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As the integration of Alaska and Virgin America moves along, we are seeing more positive developments for Alaska fliers. The Virgin America brand officially goes away later this month when all flights will be marketed as Alaska operated, even though the two airlines came under one operating certificate in January.

Starting April 25, Alaska elites will be eligible for complimentary upgrades to first class seats on Virgin America Airbus aircraft. Additionally, Alaska elites will also be able to select Virgin’s Main Cabin Select seats at booking because they will now be listed as Alaska’s “Premium Class” seats. Before, Alaska elites were only eligible for upgrades to preferred economy seats — Main Cabin Select are Virgin’s extra legroom economy seats that come with amenities like free snacks and alcoholic drinks.

Essentially, Alaska is standardizing its MileagePlan elite benefits across all its aircraft.

Once Virgin flights “become” Alaska flights, upgrade rules change for the better when you’re on an Alaska Airbus aircraft (what was Virgin’s fleet). Before Alaska elites could only upgrade on Alaska’s Boeing aircraft. Now Travel Codex reports that those with Alaska status will be able to select Main Cabin Select seats in advance according to these rules:

  • MVP Gold 75K: All fares eligible for an immediate upgrade to Premium Class.
  • MVP Gold: Y, Z, S, B, M, H, Q, L, V N, and K fares are eligible for an immediate upgrade to Premium Class. Other fares may clear within 72 hours of departure.
  • MVP: Y, Z, S, and B fares are eligible for an immediate upgrade to Premium Class. Other fares may clear within 48 hours of departure.

Before the rule change, fliers could only upgrade to Virgin’s first class via paid upgrade, and Virgin elites received discounts on those paid upgrades. Now, elite flyers can score complimentary upgrades to Alaska first class on old Virgin Airbus aircraft. These aircraft have eight spacious first-class seats, although Alaska plans on retrofitting Virgin Airbus aircraft with Alaska’s redesigned higher density first-class cabins.

Virgin America
Virgin America’s spacious first-class seat, note the legroom.

Upgrades are awarded based on fare class and elite status — so the higher status you have and the more premium ticket you’ve purchased, the better chance you have for an upgrade. Travel Codex also points out that MVP Gold and 75K elites can now use their Gold Guest upgrade certificates on the pre-merger Airbus planes.

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