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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.

American Express® Gold Card

With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 35,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $2,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 3 months.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. restaurants. Earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with The Gold Card at Grubhub, Seamless, The Cheesecake Factory, Shake Shack, and Ruth's Chris Steak House. This is an annual savings of up to $120. Enrollment required.
  • $100 Airline Fee Credit: up to $100 in statement credits per calendar year for incidental fees at one selected qualifying airline.
  • Choose to carry a balance with interest on eligible charges of $100 or more.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
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Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
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Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

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