While the biggest update today is that Alaska Airlines is joining the oneworld alliance, there is another exciting development with Alaska’s main partnership.
Mutual Elite Benefits for Alaska and the United States
Alaska Airlines and American Airlines have a close partnership that goes well beyond their mutual participation in oneworld, as the airlines have planned to work closely together. American Airlines is building a long haul presence in Seattle with flights to Bangalore, London and Shanghai. It is planned that Alaska will provide much of the feed for these flights.
In November 2020, we learned of the closer frequent flyer engagement that is planned between the two airlines, and we now have the details.
Alaska Mileage Plan Elite upgrades to American
For flights departing April 5, 2021, Alaska Mileage Plan elite members are eligible for American Airlines upgrades, either to economy seats with extra legroom or to first class.
Alaska Mileage Plan elite members can select the additional seats in the American main cabin as follows:
- MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members can select additional seats in the main cabin at the time of booking
- MVP members can select additional seats for the main cabin within 24 hours prior to departure
- There are no restrictions on fare classes
Mileage plan elite members are eligible for additional main cabin upgrades
Additionally, Alaska Goldeage Plan MVP Gold 75K members can get world-class upgrades for American:
- These upgrades are valid in the United States (including Hawaii) and between the United States and Canada, Mexico, the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Central America
- Upgrades for available storage space are only valid on the day of departure, during or after check-in. If an upgrade is available, you will be given the option at check-in
- MVP Gold 75K members can have a companion who travels with the same reservation and is also updated
Mileage plan MVP Gold 75K members are entitled to first class upgrades
American AAdvantage Elite Upgrades to Alaska
For flights beginning April 5, 2021, American AAdvantage Elite members can receive upgrades in Alaska for either extra legroom seating or first class.
American AAdvantage Elite Members can select Alaska’s Premium Class seats by:
- Executive Platinum members can select Premium Class seats at the time of booking
- Platinum Pro and Platinum members can choose Premium Class seats. If you have booked in fare classes Y, B, H, K, M, L, V, S or N, you can select them at the time of booking. Otherwise, you can select them within 72 hours of the trip
- Gold members can choose Premium Class seats. If you booked in fare classes Y, B or H, you can select them at the time of booking. Otherwise, you can select them within 48 hours of starting your trip
AAdvantage Elite members are eligible for Premium Class upgrades
In addition, American AAdvantage Executive Platinum members are eligible for world-class upgrades in Alaska:
- Saver prices are not eligible for this
- Initially, this benefit only applies to the status member, but will be extended to a companion with the same reservation in the future
- Upgrades can be confirmed 120 hours before departure
- Executive Platinum members are prioritized after MVP Gold 75K members, first by tariff class and then by the date and time of the request
AAdvantage Elite members are eligible for world class upgrades
Other mutual elite benefits from oneworld
In addition to mutual upgrade options, Alaska Mileage Plan and American AAdvantage Elite members can enjoy mutual benefits through their oneworld alliance levels when flying on the other airline. These benefits include the following:
- Priority check-in
- Priority security
- Access to the lounge
- Priority boarding
- Additional baggage allowance
There are many elite mutual benefits in oneworld
Expect more mutual upgrades later in 2021
The current upgrade implementation is only the first step and we can expect more mutual upgrade opportunities in the future. For example, the Alaska Mileage Plan shares what to expect later, which gives us a good idea of how this will play out later in 2021:
- MVP Gold 75K members are automatically added to the upgrade waiting list for eligible American Airlines flights and can be deleted 72 hours prior to travel
- MVP Gold 75K members will be prioritized after AAdvantage Platinum Pro members on the upgrade waiting list
- MVP Gold 75K members who qualify for 2022 status will receive an upgrade certificate that is valid for travel on eligible American Airlines international routes
Alaska MVP Gold 75K members can upgrade American long-haul flights
My opinion on this mutual upgrade program
I’m really impressed with the first implementation of these mutual upgrades:
- At first we were told we shouldn’t expect mutual upgrades until later in 2021. So it’s fantastic to see this rolled out earlier than expected
- I would say the reciprocal seating with extra legroom is economical and generous and should come in handy for flyers from both airlines
- There are definitely some inequalities when it comes to each other’s top notch upgrades, but that’s to be expected when you have two programs that work in fundamentally different ways
- I would say Executive Platinum members are the winners here first, as they receive world-class upgrades ahead of time when flying in Alaska, which is prioritized right behind MVP Gold 75K members
- That being said, the elite members of the Alaska Mileage Plan also have some perks as MVP Gold 75K members can upgrade a companion for free, while Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro members would have to use stickers to upgrade a companion
- I would say that the elite members of the Alaska Mileage Plan have the greatest advantage here, as they have access to upgrades on a much larger network and also get system-wide upgrades for American
- It will be easier for Alaska and Americans to balance reciprocity when Alaska introduces its new 100K elite tier
- I anticipate that over time we’ll see some other basic similarities between programs – for example, I think Americans will eventually get rid of their “sticker” system for elite upgrades because it’s very reciprocal for other elite levels difficult, and Americans are also an outlier through such a system
Alaska Airlines and American Airlines today announced their new mutual upgrade program, coinciding with Alaska’s entry into oneworld. Selected elite members are entitled to both extra legroom seating and premium upgrades. This is on top of the standard oneworld elite benefits travelers can expect.
While this is far from perfect, I would say it is a fantastic first step towards mutual recognition among the elite.
What do you think of the new mutual upgrade opportunities between Alaska and American?