American Airlines Treats Alaska Airlines Elites Better Than Their Own With New International Upgrades

With the new American Airlines-Alaska Airlines partnership, Alaska Airlines elites get free companion upgrades even though most American Airlines top tier elites do not.

  • As an American Executive Platinum flying from Austin to Chicago, I get a complimentary upgrade if available. My wife, flying on the same reservation with me, is entitled to an upgrade as well. However that upgrade needs to be supported with a 500 mile upgrade certificate. Executive Platinums don’t earn these – if they don’t have them leftover from earlier years at a lower status level, these need to be purchased.

  • But a top tier Alaska Airlines elite could upgrade their companion on the same flight for free.

Alaska Airlines top tier elites also receive confirmed international upgrade certificates on American.

Next year we can expect to see a true systemwide upgrade offered for travel on American. For now, though, Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75Ks receive two confirmed upgrade certificates for American Airlines international travel:

  • Book by September 30, 2021 for travel complete by December 31, 2021.

  • Valid only on Los Angeles – London, Sydney, or Tokyo Haneda or Seattle – Bangalore, London or Shanghai flights.

This is odd on many levels. American Airlines Executive Platinums have had their confirmed systemwide upgrades extended through July 31, 2021. Unless they’ve re-qualified during the pandemic they cannot book an international upgrade in August or September – while Alaska Airlines 75,000 mile flyers can. Like with companion upgrades, they seem to be getting the better deal.

Meanwhile these certificates can only be used for Sydney, London, Tokyo, Bangalore and Shanghai. Just how many of those destinations do you think are allowing Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K members to enter?

Australia might open in late 2021, but it might be advisable to wait until October to make the booking until this is certain, when it will be too late to confirm the upgrade.

American’s Vice President of Network and Schedule Planning Brian Znotins told pilots last month the Bangalore route wasn’t even guaranteed to start.

Japan’s vaccinations rollout has been slow, they’ve just begun vaccinating the elderly, when will the open?

So for most this is a London upgrade certificate. It confirms into C inventory, the same confirmed space used for other American Airlines upgrades. And that’s a nice benefit, before the real systemwide upgrades presumably come next year.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. Do we have any data as to the average CLV or other metrics surrounding Alaska elites? Perhaps AA does, and maybe they’re just inherently, on average, more valuable customers. That’s one potential hypothesis.

    That being said, AA has always treated other airlines’ elites better than its own…see Oneworld lounge access policies.

  2. @ Gary — Can you do a post explaining where in Europe US citizens can now travel to in Europe, 14 days post-vaccination, without a quarantine? I’ve seem random things like you can go to Italy, Croatia, etc., but the devil seems to be in the details.

  3. Like this post mentions, the odds of actually being able to use this by end of year are not good. Also, does American even currently fly nonstop LAX to HND??? This seems more like a American tossing a used bone to Alaska.

  4. “Meanwhile these certificates can only be used for Sydney, London, Tokyo, Bangalore and Shanghai. Just how many of those destinations do you think are allowing Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K members to enter?”

    The SEA area along with the other major West Coast cities with a strong AS presence have lots of people who are citizens of the UK, Australia, Japan, India, China and thus could fly back to their country of citizenship if a flight is available. Aren’t there a collection of AS MVP Gold 75ks who are citizens of the countries mentioned in this paragraph? Then the answer to your question is most or all of those destinations are or will be allowing in some AS MVP Gold 75k members to enter.

  5. Anyone know if the SEA to London flight has to be a separate flight on its own, or can it be part of a PDX -SEA- LHR flight, for instance (with the upgrade only being for the SEA to LHR portion)?

  6. @ GUWonder — LOL. Thanks. If I hadn’t already been there, I would be all over it!

  7. Wow
    I am a 75k million miller on Alaska and I don’t have any use for the upgrades for this year. I wish they were useable for any year when COVID is over
    And on the other hand as long as American keeps sticking their noses in politics I will not be flying them

  8. @carolyn
    All the airlines have their noses in politics – trade groups, national and state level lobbyists, and of course Paycheck Protection.

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