American Offers Long Haul Upgrades To Alaska Elites, But In An Odd Way

Filed Under: Alaska, American

Alaska Airlines joined the oneworld alliance recently, and to coincide with that, Alaska Mileage Plan and American AAdvantage rolled out limited reciprocal upgrades for elite members. Well, this has now been taken to the next level, with a temporary perk for top tier Alaska Airlines flyers.

Alaska MVP Gold 75K members get international upgrades

Alaska Airlines has just sent an email to MVP Gold 75K members offering them a limited time international upgrade opportunity, in order to celebrate the new partnership.

With this, Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K members receive two one-way space available upgrades to business class on select American Airlines international routes. Rather than offering systemwide upgrades, the airline is specifically offering upgrades for nonstop travel between any of the following city pairs:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) and London (LHR)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) and Sydney (SYD)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) and Tokyo (HND)
  • Seattle (SEA) and Bangalore (BLR)
  • Seattle (SEA) and London (LHR)
  • Seattle (SEA) and Shanghai (PVG)

In order to take advantage of this, eligible Alaska Mileage Plan members need to book by September 30, 2021, and travel by December 31, 2021.

These upgrades can be confirmed if there’s confirmable upgrade space (in the “C” fare class), or otherwise can be waitlisted. Eligible members are given an upgrade code, and are then told to contact American Airlines to apply the upgrade.

Alaska elites are eligible for upgrades on select American routes

How strange…

The plan is that in the coming year Alaska Mileage Plan top tier elite members will receive some sort of systemwide upgrades that can be used on American Airlines. This is expected to be a permanent benefit, and the introduction of it will likely coincide with the introduction of a new MVP Gold 100K tier.

That being said, I find the execution of this temporary perk to be absolutely bizarre:

  • All of these destinations have significant travel restrictions, with Australia, China, India, and Japan legitimately being closed down to tourists, and I’d expect that to remain the case for all of 2021
  • London still has a quarantine requirement, though that might be lifted this summer, so I’d guess that’s the only route where this could potentially work

Meanwhile I’m sure American AAdvantage Executive Platinum members won’t be too happy about this:

  • Executive Platinum members still haven’t had their systemwide upgrades extended beyond the middle of the summer
  • Unless Executive Platinum members have requalified for status, they don’t have any international upgrades that can be used for travel this fall
  • In other words, Alaska top tier elites have a huge advantage for some international upgrades this year over American top tier elites

American hasn’t extended systemwide upgrades beyond July

Bottom line

Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K members are getting two complimentary upgrades on select international American routes as a special treat. What a fantastic time to start planning a holiday to Shanghai, Sydney, or Tokyo, eh?

I mean, I guess we shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth here, because this is just a perk being thrown in on top of whatever permanent benefit will be rolled out soon, but still, is this benefit well thought out? And this also seems like a slap in the face to American’s loyal flyers, as American has continued to refuse to extend systemwide upgrades beyond July.

What do you make of this international upgrade perk for Alaska elites?

  1. Not sure about LAX-LHR/SYD but LAX-HND and all the SEA routes likely have a lot of excess business class seats for the forseeable future, irrespective of the pandemic. Even with pre-pandemic fares to India/China, I have no idea how any airline was making money on those markets…probably has to be the corporate contracts.

  2. @ Ben — I though the same when I saw the email. This will make our trip to China for an anal swabbing much more comfortable.

  3. Travel to China is reopening next year in April 2022. And we’re looking at something along the lines of SEA-PVG and DFW-PVG 2X weekly. Upgrades are good if seats are otherwise going out empty. Tougher for non revs but they can still fly premium economy and main cabin extra.

  4. A very tactical means to try and engage AS’ elites in their core markets, where AA will have unsold premium cabin inventory through year end. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

  5. @D3kingg “Travel to China is reopening next year in April 2022”
    Do you have a source for that?

  6. Also fine print says any upgraded seats to/from LHR are subject to higher APD that you have to pay the difference (small for upgrade, but still additional charges too)

  7. Just got off the phone with AA to use the two international upgrades. Checked every route everyday between October 1st and December 31st. Not a single upgrade seat available!

  8. Just got off the phone with AA to use the two international upgrades. Checked every route everyday between October 1st and December 31st. Not a single upgrade seat available! Why even offer them!

  9. @ZC


    South China morning post.

    And a friend in China who told me people will be allowed to stop wearing masks next year in May.

  10. @ben there was a time you vetted availability based on your ability to book an offer. I rarely see that in your blog anymore.

  11. @ Angelo Prado — Unfortunately that doesn’t work. “C” isn’t a revenue booking class, so what you’re seeing on ITA Matrix doesn’t reflect reality. For example, virtually every flight out of LAX shows “C” space using that method, while in reality there’s not actually any upgrade space when you cross-reference with ExpertFlyer.

  12. @Ben so I just booked SEA-LHR roundtrip for Christmas (12/15 – 1/4) in economy for $884.

    I called American Airlines and they were able to upgrade me using the provided Alaska access code. They mentioned it’s like a “pretend account” and it functions as a systemwide upgrade.

    I would be interested to learn how to do this search with ExpertFlyer though.

    Interestingly enough, AA.con didn’t show systemwide upgrade availability when I booked this itinerary, but the agent was able to confirm the upgrade immediately regardless.

    It’s confusing to say the least…

  13. Hi all,

    I am a 75K member and I haven’t received any email about this.
    How did you end up getting the voucher/code? I may call in to support, but wanted to check here if anyone hasn’t received the email too.

  14. The code was emailed to us today. If you didn’t get one call the MVP line.

    That being said I don’t think many elites are going to use these due to the quarantine and travel restrictions

  15. Lucky, do you mind removing the contact number? I don’t think it was meant to be fully public as these are reserved for Alaska members who need to contact the agents who are trained specially for this. Longer wait times on this would really be a problem.

  16. This is a huge FU to AA elites. Letting elites of a tiny domestic carrier (read: the JetBlue of the west coast) have any type of priority over AA elites is asinine, whether actual or in-name-only, permanent or temporary. And yes, Alaska is TINY by comparison to AA’s global network.

  17. Sorry Lucky I might have been delusional and seeing things, it might have just been on FT and not here.

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