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American, Alaska Airlines detail reciprocal elite benefits, upgrades

March 31, 2021
5 min read
Alaska Airlines, American and JetBlue at LAX
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After years of anticipation, Alaska Airlines finally joined the Oneworld alliance. This means that frequent flyers can now earn miles across all Oneworld airlines and get more elite benefits, including access to Oneworld lounges.

But that's not all.

In addition to the standard Oneworld benefits, Alaska and American Airlines have unveiled an even deeper integration of their elite status perks, as well as a codeshare agreement. While we knew this was coming, there were many unknowns, specifically regarding how reciprocal upgrades would work.

Well, we now know most of the answers, and Alaska and American elites have a lot to look forward to.

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Reciprocal upgrade benefits

In November, Vasu Raja, American's Chief Revenue Officer, teased that reciprocal upgrades may be on their way.

Well, it's actually happening.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and American Airlines AAdvantage elites will soon be eligible for first-class upgrades on each other's airlines. Upgrade benefits are supposed to go live April 5, though first-hand experiences from the TPG team suggest that they may already be available.

In a call with TPG, Rick Elieson, the president of AAdvantage, said, "we've been trying really hard to make this more than a codeshare. We're trying to make something special for customers to make it easier to do business with both airlines.”

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Alaska Mileage Plan elite upgrades on American flights

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

The upgrades are valid from economy and premium economy to the next class of services. Elites can also upgrade one companion booked in the same reservations.

Complimentary upgrades currently clear on the day of departure, at or after check-in. However, starting later in 2021, upgrades for MVP Gold 75K members will begin to clear up to 72 hours before departure. They'll be prioritized after AAdvantage Platinum Pro elites on the upgrade waitlist.

Later this year, MVP Gold 75K members that qualify for status for 2022 will get a new Global Upgrade Certificate valid for confirmed upgrades on long-haul American flights. Currently, American Executive Platinum and Platinum Pros need to use a systemwide upgrade to confirm a higher cabin when flying on AA's long-haul international flights.

Related: Complete guide to Alaska Airlines elite status

American AAdvantage elite upgrades on Alaska flights

Similarly, top-tier American AAdvantage Executive Platinum members are eligible for first-class upgrades when flying Alaska Airlines.

Upgrades are available on all tickets, except for Saver (X) fares. They're currently only available for the status member but will eventually also be available to one companion in the same reservation.

The upgrades can be confirmed as early as 120 hours before departure — even before Alaska MVP Gold and MVP members. Executive Platinum members will be prioritized after MVP Gold 75K members, first by fare class and then by the request date and time.

Related: Complete guide to American AAdvantage elite status

Extra-legroom seating benefits

While first-class upgrades are reserved for top-tier elites, all elite status levels are eligible for extra-legroom seating on both airlines. Alaska elites will get Main Cabin Extra seating privileges on American Airlines, while American elites will get Premium Class privileges on Alaska.

Extra-legroom seating for Alaska elites on American flights

Alaska MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members can select Main Cabin Extra seats on American for free during booking. Meanwhile, similar to low-level American Gold elites, MVP members can select Main Cabin Extra seats within 24 hours of travel. There are no fare class restrictions, meaning basic economy flights are eligible for this benefit.

Extra-legroom seating for American elites on Alaska flights

Meanwhile, here's how the Premium Class upgrade rules break down for American elites flying Alaska. Saver (X) fares are never eligible for complimentary Premium Class upgrades.

  • Executive Platinum members can select Premium Class seats at the time of purchase on all fares
  • Platinum Pro and Platinum members can select Premium Class seats at the time of purchase if booked in the Y, B, H, K, M, L, V, S or N fare classes; all other fares can select them within 72 hours of travel
  • Gold members can select Premium Class seats at the time of purchase if booked in the Y, B, or H fare classes; all other fares can select them within 48 hours of travel

Related: How to snag an exit-row seat when flying U.S. carriers

Elite member airport benefits

Now that Alaska is a part of Oneworld, elites will enjoy a host of airport benefits when flying on the other carrier. This includes priority check-in, boarding, security and baggage handling. In addition, elites have an expanded baggage allowance and the ability to make same-day flight changes.

For more, see this post on everything you need to know about Alaska’s partnership with Oneworld.

Bottom line

Frequent Alaska and American Airlines flyers can now enjoy a host of valuable benefits across the two airlines. Perhaps the most exciting is reciprocal upgrades. These benefits are in addition to the standard Oneworld benefits, such as lounge access.

Additional reporting by Zach Griff.

Featured image by Alberto Riva
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.