Inefficiencies in My Life: American Airlines Systemwide Upgrades

I call myself Efficient Asian Man, but there are really a number of inefficiencies in my life that I’m aware of but haven’t really understood. Here’s one such inefficiency.

I qualified for AA Executive Platinum status last year thanks to an overly generous promotion that should have been targeted but wasn’t for a short period of time. Along with this status came 8 systemwide upgrades, which are great as they can be used to upgrade a ticket purchased in any fare class. So not only do you get 8 of them, you can buy cheapo tickets and upgrade those cheapo tickets. It’s great! (so great that I doubt they’ll last given the merger, or we probably won’t get 8 of them).

Here’s the inefficiency: if presented the offer at check-in, I would almost never pay $250 to upgrade my seat to business class, but I have happily used 5 of my 8 SWUs for the year. I am willing to endure 10 hours of international coach instead of pay $250 to get those 10 hours in business class, but I could also sell my SWUs (ignoring the fact that you’re not supposed to sell them) for roughly $250 each, which means that I shouldn’t be using them on myself.

Perhaps I’ll feel differently after flying AA’s 77W in business class (which I’m slated to do in September), but I’m honestly fine with coach most of the time. Sure, you might not sleep as well, but I find that my ability to sleep on planes is mostly a function of whether or not I’m actually tired and not so much a function of seat comfort. Plane food isn’t great either way, and I could instead pay $20 at the airport to buy better food (good thing AA flies out of Terminal 2 at SFO); I could also pay $20 for IFE that I truly want; service isn’t necessarily better in business class (as seems to be common for domestic carriers, many of the flight attendants in business class seem to be more “experienced”–to put it euphemistically–with widely varying levels of how much they give a s***); and I already get first class lounge access via my Executive Platinum status. I guess availability of power ports is one thing that doesn’t really exist in AA coach, but I could always be ghetto and camp out in the bathroom and use the power port there.

Granted, as I said before, you’re not allowed to sell SWUs, which is perhaps the best reason to justify my usage of SWUs on myself, but it looks like I’ll requalify for AA Executive Platinum this year, which means I’ll have 8 SWUs to use next year, and it’s apparent to me that I’d strictly prefer trading them for cash rather than use them on myself. Hmmm…

3 thoughts on “Inefficiencies in My Life: American Airlines Systemwide Upgrades

  1. James

    I would like to know how do you qualify/requalify for EXP if you mostly travel in coach? do you just fly a lot on a yearly basis? If you have any secrets on how to easily qualify, i would like to learn.


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