Alaska, American Airlines streamline the upgrade process for top-tier elites

May 25, 2021

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Getting upgraded on an American Airlines flight as an elite Alaska Airlines flyer is about to get much easier.

Beginning on Thursday, Alaska’s top-tier MVP Gold 75k members will automatically be added to the upgrade waitlist for American Airlines flights, as confirmed by a carrier spokesperson to TPG.

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When Alaska officially joined the Oneworld alliance on March 31, the Seattle-based carrier also unveiled expanded reciprocal elite benefits with American Airlines. This included free extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra seating on AA flights, as well as space-available complimentary upgrades for top-tier elites that officially began on April 5.

Although MVP Gold 75K members have been eligible for free upgrades for nearly two months, the process of actually getting one hasn’t been seamless. You’d only be eligible for a first-class bump once the check-in window opened, and you’d need to manually opt in to accept a free upgrade.

Beginning on Thursday, however, Alaska’s top frequent flyers will be automatically added to the upgrade waitlist for eligible American Airlines flights. For now, they’ll only be eligible to clear as soon as the day of travel, but moving the eligibility window to 72 hours is a future benefit coming later this summer, a spokesperson confirmed. MVP Gold 75Ks will be prioritized after American’s Platinum Pro elites on the upgrade waitlist.

AA’s domestic first class (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Note that free upgrades on American only apply to domestic flights within the U.S., including Hawaii, as well as select short-haul routes between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America. Upgrades are valid from coach or premium economy to the next class of service.

Related: American, Alaska Airlines detail reciprocal elite benefits, upgrades

This MVP Gold 75K free upgrade benefit can be used by the elite member and up to one companion booked on the same reservation.

This isn’t the only improvement coming this year for Alaska elites traveling this American. This fall, Alaska plans to detail a new benefit for MVP Gold 75K members — they’ll receive a confirmed upgrade certificate valid for travel on eligible AA long-haul international routes. (For a limited time before the new benefit kicks in, top-tier Alaska elites can enjoy two one-way space-available upgrades on select long-haul AA routes.)

American Airlines elites flying with Alaska have already enjoyed a more seamless space-available upgrade benefit with Alaska since early April. AA’s top-tier Executive Platinum members qualify for free upgrades with Alaska beginning as early as 120 hours before departure, pending availability. They are prioritized after MVP Gold 75K members in fare class order, and then by request date and time.

Featured photo by Alberto Riva/The Points Guy

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