With Alaska Airlines joining the oneworld alliance and continuing to partner more closely with American Airlines, the two airlines have introduced reciprocal elite benefits – the most valuable of which are access for elites to extra legroom seats and upgrades.
As the partnership was being developed, American Airlines Senior Vice President Vasu Raja emphasized the need for a seamless customer experience between the two airlines so “that a customer of either Alaska or American Airlines would choose us over one of our competitors’ long haul services” as a result of upgrades, seat assignments, and other benefits.
However the process for American Airlines elites to access extra legroom seats on Alaska Airlines is a confusing and somewhat cumbersome one.
Here is when American Airlines elites have access to extra legroom seats on Alaska:
- Executive Platinum: Eligible after ticketing on all fares except Basic Economy (which is different from flying American, where American elites keep their extra legroom seat benefits on Basic Economy fares)
- Platinum Pro and Platinum: Eligible after ticketing on most non-Basic Economy fares (Y, B, H, K, M, L, V, S and N) but not on the cheapest fares when these become reservable 72 hours out from travel.
- Gold: After ticketing on full (Y, B, H) fares, otherwise 48 hours before departure on other non-Basic Economy fares
In order to access Premium Class seats, American’s elites cannot reserve them during the booking process – they need to make the booking, wait for the ticket to issue and their status to register in Alaska’s systems (generally a few minuts) and then select their seats if eligible. Choosing a premium class seat prior to ticketing results in a charge for that seat.
For those booking on the Alaska Airlines website, who want to restrict their search to fares eligible for immediate (post-ticketing) extra legroom seats, American tells elites to search as follows:
- Gold elites – pretend to be a Mileage Plan MVP member when doing a fare search and restricting choices
- Platinum and Platinum Pro elites – pretend to be a Mileage Plan MVP Gold member when doing a fare search and restricting choices
- Executive Platinum elites – choose pretend to be a Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K member when doing a fare search and restricting choices
There are also seats designated for elites (marked “Alaska Elite” on seat maps) that are available to all AAdvantage elite members at booking but that do not offer additional legroom (aren’t ‘Premium Class’).
Eligible elites should be assigned to extra legroom seats automatically after booking a trip, once they’re eligible. The seat type chosen in regular coach (aisle/window) is what the system will try to assign in Premium. Customers who assign themselves exit row seats won’t be automatically moved to an other extra legroom coach seat.
You can also opt out of having your seat moved automatically, but that won’t prevent you from choosing a seat yourself on the seat map once you’re eligible. (Executive Platinums who do not want their seat moved at all would separately opt out of extra legroom coach ‘upgrades’ and first class upgrades).
If a premium class seat hasn’t been assigned prior to check-in, members have to ask at the airport to be added to the standby list for one of these seats. After check-in the automated process stops.
Here’s the priority for these extra legroom Premium Class seats: elite status level, fare and time of booking.
- Executive Platinums come after Alaska MVP Gold 75ks
- Platinum Pro and Platinums come after Alaska MVP Golds
- Golds come after Alaska MVPs
Once these seats are under airport control the waitlist is available at the gate, on the website, and using the Alaska Airlines app. However there’s a single ‘upgrade request’ waitlist display used for both first class upgrades and for extra legroom coach seats. It is possible therefore that an Executive Platinum member may be on the list twice since they’re eligible for first class upgrades as well.