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Alaska Airlines elites finally receiving American upgrade certificates

June 06, 2022
4 min read
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Separate from their Oneworld alliance partnership, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines offer an even deeper integration of their elite status perks. These benefits include reciprocal upgrades, extra-legroom preferred seating and more.

In addition, those who qualify for Alaska MVP Gold 75K or MVP Gold 100K status are supposed to receive confirmed upgrade certificates for international American Airlines flights. This benefit was first announced last year but hasn't been available — until now.

Alaska Airlines has finally begun emailing eligible elite members their upgrade certificates. The subject line reads, "Exclusive upgrade codes: Limited-time international upgrades." Although not officially called systemwide upgrades, they work basically the same way.

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(Screenshot from Alaska Airlines)

Who's eligible for these certificates

American Airlines upgrade certificates are being awarded to Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K and 100K members who earned status in 2021 for the 2022 program year. The terms and conditions explicitly state that those who earned their status via a promotion, status match or status gift are not eligible.

Eligible MVP Gold 75K members receive one one-way upgrade, while 100K members receive two one-way upgrades. Unfortunately, there's no way to earn additional upgrade certificates.

Related: Alaska’s new MVP Gold 100K status tier begins to reflect on accounts

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

How to redeem these certificates

These certificates work very similarly to American's systemwide upgrades. Each certificate is for a one-way ticket, with a maximum of three segments.

The certificates can be used to upgrade from most economy or premium economy fares to business class and from most business-class fares to first class. All routes are eligible, including premium transcontinental and long-haul international flights. The only major restriction is that upgrades can't be applied to basic economy or award tickets.

Upgrades issued this year must be requested and confirmed by Dec. 31, though you don't have to complete your travel before the expiration date.

To redeem your upgrade certificates, follow these steps:

  1. Book a flight marketed and operated by American Airlines or American Eagle (codeshare flights are not eligible) and include your Alaska Mileage Plan number.
  2. Call American Airlines at 1-888-824-1816 and provide your unique access code (sent in the email) and Mileage Plan number.
  3. Your upgrade will be confirmed immediately if space is available; otherwise, you will be placed on the waitlist.

In order for your upgrade to be confirmed immediately, your flight must have “A” fare (for business to first on three-cabin airplanes) or “C” fare (economy to business or economy to first on domestic flights) upgrade availability. The best way to search for A and C upgrade availability and see how many seats are left in each is with ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures). If you're waitlisted, your upgrade can clear at any time all the way until departure.

Related: How and why I went for top-tier status with Alaska Airlines

(Screenshot from expertflyer.com)

As long as a single segment of your trip is upgraded, your certificate will be deemed used. So, if you have an international connecting itinerary, you'll want to make sure your certificate is being applied to the long-haul flight and not just the short domestic segment.

Although upgrade certificates can't be sold, members may use their upgrades on other passengers. Also, note that although there's technically no fee for using upgrade certificates, you may incur additional taxes or security fees as a result of upgrading to a higher-class cabin, particularly for flights departing the United Kingdom.

Related: ExpertFlyer just became even more valuable to American Airlines’ flyers

Bottom line

Although six months late, American Airlines upgrade certificates for Alaska elite members are finally here. The certificates work much like systemwide upgrades so there are few restrictions to using them. However, it can sometimes be difficult to find confirmable upgrade space in advance. Assuming your upgrade clears, you can easily get hundreds of dollars in value from these certificates, particularly when they're used for long-haul flights.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases