often do AA Executive Platinum get upgraded? ›

AAdvantage Executive Platinum ® members receive unlimited complimentary upgrades to the premium cabin (including award tickets) when traveling within North America on American Airlines. Your upgrade can be confirmed as early as 100 hours before the flight, when available.

Do systemwide upgrades expire? ›

Once you earn or select a systemwide upgrade, American Airlines will deposit it into your account within 72 hours. Systemwide upgrades expire one year after they're deposited in your account.

Can you upgrade seats on American after purchase? ›

Yes, airline passengers can purchase an upgrade to first-class after their initial flight ticket purchase.

Do airlines randomly upgrade seats? ›

In rare cases, a flight may be oversold in the economy cabin, but there's still space in first or business class. Under those circ*mstances, a few very lucky passengers might be bumped up to first or business class for free in what's known as an operational upgrade.

How do airlines choose who to upgrade? ›

Nowadays, the majority of upgrades are done via an airline's computer system, which will typically generate a list of who should be offered an upgrade based on a combination of data (rewards program membership, affiliated credit cards, etc.)

Does asking for flight upgrades work? ›

On almost every flight, the passengers who get upgrades are either the ones who pay for them (whether in dollars or miles) in advance or frequent fliers with elite status who receive complimentary upgrades as part of their perks. There are very few exceptions, so don't expect to score a free upgrade by just asking.

How to use American Systemwide upgrade? ›

Log in to aa.com or the app and make sure you have systemwide upgrades available in your AAdvantage® account. When booking your flight on aa.com, look for the systemwide upgrades link to find cabins with upgrade seats available. Call your AAdvantage® status service desk to request your upgrade.

How is AA upgrade list determined? ›

American Airlines Upgrade Priority

If more than one elite member has requested an upgrade, American Airlines utilizes the following to determine priority: Systemwide and mileage award upgrades. Complimentary upgrades. 12-month rolling Loyalty Points.

Is it cheaper to upgrade to first class after booking? ›

The cheapest way to get a business or first-class ticket is to buy an economy ticket then buy an upgrade. You can either do this immediately after booking or look for last-minute upgrades as your travel date approaches. The price for premium cabin fares decreases as you get closer to departure.

How to get first class on American Airlines? ›

To upgrade to Flagship First class with miles, you will need to book an American Airlines business class ticket originally. It costs 15,000 AAdvantage miles plus $175 to upgrade from Flagship Business class to Flagship First class on transcontinental routes.

What is the fastest way to contact American Airlines? ›

If you have questions or want to make special travel arrangements, you can make them online or call 800-433-7300.

Does American Airlines respond to complaints? ›

To make a complaint, contact our Customer Relations team and we'll get back to you as quickly as possible. If you're unsatisfied with the Customer Relations response, contact the Association of European Mediators (AME).

How do I get a complimentary flight upgrade? ›

Achieve elite travel status

Many airlines will provide complimentary upgrade certificates after you've reached a specific level of status, as well as proactively upgrade you during other flights for which you are eligible. Complimentary Preferred seats and Main Cabin Extra upgrades at check-in.

Can I upgrade from economy to business class on American Airlines? ›

For now, you can upgrade from Main Cabin or Premium Economy to First or Business using your AAdvantage® miles or systemwide upgrades. For flights to / from Hawaii and Alaska, AAdvantage® status members receive complimentary upgrades if seats are available.

Can I pay for an upgrade on American Airlines? ›

American Airlines' paid upgrade program details. There are many ways to upgrade American Airlines flights, ranging from redeeming AAdvantage miles, to taking advantage of complimentary elite upgrades, to using systemwide upgrades. Another way that you can often upgrade flights is with cash.

How long does it take to get an upgrade on AC bid? ›

Eligible flights and tickets are determined by Air Canada at its sole discretion and depend on a variety of factors including cabin class and seat class availability. Also, unless otherwise stated, upgrade offers can only be made up to 48 hours before departure.

How to use system wide upgrades on American Airlines? ›

Log in to aa.com or the app and make sure you have systemwide upgrades available in your AAdvantage® account. When booking your flight on aa.com, look for the systemwide upgrades link to find cabins with upgrade seats available. Call your AAdvantage® status service desk to request your upgrade.

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