Soaring with the West Coast Alliance: American Airlines Improves Upgrades For Alaska Airlines Elites

Alaska Airlines elite frequent flyers are eligible for upgrades when flying American Airlines. The two carriers have a much tighter relationship through their ‘West Coast Alliance’ than just as oneworld airline partners.

Being an AAdvantage elite member flying Alaska is almost as good as being an Alaska elite. Being an Alaska elite flying on American is almost as good as being an American AAdvantage elite. For instance, Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K members are just below American’s own Platinum Pro members on the upgrade list.

And since you can now earn Alaska Airlines status without ever flying on Alaska itself, it’s a real option for American Airlines flyers to consider. They’re much more generous crediting partner premium cabin tickets than American is, and status is still measured based on miles flown rather than purely dollars spent.

There’s now even a new improvement to the reciprocal upgrade benefit. Alaska Airlines passengers flying on American are now eligible for upgrades even when buying American’s basic economy fares.

Here’s American’s internal documentation on the change:

That’s a nice improvement – American doesn’t see Basic Economy as a way to make the product worse as such. United views it as a way to offer a lesser product that competes with Spirit and Frontier. American sees it as a way to introduce their product to a customer, and hopefully win their loyalty.

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. Is Alaska going to reciprocate? AA elites can’t even book premium class on saver fares either.

  2. Think upgrades are tight now? The pool got bigger but the number of seats has not changed.

  3. There are some cases where AA elites are not recognized on Alaska flights:
    It would be nice if AAdvantage members received full loyalty points when flying on Alaska flights booked directly with Alaska instead of 25% or 50% in many cases. Unless I want to book first class on Alaska flights I look for AA flights instead.
    I recently learned that my AAdvantage status would not give me free baggage on an Alaska flight booked with Alaska miles. I changed the booking to first class in order to save the baggage fee.

  4. Turning this around, I’ve been an Alaska MVP Gold for several years, and I’ve never been upgraded on an AA flight. So far this year, I’ve flown four segments on AS and four on AA. On three of the four Alaska flights, I was upgraded to F; not once have I been upgraded on AA (but being in the Exit Row, I didn’t mindful that much). Next week, I’ve got four more flights on AA…we’ll see what happens.

  5. Alaska won’t let their own customers book awards on Alaska and put their American FF # unless on revenue
    Alaska is one sided on One World and I won’t fly Alaska now

  6. As an American Airlines exec plat – I love Alaskan airlines. But only when I buy first class, and only if I don’t buy a first class ticket out of STL. Why don’t they have catering out of St Louis? You force me to eat some mediocre trail mix for breakfast in first class!!!! If I’m flying out of Seattle – I’m lower that an Alaskan 75k member on the upgrade list????

  7. This is an “on paper” only benefit for Alaska elites. AA never makes it through their own top tier members when processing upgrades.

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