American And Alaska Announce Reciprocal Elite Upgrades, Access To Extra Legroom Coach Seats

American Airlines and Alaska Airlines announced a renewed partnership in February and Alaska will join the oneworld alliance March 31, 2020. American and Alaska already have reciprocal earning and redemption.

I’ve written that more benefits are coming, in addition to those which will be provided by oneworld memebrship. In building the partnership American Airlines has talked about the need to be ‘seamless’ so that customers become indifferent as to which airline they’re flying. An American Airlines elite member needs to be treated just as well on Alaska Airlines, and vice versa.

American today has announced several things that we already knew were coming, though there’s just a little more in the way of specifics.

At some point in 2021 “Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members will be eligible for free domestic upgrades on Alaska and MVP Gold 75K will be eligible for free domestic upgrades when traveling on American.” The benefit could be expanded to lower-tier elites in the future. And “[w]hen the long-haul international flights launch” that are part of the partnership, Seattle – London and Bangalore, then Alaska’s MVP Gold 75K members will be able to upgrade on American’s international flights.

It’s not clear what Alaska members will use to support long haul upgrades, whether miles or a new instrument Alaska is considering as a replacement for Guest Upgrades.

And it’s not clear what priority upgrades will be given. One Mile at a Time thinks it may be something like Executive Platinums followed by Alaska MVP Gold 75Ks on American flights, and the reverse on Alaska flights.

There’s a lot exciting going on at AAdvantage (though other international programs are being far more aggressive). It hasn’t devalued awards the way Delta and United have during the pandemic. And eliminating award redeposit fees was a great move.

Still, I’m not as convinced as One Mile at a Time that the new AAdvantage President is the key driver of positive change (“based on talking to him, I have new hope for the AAdvantage program”) as though previous President Bridge Blaise-Shamai was somehow leading the race to the bottom. Circumstances have changed.

Time has passed since Scott Kirby’s departure as airline President. They now need to lean on their primary marketing engine as more than just ‘the credit card program’ as senior legacy US Airways executives have referred to AAdvantage in the past.

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. Ok as a AS MM’er + I am skeptical of anything coming out of AA especially these days. Parker gives then takes away far too often to be considered reliable. Now having said that it all comes down to the local stations and how their managers implement these policies. Do the gate agents for example protect their own first or apply across the board. I was around when AS and NWA had a similar policy on upgrades and can tell you it was horrible defaulted to NWA flyers first by the majority of stations. I had the opportunity to chat once with an agent and he confirmed to me that we AS flyers were last in line ! NOT saying that this will happen this time but —–.

    Its a great “look” today when not many are flying, what happens when travel picks back up and AA flyers complain?

  2. I wonder if now Alaska elites will have to compete for complimentary upgrades from a horde of incoming AA elites.

  3. @Ghostrider – all alliances seem to do that. I am a Delta DM but when flying AF or KLM or AM it seems that their own silver members get upgraded before a DL Diamonds.

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