Alaska Airlines Elites To No Longer Get American Airlines Confirmed Upgrades, As American’s Seattle Plans Fade

Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K and 100K elite members have had the opportunity to confirm upgrades at time of booking on American Airlines long haul international flights, just like American Airlines Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members can select systemwide upgrades as a choice benefit.

These confirmed upgrades on American for Alaska Airlines elites go away next year.

We’re committed to continually improving your experience. Based on guest feedback, we’ll be sunsetting American Airlines systemwide upgrade vouchers beginning in 2025. We’re continuing to invest in other ways to provide improved access to and utility of your Alaska Air upgrade benefits.

American Airlines Boeing 787-9 Super Diamond Business Class

This is a loss for Alaska elites, but makes sense as the partnership between American Airlines and Alaska hasn’t evolved the way it was expected when the two had a rapprochement four years ago. American Airlines has shifted its strategy since then, and the two airlines continue building their close domestic relationship more than their international one.

The American-Alaska International Partnership Hasn’t Worked Out

Just as the pandemic was starting, American Airlines inked its West Coast Alliance with Alaska Airlines. This was supposed to support American’s international flying.

  • After Alaska acquired Virgin America, American saw them as more of a competitor than partner. They had a change of heart. They were bleeding on Pacific routes from Los Angeles. (They’ve since given up on LAX as a Pacific hub, opting to fly long haul only to joint venture partner hubs from LA.) They saw an opportunity to shift their West Coast long haul to Seattle.

  • Alaska for its part eyed joining oneworld. They didn’t want a weaker partnership with American. They want international partnerships especially, in order to sell customers more than just their own domestic network. Delta had encroached upon Seattle and had the ability to sell both. Notably, Alaska’s deal to acquire Hawaiian brings with it Pacific routes.

However the pandemic came. Asia flying was slower to recover. Russia invaded Ukraine, which eliminated the ability of U.S. airlines to overfly Russia making many flights longer and more expensive to operate.

American’s Strategy Shifts To Domestic

American had planned to fly Seattle to Bangalore and to Shanghai. Neither flight materialized. American isn’t even flying Seattle – London anymore. They aren’t operating long haul at all from Seattle. So it’s been a question mark whether Seattle would actually be a long haul city for American at all – whether their ‘L.A. replacement’ wasn’t one after all, and the airline would just shrink in the Pacific.

  • American Airlines is weak in the Northeast. They addressed that by partnering with JetBlue, but the Department of Justice blocked that.

  • American Airlines is weak in the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest. They addressed that by partnering with Alaska. Alaska would handle the domestic connecting traffic, while American would fly long haul – giving American a replacement for LAX Pacific flying where they were losing money and giving Alaska a greater ability to see long haul flights. But American’s strategy has backed away from flying long haul on its own aircraft, outside of to the hubs of its joint venture partners.

  • But these are crucial spending markets, necessary for success with AAdvantage and their co-brand credit card. American was growing its program in both regions through these partnerships. So backing away makes American less relevant to those who would put spend on the product that drives most of their profit.

American Airlines Planned New Business Class Comes Later This Year, Credit: American

American Airlines sees its future in what they believe is a neglected domestic opportunity in Sun Belt flying. They don’t have the same appetite to grow internationally that their main U.S. legacy carrier rivals do. And that means treating Alaska Airlines elites ‘the same’ on long haul flights presumably out of Seattle doesn’t make sense to invest in the way they’d thought.

Alaska Elites May See Long Haul Upgrades Elsewhere

For Alaska Airlines customers, award travel on their newest partners has gotten less expensive under the airline’s new award chart. And the hope for long haul upgrades may come from Alaska’s deal to acquire Hawaiian Airlines, which operates to numerous Pacific destinations from Japan to Tahiti to Australia.

If the deal makes it through anti-trust, it will make Hawaiian miles more valuable, and give Alaska members a big opportunity across the Pacific.

(HT: Chris H)

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. @ Gary — AS issued these so late in the year last year, that they were useless for us. I hope AS issues this year’s soon (or maybe they already did, and I missed it). It is ridiculous that AS issues them mid-year and then requires you to fly on them by 12/31. Hopefully they will replace this with an actually useful benefit, like some more devalued miles.

  2. The Alaska one world partnering is a complete cluster F
    Alaska won’t allow AA number on Alaska awards
    Alaska now charges more than AA for Int partner awards
    And that’s if you can find any crumbs of availability nothing for months in premium cabins typically
    AA sucks but Alaska sucks even far worse
    One world let Alaska join and Alaska basically self imploded with greed
    I wouldn’t use Alaska for a 1 hour flight now
    They offer some extra flight flown miles but their overpricing of awards and their partner fees make those extra irrelevant imo let the buyer flyer beware
    American also holds most any desirable award inventory from Alaska
    They have Alaska on its knees

  3. @ Dwondermeant — But wait! You can fly to Tahiti in torture class for 50% off! Sign up for their credit card to earn even more worthless Alaska miles NOW! There are at least 12 great reasons to sign up for thier card, 11 of which are the blogger referral bonus.

  4. @ Gene
    Pretty much
    Alaska went from best in the industry to close to the bottom
    They lost their way from the pandemic on sadly
    30 k one way from Las Vegas to SFO lol in coach no less
    I had a great half decade with them but unlikely to ever return
    Management lost their way
    They do have some nice frontlines

  5. As I see it:

    American is strongest in Florida, the Caribbean, Latin America, Midwest, and Southwest.

    United is strongest in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Texas, Rockies, San Francisco, Hawaii, and Asia-Pacific.

    Delta is strongest in the Southeast, Midwest and Great Lakes, and the Rockies.

    Los Angeles, Boston, New York, and Florida are competitive. In the case of Florida, American and Delta seem to be fighting tooth and nail for Florida, especially Miami.

    I say all this as a nearly 2 million miler with Delta. If I was starting out all over again, I’d fly United. They’re the only airline of the big three trying to beat Delta. Polaris is awesome. Delta is so far behind. And United now owns the Asia-Pacific.

  6. As a Seattle-based Alaska MVP Gold, there has been plenty of undelivered promise from AA and joining OneWorld. Service on OneWorld carriers to Asia from Seattle continues to be lackingBecause of JAL’s route network requiring a transit between NRT and HND to get from Seattle to Shanghai PVG, Both Korean and JAL have some service from SEA to NRT and SEL without premium economy cabins as well. I ended up flying SEA-DFW-PVG, which was not the best way to get there. I’m looking forward to the upcoming Starlux and Hainan airlines routes coming to Seattle, which will hopefully improve connectivity to Asia from Seattle.

  7. Suggesting that HA is a great opportunity for transpacific flying suggests a grave lack of understanding of basic geography.

    No one is going to connect in HNL to Japan or China etc. it is thousands of miles out of the way and the times don’t work anyway since HA is not chasing that market. PPT is even worse – HNL is again thousands of miles out of the way between the west coast and PPT.

    Maybe great for Pago Pago but the rest of your premise is ignorant….

  8. American needs to expand it’s Philadelphia connections to small and mid size airports. For example, phila to Erie is non existent. Many have been shifted to Charlotte. Big mistakes. Over 20 mil people live within 2 hours from phl. It is in the middle of the northeast metro area, the largest metro area in western hemisphere.

  9. I don’t care what anyone says: allowing another domestic airline the same benefits as any other domestic airlines top tier elites was never fair. It’s ridiculous. I’m happy Alaska sent them out late and they are useless. They (SWU’s) are barely useful for AA EP’s anyways. Alaska elites definitely got WAY MORE joining OneWorld and with the AA partnership than AA elites got/get. Alaska’s lounge network is a blip. Maybe os the Hawaiian deal goes through and they join OneWorld I’ll feel slightly differently, but as on now being a DFW based EP that Flys around the US/Europe/South America year round: the Alaska partnership has done nada for me or my colleagues.

  10. Alaska needs help, and fast. This Hawaiian purchase is them clawing at the walls closing in around them as they get surrounded. United has always been outside the gates in SFO. Alaska overpaid for (and absolutely destroyed) Virgin America to disrupt that. They’re getting slaughtered there to this day.

    Then Delta broke the tension and went into Seattle directly. The fight rages on. Alaska ran to American for help but surprise American is it’s own mess! They can’t help you. Alaska literally can’t service the 85% of the country east of Boise- unless you want to get to LAX. SFO. Or Seattle. But so can American. United. Delta. Southwest. See my point?

    But yeah let’s buy a money losing carrier in the middle of the pacific who flies Airbus. Success is just around the corner I’m sure.

  11. I took a piece of thread and my globe to find out where west coast flights from various cities intersect land beyond Hawaii. Flights from San Francisco to Sydney fly near the Hawaiian islands. I suppose that an airline could use Hawaii as a collection point for several mainland cities in the USA so that there are enough passengers to make the flight to Sydney full enough while saving on fuel costs compared to a nonstop flight. A flight from Los Angeles to Perth goes near Hawaii, too, so that may be another flight being considered. In fact several large cities in Australia could be connected through Hawaii.

  12. AA management needs to go such small tiny thinkers I don’t think they even know where Seattle is much less the west coast! Usair destroyed AA! Board members NEED to bring back AA get rid of that America west/usair shit!!!

  13. @Tom – I’ve written extensively about HNL not being a great connecting point, but buying Hawaiian will give Alaska long haul aircraft and existing stations and experience operating in the Pacific. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some of those planes shift to Seattle.

  14. Slightly off topic but I’m glad AS elites got booted out. I just booked an AS domestic award (on AS/Horizon Air) and found out that as AA Platinum I could not get preferred seating. Having flown many times on JetBlue during the partnership (and even more times TATL on BA), I assumed the same would be true on Alaska, but guess what they will only let you add an AS frequent flier number to an AS award.

  15. From Malta, not many opportunities to fly Alaska. OTH I recently cleaned out some boxes that I hadn’t opened since we moved here. Much to my surprise, I found a handful of Alaska gold ingots of varying weight, received when I used to fly them when I lived in Seattle. Unlike their mileage program, gold hasn’t devalued since I got them more than twenty-five years ago.

  16. Given that DFW is AA’s Pacific hub, why would anyone think an AA/Alaska partnership makes sense? Given that AA acknowledged it’s a better off focusing as a domestic carrier, why would anyone think an AA/Alaska partnership makes sense? Given AA’s on-again-off-again approach to network planning, why would anyone think an AA/Alaska partnership makes sense? Since Znotins joined AA, AA has lost 80+ percent of my business.

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