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How I Used a Status Match to Upgrade my Friends to Hawaii

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Alaska offers a surprising number of nonstop options to Hawaii. Today, TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig details how he upgraded his girlfriend’s parents on Alaska’s nonstop flight from San Diego to Kauai.

I’ve flown Alaska Airlines once in my entire life. I’m a Star Alliance man (based in New York), but I needed to get from San Diego to Seattle to check out United’s Dreamliner for a publication of Aol, my former employer, and didn’t have enough time to stop in Los Angeles or San Francisco. Alaska Airlines had the best fare and seemed to be the most appealing option overall, so that’s what I booked.

The flight was unmemorable, which is probably the best thing I can say about coach on any domestic carrier. But it got me to sign up for a Mileage Plan account, and now, because of my United 1K status, I’m a member of Alaska’s top-tier MVP Gold 75K level — which, among other benefits, gets me four one-way upgrades that I can apply to a friend’s flight.

Alaska Airlines elite benefits include four upgrades you can share with friends.
Alaska Airlines’ elite upgrade benefits include four Guest Upgrades that you can share with friends.

Now, Alaska miles can be incredibly valuable for booking partner flights, but I didn’t earn enough from my one short flight to make even a small dent in that 90,000-mile Emirates first-class redemption. Still, I’m benefiting tremendously (or my girlfriend’s parents are, in this case) from my initial discovery, combined with the fact that Alaska offers a very straightforward opportunity to match the status on your current airline’s frequent-flyer program.

Four free upgrades — yes, please!
Four free upgrades — yes, please!

So I photographed the front and back of my United 1K card and drivers license, attached a screenshot of my online United account and sent them off (along with my Mileage Plan number) to Two days later I was a bona fide MVP Gold 75K, and had four one-way Guest Upgrades in my account.

Less than $700 for two first-class seats to Hawaii!

The upgrade was an afterthought — they were taking the flight either way, purchased at a significant discount thanks to the $99 Companion Ticket I earned from signing up for the Alaska Airlines Visa card. But I was thrilled to be able to share my love of traveling in business and first class at regular economy prices.
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