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Great deal: AA offering free long-haul upgrades to top Alaska Airlines elites

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 4/6/2021 Zach Honig
a plane sitting on top of a suitcase © Provided by The Points Guy
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When Alaska Airlines joined American’s Oneworld alliance last month, we learned of the two airlines’ plans for reciprocal elite benefits, including lounge access, seat assignments and complimentary upgrades.

For one, Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K members who qualify for status valid through 2022 will receive a Global Upgrade Certificate, which can be used to confirm an upgrade to business or first class on long-haul American Airlines flights.

While we aren’t expecting that particular perk to be available until later this year, American Airlines is extending an incredibly generous benefit to top-tier Alaska elites now.

I earned MVP Gold 75K as part of the airline’s status match last month, and today received an email offering two one-way “space available” upgrades on a handful of long-haul American Airlines flights.

timeline: (Screenshot courtesy of Alaska Airlines) © The Points Guy (Screenshot courtesy of Alaska Airlines)

As of now, upgrades are available on the following nonstop American Airlines flights:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) and London (LHR)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) and Sydney (SYD)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) and Tokyo (HND)
  • Seattle (SEA) and Bangalore (BLR)
  • Seattle (SEA) and London (LHR)
  • Seattle (SEA) and Shanghai (PVG)

As always, note that upgrades on flights from London come along with a cash co-pay to cover the additional Air Passenger Duty (APD) for premium-cabin travel. In my experience, the upgrade fee for flights from LHR is typically around $100, though it may vary as part of this promotion.

a bedroom with a bed and a mirror: Eligible flyers can score a lie-flat seat for the price of coach. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Eligible flyers can score a lie-flat seat for the price of coach. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

After booking an eligible flight, Alaska elites can call American Airlines at 1-800-262-7206 and provide their Mileage Plan number and the unique “access code” from their email to upgrade their flights. If an upgrade is available, it’ll be confirmed right away — otherwise, elites will be added to the waitlist.


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It’s possible to confirm upgrade availability for American Airlines flights before you book. To start, head over to TPG partner ExpertFlyer and complete your search there — for example, if the “C” fare class is available, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to instantly confirm an upgrade from economy to business class.

graphical user interface, text, email: Screenshot courtesy of ExpertFlyer. © The Points Guy Screenshot courtesy of ExpertFlyer.

Note that you’ll need to specifically search using the “Award & Upgrade” tool — “C” class may appear with the “Flight Availability” option, but that doesn’t necessarily mean an upgrade is available to confirm.

In the case of this particular flight, a one-way economy ticket can be had for $595, compared with $2,835 for business class — that’s a heck of a deal.

table: Screenshot courtesy of Google Flights. © The Points Guy Screenshot courtesy of Google Flights.

Upgrades must be requested by Sept. 30, 2021 for travel through Dec. 31, 2021. You don’t need to use the upgrade yourself — you can call in to bump up another passenger if you prefer. Basic economy, free tickets, military or government fares, “opaque fares,” infant tickets, award flights and purchased extra seats are not eligible.

As always, you’ll earn miles based on the original purchased fare — not your upgraded cabin. Still, this is a fantastic deal if you’re expecting to book one of the six eligible routes above, giving Alaska elites an opportunity to fly business class for the price of coach.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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