Alaska Airlines & American: Unlocking Upgrade Benefits


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Alaska Airlines’ recent induction into the Oneworld alliance has not only solidified its position in the global aviation landscape but also underscored its growing partnership with American Airlines. This relationship has blossomed, opening doors to several exciting benefits for frequent flyers, including upgrade certificates. Here’s a dive into what these upgrades entail and how they can be maximized.

Exclusive Upgrade Certificates for Alaska Elites

In April 2023, Alaska Mileage Plan elite members received a pleasant surprise in their inboxes. As part of this enhanced partnership, Alaska Mileage Plan elite members have now received international upgrade certificates for travel on American Airlines:

  • MVP Gold 75K members receive one one-way international American upgrade certificate.
  • MVP Gold 100K members receive two one-way international American upgrade certificates.

This generous gesture, however, came with its stipulations. Only members who achieved their status by adhering to the published qualification criteria during the previous year were deemed eligible, leaving out those who attained their ranks via special promotions or status matches.

How to Leverage These Upgrades

While these upgrade certificates, sent via email, may have been branded differently, they essentially function as AA systemwide upgrades. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making the most of them:

Phone Redemption: These upgrades need to be booked via a call to American Airlines, where members will provide their unique upgrade codes.

Upgrade Scope: A single upgrade certificate can be utilized for a one-way journey, encompassing a maximum of three flight segments.

Expiration: Members have until December 31, 2023, to request and use these upgrades. If not immediately available, the upgrade will be put on a waitlist.

Flight Eligibility: These upgrades are exclusive to flights marketed and operated by American Airlines. Codeshare flights, basic economy tickets, and award tickets have been excluded from this offer.

Upgrade Levels: Flyers can elevate their experience from economy or premium economy to business class, or from business class to first class.

It’s noteworthy that while these certificates are geared towards international flights, they can also be employed for domestic routes.

However, it’s evident that there’s a hint of dissatisfaction among Mileage Plan elites. The limited timeframe to use these upgrades, especially given their mid-April distribution, has not been well-received. A more extended validity or an earlier distribution could have possibly offered a better customer experience.

Changing Dynamics in the Alaska-American Partnership

When the amplified collaboration between Alaska and American was introduced, these upgrade certificates were in perfect alignment with the strategic direction of both airlines. American Airlines had grand visions of establishing a robust international gateway in Seattle, supplemented by Alaska’s regional routes. Destinations like Bangalore, London, and Shanghai were on the radar.

However, evolving business dynamics led to significant shifts. American’s planned long-haul routes from Seattle, apart from the Seattle to London stretch, never saw the light of day. Additionally, a considerable reduction in American’s long-haul routes from Los Angeles has shrunk the airline’s global footprint from the West Coast.

This brings us to the current scenario, where Alaska Airlines is dispatching their upgrade certificates with the email tagline, “Exclusive upgrade codes: Limited-time international upgrades.” Functionally identical to systemwide upgrades, they have specific eligibility criteria and redemption steps that passengers should be aware of.

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Concluding Thoughts

Alaska Airlines’ partnership with American Airlines showcases the constant evolution in the airline industry. While the introduction of international upgrade certificates is a commendable initiative to reward loyal flyers, the rapid changes in route dynamics and the constraints attached to these upgrades suggest that both airlines need to continue refining their collaboration strategies to offer seamless, value-driven experiences to their customers.

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