American & Alaska Reciprocal Elite Upgrades Guide

American & Alaska Reciprocal Elite Upgrades Guide

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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).

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).

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?

Conversations (20)
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  1. Kim Guest

    I am Alaska 100k and have booked an AA ticket using my AA miles so my AA number shows. I have no status with my AA number. Can I still get premium seats?

    1. dvnthkr1 New Member

      Now that you have used the miles for purchase, if you talk to customer service they should be able to change the FF number to your AS number. Hopefully you can get premium seats after that.

  2. JGB Guest

    A first world problem rant on baggage - so everyone’s aware - American and Alaska align on the number of checked baggage but not the max weight.

    Both allow 3 bags each for EXP & PPro.
    American allows 70lbs for each bag.
    Alaska only allows 50lbs for each bag.

    One other note, as an AA EXP flying Alaska with companions in the same booking (flew in June), they all received my allowance, 3...

    A first world problem rant on baggage - so everyone’s aware - American and Alaska align on the number of checked baggage but not the max weight.

    Both allow 3 bags each for EXP & PPro.
    American allows 70lbs for each bag.
    Alaska only allows 50lbs for each bag.

    One other note, as an AA EXP flying Alaska with companions in the same booking (flew in June), they all received my allowance, 3 bags each. Hope that hasn’t changed!

    Would be nice if Alaska just follows suit with 70lbs per bag for the sake of consistency

  3. Devan Guest

    As an AA EXP, I personally always prefer flying AS when possible. Normally flying to/from SAN, where AS might be my only nonstop anyways, I have always (except once) gotten upgraded to F (usually shortly after check in), and I way prefer AS F to AA F, as I believe the legroom is a bit bigger, the seats are comfier, the food is actually decent most of the team (no disgusting turkey sandwiches), and the...

    As an AA EXP, I personally always prefer flying AS when possible. Normally flying to/from SAN, where AS might be my only nonstop anyways, I have always (except once) gotten upgraded to F (usually shortly after check in), and I way prefer AS F to AA F, as I believe the legroom is a bit bigger, the seats are comfier, the food is actually decent most of the team (no disgusting turkey sandwiches), and the flight attendants have always been super friendly and attentive (unlike AA). My last flight from SAN->JFK with AS upgrade to F was excellent!

  4. Shane Guest

    One partnership hole that has caught me out a few times - AA EXP flying an AA operated / Alaska Airlines marketed codeshare. I'm not eligible for an upgrade on the flight due to not being marketed by AA, whereas an Alaska 100K booked on the same ticket is. Just seems off that on a two-segment ticket I can get upgraded on the Alaska flight but not be eligible on the AA one as an...

    One partnership hole that has caught me out a few times - AA EXP flying an AA operated / Alaska Airlines marketed codeshare. I'm not eligible for an upgrade on the flight due to not being marketed by AA, whereas an Alaska 100K booked on the same ticket is. Just seems off that on a two-segment ticket I can get upgraded on the Alaska flight but not be eligible on the AA one as an AA elite.

    I assume the justification for this is to encourage AA elites to book through AA, but for many routes the only logical connection is offered for sale by Alaska (AA doesn't codeshare on many Alaska operated segments).

  5. Ghostrider5408 Guest

    I am curious does the "upgrade" to main cabin extras apply to international travel?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Ghostrider5408 -- While first class upgrades are only in eligible regions, it's my understanding that Main Cabin Extra seating is available globally for eligible Mileage Plan elites.

  6. Chase Guest

    When it comes to AA companions on AS, it is not correct that they are ineligible for Premium Class seats. I was able to select these seats for both of us on the same reservation at booking, as an AA EXP. Companion upgrades to F on AS were still not possible automatically/in advance as of last month, other than asking at the airport.

    One of the absolute stupidest things about AS is not applying the...

    When it comes to AA companions on AS, it is not correct that they are ineligible for Premium Class seats. I was able to select these seats for both of us on the same reservation at booking, as an AA EXP. Companion upgrades to F on AS were still not possible automatically/in advance as of last month, other than asking at the airport.

    One of the absolute stupidest things about AS is not applying the elite baggage allowance to companions booked in the same reservation, whether AA or OneWorld. Talk about being petty...

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Chase -- Thanks for the heads up, updated the post to remove the reference to no companion upgrades.

  7. Tony Guest

    There have been a few recent reports on flyertalk of advance complimentary companion F upgrades on AS with AA status (I haven't flown AS in a few months, so can't confirm), and additionally I (along with other FTers) have had pretty good success since on numerous occasions dating back to early 2022 in asking for myself and my companion to be added to the F waitlist at the airport (tip: ask the check in agent...

    There have been a few recent reports on flyertalk of advance complimentary companion F upgrades on AS with AA status (I haven't flown AS in a few months, so can't confirm), and additionally I (along with other FTers) have had pretty good success since on numerous occasions dating back to early 2022 in asking for myself and my companion to be added to the F waitlist at the airport (tip: ask the check in agent first, and then the gate agent later if necessary - that way if one won't do it, you get two bites at the apple).

    Hopefully this whole companion upgrade thing will be seamless and automated soon enough.

    1. Tony Guest

      (ahh - remove "since" from this clause "I (along with other FTers) have had pretty good success ^^since^^ on numerous occasions dating back to early 2022 . . .")

    2. AlaskaFlyer1 New Member

      I'm curious, what status tier do you have with AA? And were there any particular AS routes that worked better than others?

    3. Tony Guest

      I am AA EXP, for what it's worth

    4. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Tony -- Interesting, thanks for the heads up, as this seems to contradict what American writes in the terms. I updated the post to remove the reference to no companion upgrades, so let me do some more digging.

    5. Tony Guest

      Agree that this directly contradicts what AA says (and IIRC AA has updated their language to remove an earlier reference to companion upgrades being available "summer 2022" or something similar, to now an open ended "later" timeline). But in any event, that's been my experience. I do hope the recent FT reports of advance upgrades indicate a new system upgrade that can process AA elite companion upgrades at the appropriate window.

      (And incidentially, I second...

      Agree that this directly contradicts what AA says (and IIRC AA has updated their language to remove an earlier reference to companion upgrades being available "summer 2022" or something similar, to now an open ended "later" timeline). But in any event, that's been my experience. I do hope the recent FT reports of advance upgrades indicate a new system upgrade that can process AA elite companion upgrades at the appropriate window.

      (And incidentially, I second what AlaskaFlyer said about the premium economy upgrades with a companion - I've always been able to select premium seat with a companion upon booking, no issues there.)

    6. Shane Guest

      Can confirm Tony's comment. Was successfully added to an Alaska upgrade list with AA status and a companion at airport check-in this weekend. We cleared at the gate.

      One other note on Alaska upgrades that was new to me as an AA elite - travelling with a pet in cabin precludes one from the automatic upgrade list. Alaska limits the first class cabin to one pet and requires confirmation of "pet space" prior to upgrading...

      Can confirm Tony's comment. Was successfully added to an Alaska upgrade list with AA status and a companion at airport check-in this weekend. We cleared at the gate.

      One other note on Alaska upgrades that was new to me as an AA elite - travelling with a pet in cabin precludes one from the automatic upgrade list. Alaska limits the first class cabin to one pet and requires confirmation of "pet space" prior to upgrading (or selling) a ticket there. Apparently the auto-upgrade and pet cabin space algorithms can't run in parallel, so the upgrade must be requested day of departure at the airport. This is different from AA where the limitation does not apply.

  8. Nate Guest

    I became an AA gold elite about 5 weeks ago, but since then I have put my AA number in an Alaska reservation and I do not have the ability to select preferred seats or anything. My Oneworld status is not reflected on the AS app or the site either. I contacted AS and they said they don't see my status on their end--do you know why this happens?

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Nate -- Hmmm, that's strange. You made the booking after you earned the status? Since you're Gold with AAdvantage, did you book in either the Y, B, or H fare classes? Because if so you should be able to select Premium Class seats at booking. Otherwise you'll have to wait until 48 hours before departure, which I suspect is what the problem might be?

    2. catmndu Guest

      I had the same problem. I finally got Alaska to remove my AA number and put it back in. That did the trick. I was able to select exit row which is what I wanted.

    3. Andrew Diamond

      It took a long time for my AA status to 'take' with Alaska. I seem to recall calling them several times, and eventually something on the "OneWorld Desk" happened to fix it.

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The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Shane Guest

Can confirm Tony's comment. Was successfully added to an Alaska upgrade list with AA status and a companion at airport check-in this weekend. We cleared at the gate. One other note on Alaska upgrades that was new to me as an AA elite - travelling with a pet in cabin precludes one from the automatic upgrade list. Alaska limits the first class cabin to one pet and requires confirmation of "pet space" prior to upgrading (or selling) a ticket there. Apparently the auto-upgrade and pet cabin space algorithms can't run in parallel, so the upgrade must be requested day of departure at the airport. This is different from AA where the limitation does not apply.

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Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ Tony -- Interesting, thanks for the heads up, as this seems to contradict what American writes in the terms. I updated the post to remove the reference to no companion upgrades, so let me do some more digging.

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dvnthkr1 New Member

Now that you have used the miles for purchase, if you talk to customer service they should be able to change the FF number to your AS number. Hopefully you can get premium seats after that.

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