Alaska Airlines Elites Get Free Companion Upgrades On American. American’s Elites Do Not.

There was a lot of exciting news out Wednesday with Alaska Airlines joining the oneworld global airline alliance and additional benefits being announced for Alaska Airlines elites flying American Airlines and vice versa.

Not all of the announced benefits are available yet (like international upgrades on American for top tier Alaska elites) and the upgrade process for Alaska elites on American isn’t automatic yet. Benefits aren’t exactly reciprocal, with more complicated rules about when American elites can access extra legroom seats on Alaska than when Alaska elites get those same seats on American.

However one thing seems especially odd. Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K elite members get complimentary upgrades on American Airlines for themselves and a companion.

These complimentary space-available upgrades are for MVP Gold 75K members and 1 companion booked in the same reservation on the day of departure, at or after check-in.

American Airlines Executive Platinum members do not even get this! As an Executive Platinum member, if I want to upgrade my wife on American I need to use 500-mile upgrade certificates. I still have some from when I was a mere Platinum member a decade ago (Executive Platinums who get complimentary upgrades for their own flying do not earn these). If I didn’t have any in my account I would need to buy them.

Executive Platinums still have higher upgrade priority than Alaska’s top elites when flying American but it seems odd to offer complimentary upgrades to a partner airline elite’s companion, but not to one’s own.

(Thanks to David W. for prompting me to point this out explicitly.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Kind of meaningless once travel levels resume. Clearing AA upgrades was near impossible on most longer routes where it matters.

  2. American Airlines has been making money selling upgrade instruments for EXPs to upgrade companions. In the “greed is good” business, it’s hard for the greedy to just give up old habits that make money for the greedy at the expense of the captured customers.

  3. Moved from Seattle to San Jose 18 months ago. Brought along 1.5M Alaska miles and MVP Gold status.

    Questioned how much to keep with Alaska now that Seattle was no longer my home airport. Covid intervened and status was extended.

    When I learned about Alaska joining One World and that elite mileage was being boosted by 50% until 6/30, I decided to go for MVP 75K. Many mileage runs await.

    The benefits which keep coming are assauging my concerns that flying coast to coast twice in 24 hours might be completely insane. At least every flight has been upgraded thus far.

  4. I’d love to know how many 75Ks and their companions get upgrades on AA. I feel this a paper benefit that you may never experience.

  5. Ha! I had no idea that stickers don’t expire…. The more you know *shooting star*

  6. @Mon and @Jack are correct. As an EXP, I never received an upgrade due to lack of seniority, so I doubt any 75K elites will see one either.

    I wouldn’t complain if I received one as a 75K, but I’m more than realistic about my (lack of) chances.

  7. Not just that, right? AS 40K MVPs get free upgrades on AA, but AA 50K Platinums have to use stickers or themselves?

  8. Clearing ANY kind of upgrade on AA is nearly impossible as it getting anything but main cabin intern atonally with AS points. And if you look at AA international return to the US award tickets the add on cost is the same as BA just less service among other niceties!!!

    Nope BA is still the way to go within OW from the US cash or points.

  9. Gary. I believe your statement about using 500 sticker is incorrect. I recently fly AA , I am an EP. My wife is my companion on the same reservation. When they did cleared us on both flights. AA took 500 certificates from her account. As EP, we normally don’t get 500 sticker because we don’t need it. Even I had some left over from a choice selection.

  10. @JJ Huang – I’m not sure I follow? Your wife got a companion upgrade and AA charged for it (stickers). That’s the point I am making, while they have announced companion upgrades for top Alaska elites will be free.

  11. 500 mile ups burn me. It’s a big reason I’ve left AAdvantage for Mileage Plan. It’s such a disrespect to the most loyal members that I can’t even earn them like Gold & Plat do. Absurd.

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