Alaska and American improve reciprocal elite upgrade perks

Nov 9, 2021

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Earlier this year, Alaska Airlines made headlines for joining the Oneworld frequent flyer alliance.

Along with the move, the Seattle-based carrier also unveiled a strategic tie-up with American Airlines, offering additional loyalty perks to their best customers, and a codeshare agreement that extended beyond the Oneworld membership. Some of the added benefits include reciprocal upgrades, extra-legroom preferred seating and more.

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Now, the two airlines are working to remove much of the fine print that was included when the tie-up launched.

Namely, Alaska’s MVP Gold 75K members will now automatically be added to the upgrade waitlist starting at 72 hours before departure for American Airlines flights, as confirmed to TPG by a carrier spokesperson.

When the reciprocal upgrade benefits were introduced, those top-tier elites would only enjoy complimentary upgrades starting on the day of departure, at or after check-in.

This represents a big upgrade (no pun intended) for elites who previously needed to wait until the last minute to see if their upgrade cleared.

As a reminder, MVP Gold 75K members are eligible for complimentary upgrades when flying American Airlines within the U.S. (including Hawaii) and between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda and Central America.

These upgrades are valid from economy and premium economy to the next class of service. MVP Gold 75K elites can also upgrade one companion booked on the same reservation.

Though the waitlist timing is changing, upgrade priority isn’t — MVP Gold 75Ks are prioritized after AAdvantage Platinum Pro elites on the waitlist. It’ll be interesting to see where MVP Gold 100K members land on the American Airlines upgrade list when that new tier is formally launched next year — I’d expect MVP Gold 100Ks to sit below American’s top-tier Executive Platinum members, but above the Platinum Pro level.

Along with the complimentary upgrade policy change, Alaska and American are also rolling out a new Global Upgrade Certificate valid for confirmed upgrades on long-haul American flights. Each MVP Gold 75K member that qualifies for status for 2022 will receive one of these certificates — though the timing is still to be determined. (MVP Gold 100Ks will receive two of these certificates.)

Until now, only American’s Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro elites could use a systemwide upgrade to confirm a higher cabin when flying on AA’s long-haul international flights.

For more about Alaska’s tie-up with American, read our detailed guide here.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

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