I’m Embarrassed By How Many Upgrades I Have Expiring Next Week…

As someone obsessed with loyalty programs, I do everything I can to maximize the benefits associated with the status I earn. After all, earning status comes at a cost (both in terms of time and money), so not maximizing benefits is like throwing away money.

No matter how hard I try, I’ll never do a perfect job maximizing these programs, though I’m especially embarrassed by how many upgrades I’m having go to “waste” next week.

Most loyalty program status is earned on a calendar year basis, though typically there’s some grace period before the status expires. In the case of American AAdvantage and Hyatt Gold Passport, earned status for this past program year is valid through the end of February. The same is true of the upgrade instruments earned with those programs.

In the 2016 program year, I earned eight systemwide upgrades for being an Executive Platinum member (unfortunately that has been slashed in half as of this year). Last year you even got an additional two systemwide upgrades for each 25,000 elite qualifying points you earned beyond 100,000, so I earned a total of 16 systemwide upgrades based on my 200,000+ elite qualifying points.

American-Business-Class-787 - 7

Meanwhile with Hyatt Gold Passport I earned four confirmed Diamond Suite Upgrade Awards, each of which can be used to confirm a suite upgrade at the time of booking for a stay of up to a week.


Well, these upgrade instruments are expiring next week, and somehow I haven’t used them all. I still have four American systemwide upgrades…


…and two Hyatt suite upgrades.


That’s pretty unfortunate, given that:

  • I had American flights I took in economy where I didn’t apply a systemwide upgrade
  • I had plenty of stays at Hyatts where I wasn’t in a suite

But somehow I chose not to redeem my confirmable upgrades. Perhaps part of my problem is that I’m always seeking the “perfect” redemption, to the point that I end up just letting some things expire altogether. Rather than redeeming a systemwide upgrade for a transcon flight where I knew my upgrade wouldn’t clear, or redeeming a suite upgrade for a short stay, I just saved them to the point that they went to waste.

Hopefully I can at least gift the systemwide upgrades to friends traveling over the next week, though unfortunately the Hyatt upgrades aren’t transferable.

Anyone else in a similar boat and finding themselves with upgrades expiring next week?


  1. Lucky,

    Is it worth paying $1299 to keep my Platinum Status with American Airlines rather than earning it? It runs out February 28th. Also, I have (17) 500 mile upgrades sitting in my account.

  2. Traveling ATL-LAX on Friday and would gladly take a systemwide upgrade!

    Don’t want to turn this thread into a competition but thought I’d ask 😉

  3. Shifted from OneWorld to Star Alliance for this year and my AAdvantage status is expiring next week. Probably can’t go through 36 500-mile upgrades in time!

  4. I have two Hyatt DSUs exipiring , can I apply these to anyone else ? who might need them in the next week

  5. Yeah I have a Hyatt DSU upgrade expiring. Sucks that this year cannot apply it to a reservation for later this year before the deadline.

  6. I had a similar experience. I had a lot of food going waste and had to throw it away and later cribbed about it to a homeless guy to whom I could have given it. Needless to say the guy wasn’t interested in my crib but wanted to punch my face instead.

  7. Prior to the US Air Merger, VIP System Upgrades, AA AAdvantage use to go ahead and let you use them for travel after expiration date, as long as you were the traveler, and ticketed by expiration date. I have 2 that expire 2/28 and have a friend and his wife waitlisted for a flight from DFW HKG on 2/23. Have watched business class open seats go from 28 to 10 over the last month, and waitlist has yet to clear.

  8. Don’t be embarrassed. I let 4 United GPUs expire. If you can afford (or have the miles) to fly other airlines in business or first class, life sometimes seems to short to fly a US carrier internationally, especially when you can’t confirm the upgrade in advance.

  9. And this is why AA reduced the SWUs from 8 to 4. They realized that not everyone is using all 8. People on the blogosphere were complaining about a perk that hardly anyone uses.

  10. This is the “dirty secret” of travel loyalty: things are created for you to lust after, and most of them time you never get to really even use/enjoy them.

  11. I’ll beat that, I have 18 SWU’s expiring on the 27th. They are worthless, unless want to go battlefield, which I don’t and won’t.

  12. I second what Tony said – I have always had SWU’s expire. Its hard to use them when you are a true business traveler. Monday and Thursdays are tough upgrade days in nearly every market – even with a SWU and, now, especially with the reduced advance availability.

  13. I had a free hyatt night expire on me. I had a redemption planned for a weekend trip, but I had just done two long trips and I couldn’t bring myself to go away for the weekend especially given the weather report at the time.

  14. Has anybody built a system for exchanging/gifting SWU’s? IIRC FlyerTalk had a forum for this, perhaps? Would be nice if there was an easy way to manage the giving/exchanging.

    Wife and I are taking a toddler to Australia in two weeks and I’m a lowly AA Plat without any instruments.

  15. theflightdeal.com @TheFlightDeal is accepting system wide upgrade donations for a giveaway they currently have underway. Maybe you could donate them if you aren’t able to use them in time. Just a thought. Thanks for the great articles and reviews.

  16. I have a ton of Aeroplan eUpgrades that will expire. Last year I changed alliances with a status match to AS MVP (thanks, @ Lucky). That said, I need to fly to New York next week. I recently learned of the AC internationally equipped 787 that flies between YVR-EWR. I thought I’d book that on the 28th – the final day for my credits – and take a nice upgrade.

    That was until I learned that AC now requires hundreds of dollars for an upgrade IN ADDITION to the eUpgrades. Yeesh. I’ll be enjoying the narrow body AS flight from Seattle…

  17. Ugh, same here. 3 SWU and 3 DSU’s both expiring.

    You did inspire me to just put out a tweet to friends seeing if anyone can use them though

  18. I’d love an upgrade for my flight on 2/28! Currently in Main Cabin Extra but a 5:48am departure time would make an upgrade very nice!

  19. That’s too many people letting DSUs expire and go to waste for an upgrade instrument that’s supposed to be “confirmed”, and there are just 4 of them per year! In the meantime I cleared 14 of 15 (or something like that) complimentary HH Diamond suite upgrades in 2016. Getting the picture?

    I had a free Hyatt night and a free Marriott night on each program’s co-brand Chase CC and put them to good use. The Hyatt night was spend on a 3-night stay (2nites C+P and one free) at Park Hyatt Siem Reap. The Marriott night was spent on a one-night stopover at Renaissance BKK, which is Category 4 but could easily rank higher.

    As for airline cabin upgrades, I had 7 GPUs (SWUs) and cleared all 7, mostly on very long haul TPAC flights (e.g., NYC to MEL) when one really needs them.

    In short, I have hard time understanding letting such instruments go to waste….

  20. Have you checked to see if you can donate the upgrades? I work for Make-A-Wish and we are so grateful for donations of frequent flyer miles. Even those that are about to expire for you, lose their expiration date when donated to us. I wonder if the same could be true for upgrades? We don’t usually send wish families in Business or First class, but sometimes medical conditions make it necessary. More than 70% of wishes involve travel, and this is a great way you can help us grant wishes to children with life-threatening medical conditions!

  21. Hi Lucky: you wrote- “Last year you even got an additional two systemwide upgrades for each 25,000 elite qualifying points you earned beyond 100,000”. If I flew 142,000 miles and did not get the extra two, should I call? I was hoping there was a bonus at some point after 100K but I thought Tiffany said it occurred only at 150,000 threshold.

  22. Don’t be embarrassed, you’ve earned those upgrades. But certainly don’t let them go to waste.

    As others have suggested, give them away

  23. @Rob yeah i thought that was odd too. I thought it was 2 SWUs per 50k beyond 100k.
    I did 202k last year and got 8 total.


  24. I was in a similar boat last year when I was still Executive Platinum.

    The problem is that you value them too much. They are unfortunately not as valuable as you perceive. If you put a lower value on them, you would have tried on that domestic AA flight or that Hyatt room in Washington for example.

  25. AA SWUs are virtually impossible to use. Lots of availability if you’re already in Business Class and want to go to FC, but forget trying to use a SWU to go from Coach to Business. No availability. I was looking to fly my sister fro NYC to LAX any day in February. Best you can hope for is standby and hope the upgrade clears. That’s a crap shoot.

  26. It’s nice you want to gift your items to friends since the terms and conditions allow it but would you consider reaching out to Make A Wish and offer it to them if they can use them? Or at least keep it in mind for the next time something like this occurs. Your friends would enjoy it of course but this would be a lovely way for a child to get their wish in style!

  27. American made it much more difficult to use system wide upgrades last year. I booked multiple international trips months in advance, saved my upgrades for those trips and never got upgraded.
    American has recently sent my son a promotion to qualify for Executive Platinum status this year by earning only 35,000 EQM’s and just a $4,000 spend. Where is the love for me?

  28. That’s not a problem I have. On AA 125 to HKG right now in 4A thanks to a SWU that cleared yesterday. I have had good luck clearing them lately. I will forfeit one DSU because I didn’t want to pay an exorbitant price for Park Hyatt Manila. Sometimes you are better off to let it go.

  29. I have 6 DSUs expring, wish my hometown Hyatt Santa Barbara accepted them, would have made for some nice stay-cations…

  30. Hello Lucky,
    It’s not much of a flight, but I am flying DFW to IAH soon on AA. And then for first time–flying what I do not understand yet called the Fifth freedom flight?? Singapore Air from Houston to MAN.
    Looking forward to seeing what this is about.

  31. Hi All,
    I’m new to the fray and I love the One Mile At a Time group. The Blog/Comments have been a huge help to me. I am a United 1K flyer (5th year in a row). My non-profit organization (JOY International) rescues child sex slaves around the world. I’m actually writing this while sitting in the Holiday Inn Club Lounge in Makati, in the Philippines. My frustration is when I have GPU’s I’ve tried to use and they don’t go through. This year I will lose 4 of them (that sucks). I tried using them several times on flights and wasn’t able to. Now, they’re going to expire. I think that is so unfair since I flew the necessary miles to attain them. I should not be penalized because they couldn’t be used. What’s even more frustrating, is in order to use them, I had to pay a higher fare class to even “try” to use them. The airline gets the additional funds, and I wound up sitting in coach. What’s up with that? Is till love the United Mileage Plus program and this year will become a Million Miler, but it definitely needs some tweaking. I should NOT be penalized and that’s how I’m feeling. Very frustrating at times for someone who is so loyal to an airline. Thanks for letting me vent!

  32. @Lynn, 2.5 weeks ago I waitlisted DFW HKG with 35 available seats when I waitlisted 1.5 weeks before the flight (EXP). The day before there were still 15 seats but they cleared no one until the gate. I eventually did get the upgrade (last on the list) but not until literally the last minute. From this and other similar trips I’ve taken, I don’t think they are clearing system wides at all before the flight. They have become just another useless upgrade in my opinion. So might as well just have 4, because it would be impossible to ever use 8 now. A few years ago, had no problem using all 8 for asian destinations and all were confirmed weeks before the flight.

  33. Instrument upgrades are getting harder to get, particularly for domestic upgrades now that the inventory comes out of the rare C class.

    eVIP SWUs are more difficult as AA holds back on them, and many times there can be many people of the international upgrade list and only a few seats left. Plus companions don’t get the higher status of the top elite traveler.

    So even if you give them away – they may not be usable.

  34. I have 12 AA upgrades as an AA platinum (expires April 17, 2017). Are these transferable? If so, I’d be happy to trade or gift them to someone with a good story.

  35. Three comments:

    (1) At the beginning of this thread there were two people who thought that their AA 500 mile certificates expired. They do not. They have no expiration date as far as I know. The thing that annoys me about them is that it seems any flights I take out of New York are always slightly over a number divisible by 500 (i.e. 1,075 miles) and so I always feel like I am throwing away one of those certificates and thus don’t use them preferring to save them for flights which are 925 miles long instead!

    (2) Someone above asked about Fifth Freedom travel. This is where an airline of one country flies between two other countries….i.e. Singapore Airlines flying between Texas and the UK. Whereas a First Freedom flight would be any domestic U.S. Airline flying between two points in the USA.

    (3) I just realized that I need to book a three night stay at a hotel in Washington for the nights of March 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Would anyone with an expiring hotel suite voucher be able to help please? I can be reached at skyflow1@aol.com. Thanks! 🙂

  36. @Jeff – UA GPUs became useless when UA started to prioritize paid upgrades ($&miles) over GPU. I had lots of them and was number 8 on the upgrade list one flight as Global Service member! Unless you fly on unpopular routes/dates and have top status, it’ll be tough to get upgraded with them these days and I wouldn’t pay higher fares in hopes of getting an upgrade!
    For the price of a W or higher Economy fare on United, you can fly Premium Economy or even Business Class on other airlines!

  37. Omigosh Rupert. That is so disheartening. I’m so close to becoming a Million Miler and just can’t imagine switching my allegiance at this point. Just as frustrating is when I fly to some place like Cambodia to Thailand (about 4 times a year) and a portion of the trip would be on ANA or Asiana and while I get an upgrade on the United portions, I can’t get it on the code share airline. Aaaargh. As to being a Global Service member, I’m still baffled as to how to even attain that level. I also bring several groups of 10-15 people (3 times a year and get absolutely no recognition in bringing so much revenue to the airlines. I sincerely appreciate your input.

  38. My organization JOY International – http://www.joy.org (in our 35th year) would LOVE to get miles, certificates or anything we can use as we travel extensively in our mission to rescue children, teens and young women from the nightmare of being trafficked into the horrific world of child & human sex slavery. We have had over 2,000 successful rescues.

  39. Last year was my first time getting Hyatt Diamond but all 4 of my DSU’s expire next week. Sadly, the few Hyatt’s that I stayed in either didn’t have any suites available or had already assigned me to one of the best rooms or didn’t have any suites at all.

  40. Jeff — FYI (putting aside your UA loyalty) AA Business Extra is pretty compelling for those of us who pay for lots of people (in my case employees) to travel for work. Combined with the Founders Card AA benefit, it even gets a bit sweeter.

  41. @Rupert: “UA GPUs became useless when UA started to prioritize paid upgrades ($&miles) over GPU.”

    That’s simply a false statement, the likes of which we have been hearing, like, forever so it’s doubtful that anything UA did made GPUs “useless.” If you truly believe that then please throw some of those “useless” GPUs my way by sponsoring my upgrades going forward. Very easy to do! 😉

    As I stated above, I started with 7 GPUs in 2016 and I cleared every single onl, on some of these “unpopular routes”: two on a NYC-LAX-MEL mileage run that got me to the million miler finish line; two on NYC-SIN; and the 7th on HKG-ORD.

    I have been a UA 1K for years and long enough with the program to make million miler. Your claim has no basis in reality or you are one of those who expect to clear GPUs at booking on reservations made just two days before departure and failing every time. The secret to clearing GPUs is to book weeks or months ahead of time, get on the waitlist if a GPU does not clear at booking and forget about it. Chances are that >80% of the time you’ll be pleasantly surprised shortly before your trip when an email notifies you that your upgrade cleared.

    A GPU — set it and forget it!

  42. “Tony says:
    February 21, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    And this is why AA reduced the SWUs from 8 to 4. They realized that not everyone is using all 8. People on the blogosphere were complaining about a perk that hardly anyone uses.________________________________________________

    Just because “not everyone is using all 8” why should AA reduce the SWUs from 8 to 4 for all EXPs?

    Many of us use all 8 each year.

    As noted, AA gutted the SWUs to half. AA also increased the number of miles needed for award flights together with making most international awards in business near impossible. AA’s frequent flier program is a so-called “loyalty program” but the loyalty is markedly changed to be all in AA’s favor.

    The reason for not using all upgrades is that more people are flying which makes upgrade seats unavailable. This is a problem for some in using all their upgrades but is not a logical reason to reduce the quantity of SWUs to one-half for everyone.

  43. LOL. @BaniLew got 4 shiny new ‘confirmed’ suite upgrades as a newly minted HGP Diamond and, sadly, he was unable to ‘confirm’ a single one of the 4 ‘confirmed’ suite upgrades. Imagine that! Does it not give a new meaning to ‘confirmed’ as an adjective? 😉

  44. Seriously if you people were decent human beings you would share them.
    Nothing gives me more pleasure than picking out random people in the airport and inviting them into j or f lounges usually men i find attractive but also women.
    I dont sit with them i let them be.
    Its great fun, try it some time!

  45. That’s the problem if you live in the USA and can get 5 credit cards which come with upgrades. Some people who live in other countries have to work really hard to obtain them. So sorry stop complaining

  46. Upgrades –
    Please let me have them I am planning a trip to ZRH hopefully if I get them and I can review it too.

  47. Hi, I will be left with 4 unused SWU. Id like to give them away. Shoot me an email at aa.exp.guy@gmail.com, telling me your reason requesting the SWU and Id be happy to give em away. Remember, your flight has to be on a AA flight by 28th Feb or before.Thanks.

  48. I called 25 hours ahead this morning for AA125 dfw hkg and was able to secure 2 VIP upgrades for a friend and his wife. I just gave it a shot that seats might open up. Took about 5 minutes to complete the transaction.. Patience …

  49. Last year TPG did a cool thing in the comments section of an article where everyone who needed them asked and everyone who had them gave, a raffle is a good idea or giving them to a cause you support. Definitely worth doing before it gets so close that it’s not worth it.

    I sponsored one stranger for an RPU through that, which was fun, and then another guy unfortuantely didn’t get to use his as the 1st cabin was full on his flight. I suppose until the board goes up, you don’t really know… so it expired. Another I tried to use for my sister in law on a connecting itinerary and it gave it to her for the 1 hour flight, but not the 3 hour one, and I suppose with all that in mind, they do tend to sit there and expire.

    The great thing about AA and UA is that you can sponsor anyone though, whereas with DL (where you can choose other benefits instead to be f) you have to be in the party. My wife had 4 DL upgrades go to waste three weeks ago because it tends to be me travelling alone or all of us with the baby, and we had found infant in arms upgrades were messy and they never ended up getting used, it was simpler to just book the class of travel we wanted.

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