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

How American Airlines & Alaska Airlines Reciprocal Upgrades Work


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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. These upgrades have now been available to AAdvantage and Mileage Plan members for a couple of months so this is a roundup of what is currently being offered, what we’re told will be on the way, and how the upgrades work.

Alaska Airlines Flyers Upgrading On American Airlines

Extra Legroom Seating

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

American Airlines A321S First Class
American Airlines A321S First Class

First Class

  • Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K elites are 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 are only offered on the day of travel via the airport upgrade list (there is no upgrade window in the days leading up to travel). MVP Gold 75K elites are added to the airport upgrade list when they check in.
  • Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K elites come after AAdvantage Platinum Pro and ahead of AAdvantage Platinum members in the priority order for complimentary upgrades. Within their priority level, elites are ordered by the fare class they have booked and then by the time they booked their fare.
  • One companion traveling on the same booking as an MVP Gold 75K elite is also eligible for a complimentary upgrade to First Class.
  • Bookings in Basic Economy are not upgradeable for MVP Gold 75k elites.

Coming Later In 2021

This is just the first part of the reciprocal upgrade rollout and Alaska Airlines has confirmed that more 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

Extra Legroom Seating

  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum elites are able to select Premium Class seats at the time of booking.
  • AAdvantage Platinum Pro and Platinum elites are 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 their scheduled departure time.
  • AAdvantage Gold members can 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 are 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 sit between MVP Gold 75k and MVP Gold elites when it comes to priority on Alaska’s upgrade waitlists. Priority is decided first on the fare class booked and then by the time and date their upgrade request was made.
  • AAdvantage Executive Platinum elites booking Alaska’s “saver” fares (Basic Economy) are not eligible to upgrade to First Class.
  • Traveling companions are not currently 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 but no indication has been given to say when this improvement will be implemented.

Bottom Line

American Airlines and Alaska Airlines have now been offering elite flyers reciprocal upgrades for approximately two months so we have had a reasonable amount of time to see the upgrades working in the real world. So far, so good if most reports are to be believed.

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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8 COMMENTS

  1. What’s the trick for this? I’m an Executive Platinum with American Airlines. Every time I try to book a ticket on Alaska Airlines, it doesn’t give me the option to select a seat in the One World section. It’s not a matter of no seats available as I’m selecting flights in the future where I can see almost every seat available except these One World seats.

    I have tried booking with both my Alaska # (where I have no status) as well as my AAdvantage number which is already on my account. What’s the trick to make this work? I had to call in the last time and the agent manually moved me into the One World section.

    • My understanding is that this should work automatically. I gave up my EXP status a few years ago (in favor of BA Gold) so I can’t try to reproduce the issue you’re having, but based on how this kind of thing works on most other airlines, the Alaska website should be recognizing your status from your AA FF# and affording you the benefits of that status. There should be no trick to this. Did you ask the agent that helped you if he/she knew what was going on and if they could see your status in their systems?

      Also, and just out of interest, how long ago did you have this issue? (just wondering if it was teething problems in early April or if this is still an ongoing issue for you)

  2. Hi Ziggy,

    The agent said it’s not automatic and that I would need to call in AFTER making the booking each time. (What a hassle). I just tried it now. I used a sample San Diego to Seattle route on Alaska and I already have my AAdvantage # in the system with Alaska and it doesn’t work.

    It only allows me to upgrade charging me a fee same as if I had no status at all. So I don’t think this is working yet. The agent said it’s NOT automatic and I have to call in each time. She was able to move seats free but had to do it manually.

    • Hi

      That sounds remarkably useless. Perhaps this will work better once Alsaka’s systems have been updated to allow companions to be upgraded?

      • I totally agree Ziggy. I’m not sure if this is just some bug with my account? I’d love to hear from other Executive Platinums that actually were able to select a Premium seat free at the time of booking automatically online.

  3. As a gold for life with AA, I would like to see the free bag benefit be reciprocal as well

  4. @earllee I’m am AA EXP and same issue today. Trying to book a flight and choose a premium seat (not first class) and I too was to be charged for that seat even though my AA number is on my account. I don’t think this works yet.

Comments are closed.

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