Home Airline Loyalty Alaska Mileage Plan How American Airlines & Alaska Airlines Reciprocal Upgrades Will Work

How American Airlines & Alaska Airlines Reciprocal Upgrades Will Work


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In November last year, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines announced that they would be taking their relationship to the next level by offering each other’s elite flyers reciprocal upgrades. This goes considerably beyond the benefits that are being afforded to flyers as a result of Alaska Airlines joining the oneworld alliance and now we finally have details of how these upgrades will work.

Alaska Airlines Flyers Upgrading On American Airlines

For travel from 5 April 2021 onwards, these are the upgrade rules:

Extra Legroom Seating

  • Alaska Airlines MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K elites will be able to select Main Cabin Extra seats at the time of booking.
  • Alaska Airlines MVP elites will be able to select Main Cabin Extra seats in the 24 hours leading up to the scheduled departure time.

American Airlines A321S First Class
American Airlines A321S First Class

First Class

  • Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K elites will be eligible for complimentary upgrades to First Class on American Airlines on routes within the United States and on routes from the United States to Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, Bermuda, and Central America.
  • The ‘space available upgrades’ available to MVP Gold 75K elites will only be offered on the day of travel (there is no upgrade window in the days leading up to travel). If upgrades are available they will be offered to MVP Gold 75K elites when they check in.
  • One companion traveling on the same booking as an MVP Gold 75K elite will also be eligible for a complimentary upgrade to First Class.
  • Bookings across all American Airlines fare classes are upgradeable.

Note: Although this has yet to be confirmed, it is understood that for the time being, MVP Gold 75K elites will sit between AAdvantage Platinum Pro elites and AAdvantage Platinum Elites on the upgrade waitlists.

Coming Later In 2021

This is just the first part of the reciprocal upgrade rollout and Alaska Airlines has confirmed the following can be expected “later this year”:

  • Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K elites will be automatically added to the American Airlines upgrade waitlists and will be eligible to upgrade to First Class starting from 72 hours before their scheduled departure time.
  • All Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members who qualify for MVP Gold 75K status this year (for status through 2022) will be given an international upgrade certificate (presumably similar to an American Airlines Systemwide Upgrade).

Further changes may also be on their way but the airlines have not given any further details.

American Airlines Flyers Upgrading On Alaska Airlines

For travel from 5 April 2021 onwards, these are the upgrade rules:

Extra Legroom Seating

  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum elites will be able to select Premium Class seats at the time of booking.
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro and Platinum elite will be able to select Premium Class seats at the time of booking when booking Y, B, H, K, M, L, V, S, or N fare classes. All other fare classes only entitle Platinum Pro and Platinum elites to select Premium Class seats in the 72 hours leading up to the scheduled departure time.
  • AAdvantage Gold members will be able to select Premium Class seats at the time of booking when booking Y, B, or H fare classes. All other fare classes only entitle Gold elites to select Premium Class seats in the 48 hours leading up to the scheduled departure time.

Alaska Airlines First Class Seating
Alaska Airlines First Class – Image courtesy of Alaska Airlines

First Class

  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum elites will be eligible for upgrades to First Class on Alaska Airlines with upgrades being confirmable in the 120 hours leading up to their departure time.
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum elites will sit between MVP Gold 75k and MVP Gold elites on Alaska’s upgrade waitlists. Priority will be decided first on the fare class booked and then by the time and date an upgrade request was made.
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum elites booking Alaska’s “saver” fares (Basic Economy) will not be eligible to upgrade to First Class.
  • Traveling companions will not be eligible for complimentary upgrades even if traveling on the same booking.

Coming Later In 2021

As part of future improvements to the rules set out above, one companion traveling on the same booking as an AAdvantage Executive Platinum elite will be eligible for a complimentary upgrade to First Class.

Bottom Line

American Airlines and Alaska Airline have now shared details of how reciprocal upgrades will work for Mileage Plan and AAdvantage elites…at least for now. More changes can be expected as the year progresses and I suspect that Alaska’s introduction of its new 100K status tier will play a big role in how upgrades are handled going forward.

What do you think of the reciprocal upgrades at this point? Is there anything you’d like to see added to the rules or changed?

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7 COMMENTS

  1. I believe from what I read that AA elites booking on Alaska will not “be able to select” premium seats, your standard seat selection will be upgraded to Premium after booking based on the seat selection you made, window/aisle (by the system or an agent, I don’t know, and once assigned can you move yourself to a different open Premium seat online?). Also I am not totally clear, but it sounds that unlike with American where you can upgrade your fellow passengers into MCE as well, with Alaska only the member with the status will be put in premium as best I can tell?

    • That’s more information than Alaska passed on to me (and made public) but it may well be true – I guess we’ll start to find out very soon.

  2. What about baggage? I am AA Gold for life. I get 1 free checked bag for everyone on my reservation. But does that perk apply when I fly Alaska ?

    • To the best of my knowledge, the answer to that question is no. This may change as the partnership develops but at this stage, I don’t believe AA Gold elites get a free bag allowance on Alaska Airlines

  3. It says from travel after April 5 onwards, AAdvantage Executive Platinum elites will be able to select Premium Class seats at the time of booking.

    But does that mean we won’t be able to do this until after April 5? I just tried to select a seat but it wouldn’t let me for free. I used a sample ticket in May so I assume you mean that we can’t do this until after April 5?

    Also, is there any place to formally link your AA AAdvantage # with your Alaska #?

  4. I was going to mention that I found the section on Alaska where you can link an AAdvantage #. I didn’t see anything on American’s site to do the same thing. If you don’t “link” the accounts do they have the possibility to know it’s the same person by name, DOB, etc?

    I didn’t see any of the blogs talk about this point.

    • I wouldn’t expect there to be any need to link accounts.

      When, for example, an AAdvantage member books a flight on another oneworld airline, they can insert their AAdvantage number into their booking and the other airline then knows what benefits that flyer is entitled to. I’d expect things to work in a similar way with Alaska Airlines.

      Things may be complicated a bit by the fact that the airlines are now offering reciprocal complimentary upgrades (which isn’t something offered by other OW airlines) but I’d expect the airlines to have this already coded into their systems.

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