Travel

American & Alaska Reciprocal Elite Upgrades Guide


In early 2021, Alaska Airlines joined the oneworld alliance, which was a major development for the Seattle-based airline. To coincide with that, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines also rolled out reciprocal upgrades for elite members, as part of a strategic partnership between the two airlines.

In this post I wanted to take a look at the current state of reciprocal upgrades between the airlines. Who is eligible for first class upgrades, who is eligible for extra legroom economy upgrades, and how does it all work?

Alaska Mileage Plan elite upgrades on American

All Alaska Mileage Plan elite members are eligible for upgrades to extra legroom seating when flying with American, while higher tier Alaska Mileage Plan elite members are eligible for first class upgrades (find all the terms here).

American Main Cabin Extra upgrades

All Alaska Mileage Plan elite members are eligible for upgrades to American’s extra legroom economy seating, known as Main Cabin Extra. When you can select these seats depends on your status:

  • MVP Gold 100K, MVP Gold 75K, and MVP Gold members can select Main Cabin Extra seats at the time of booking
  • MVP members can select Main Cabin Extra seats within 24 hours of travel

These premium seats can be selected directly on aa.com, either during the booking process, or after booking. As long as your eligible Alaska Mileage Plan is attached to the reservation, you should automatically see the option to select these seats. Note that Alaska Mileage Plan elite members aren’t eligible for Main Cabin Extra seating when booking basic economy fares. Furthermore, this benefit isn’t available to companions of Mileage Plan elite members.

Mileage Plan elite members are eligible for Main Cabin Extra upgrades

American first class upgrades

Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 100K and MVP Gold 75K members are eligible for upgrades to American’s first class. As you’d expect, there are some restrictions associated with this:

  • This is only available in markets eligible for complimentary upgrades, including travel within the United States (including Hawaii), and travel between the United States and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Central America
  • Upgrades could clear starting 72 hours before departure, and can clear any time up until departure; MVP Gold 100K and MVP Gold 75K members are prioritized behind American AAdvantage Platinum Pro members
  • One companion traveling on the same reservation as the Alaska Mileage Plan elite members is also eligible for a complimentary upgrade
  • Upgrades aren’t available on basic economy fares
  • Flights can be marketed by Alaska or American, meaning an Alaska codeshare on American is eligible for first class upgrades

Note that Alaska MVP Gold 100K and MVP Gold 75K members now also receive confirmed upgrade instruments on American, which are valid for long haul flights. These work similarly to American’s systemwide upgrades, and are separate from the complimentary upgrade program being offered.

Select Mileage Plan elite members are eligible for first class upgrades

American AAdvantage elite upgrades on Alaska

All American AAdvantage elite members are eligible for upgrades to extra legroom seating when flying with Alaska, while higher tier American AAdvantage elite members are eligible for first class upgrades (find all the terms here).

Alaska Premium Class upgrades

All American AAdvantage elite members are eligible for upgrades to Alaska’s extra legroom economy seating, known as Premium Class. When you can select these seats depends on your status and the type of fare you book:

  • Concierge Key and Executive Platinum members can select Premium Class seats at the time of booking
  • Platinum Pro and Platinum members can select Premium Class seats — if booked in the Y, B, H, K, M, L, V, S or N fare classes, you can select them at the time of booking, while otherwise you can select them within 72 hours of travel
  • Gold members can select Premium Class seats — if booked in the Y, B, or H fare classes, you can select them at the time of booking, while otherwise you can select them within 48 hours of travel

These premium seats can be selected directly on alaskaair.com, shortly after ticketing a reservation. Note that American AAdvantage elite members aren’t eligible for Premium Class seating when booking Saver fares (in the “X” fare class). Furthermore, this benefit isn’t available to companions of AAdvantage elite members.

AAdvantage elite members are eligible for Premium Class upgrades

Alaska first class upgrades

American AAdvantage Concierge Key, Executive Platinum, and Platinum Pro members, are eligible for upgrades to Alaska’s first class. As you’d expect, there are some restrictions associated with this:

  • Upgrades can be confirmed as early as 120 hours before departure, all the way up to departure
  • AAdvantage elite members are prioritized after MVP Gold 75K members, first by fare class and then by the request date and time

Note that American AAdvantage elite members aren’t eligible for first class upgrades when booking Saver fares (in the “X” fare class). Furthermore, first class upgrades aren’t yet available to companions of AAdvantage elite members.

Select AAdvantage elite members are eligible for first class upgrades

Expect reciprocal upgrades to evolve

It’s great to see the extent to which American Airlines and Alaska Airlines have rolled out upgrades. Unless the two airlines have a change of plans, I suspect that they’ll eventually roll out this upgrade program even further:

  • I expect that eventually all elite tiers will be eligible for reciprocal first class upgrades
  • Since Alaska and American have aligned elite tiers, I expect that upgrades will be prioritized more closely between tiers at the two airlines
  • I expect we’ll also eventually see consistency when it comes to companion upgrades
I expect reciprocal upgrades will evolve even more

Other reciprocal elite perks through oneworld

In addition to reciprocal upgrade opportunities, Alaska Mileage Plan and American AAdvantage elite members can enjoy reciprocal perks through their oneworld alliance tiers when flying on the other carrier. These benefits include the following:

  • Priority check-in
  • Priority security
  • Lounge access
  • Priority boarding
  • Additional baggage allowance
There are plenty of reciprocal elite perks through oneworld

Bottom line

Alaska Airlines and American Airlines offer reciprocal upgrades, which is a fantastic benefit. All elite members are eligible for extra legroom economy seating on the other airline, while higher tier elite members are eligible for first class upgrades. This is in addition to standard reciprocal oneworld perks, including with premium check-in, priority boarding, and more.

In particular, I’d say American AAdvantage members are in a pretty good spot for domestic flying, as they get reciprocal elite perks on both Alaska and JetBlue.

Have any OMAAT readers had experiences with reciprocal upgrades between the two airlines? What was your experience like?

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