The Complicated Process For American AAdvantage Elites To Get Extra Legroom Seats On Alaska Airlines

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.

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. Went through process today and having to waiting for the reservation to ticket (took 5-10 minutes) prior to getting a better seat was the new/confusing part (the AS agent I spoke with said I was only eligible after check-in)

  2. So dumb that people gall for this bull and pay extra, no one should fly do airlines get there act together

  3. Hey Gary. There are separate waitlists for premium class and first class, and they show both in airport displays as well as in the app.

    I also don’t think the process is too cumbersome for AA members in particular. Yes, it’s less straightforward than AA does with MCE, but that’s just how AS does it for its members already and it works for them. And AS’s system has its positives that AA members will be able to take advantage of already (to name a couple: automatically getting moved to premium class seats when available, and exit row seats available to all elites at time of booking).

    If it’s true that AA members can’t book premium class seats during booking, that is annoying but presumably it’s some technical limitation they’ll address later this year (as with the half-baked first class upgrades from AS members on AA only being able to do them at check-in). Presumably Alaska could also eventually update the website in due time so the search for the post-ticketing includes AA-inclusive language, but to be honest I think these are hardly worth it — the real value I’ve seen is that if these seats are available a few days before the flight, members get “upgraded” automatically.

  4. Through that article I must have missed what’s complicated. You book a ticket , wait for it to process (a few minutes ) then you select your seats. If that is complicated for anyone I feel for you.

  5. As an AS MVP Gold 75k and an AA EXP I don’t see the big deal with the process. Two airlines have two different processes that will hopefully get more streamlined overtime. AS has an app and experience way better than AA. This would be like me complaining about the AA 500-mile upgrade system as an AS elite…although it makes more sense to complain about that.

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