American Airlines & Alaska Launch Reciprocal Upgrade Benefits

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American Airlines and Alaska Airlines announced the West Coast Alliance earlier this year that also sees the Seattle-based airline joining Oneworld on March 31, 2021.

The airlines today released information on reciprocal elite benefits, including upgrades, that will roll out in 2021.

You can access AA here and Alaska here.

Here’s the update:

  • Alaska Airlines elite members (MVP, MVP Gold & MVP Gold 75) will have access to AA’s premium seating.
  • Alaska Airlines MVO 75 Gold members are eligible for unlimited domestic upgrades on American flights and will receive upgrade certificates that can be used for long-haul international travel.
  • American Airlines Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members will be eligible for unlimited domestic upgrades on Alaska.
  • American Airlines and Alaska are working on “enhanced” mileage accrual (remember that AA’s is based on money used while Alaska’s miles flown).

Announcement from Alaska

Starting this spring, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines will make it a more hassle-free, rewarding experience for elite guests from one airline to travel on the other, with new benefits that will roll out during 2021.

As part of the enhancements, Alaska’s MVP Gold 75K, MVP Gold and MVP Mileage Plan members will be able to access premium seating, and MVP Gold 75Ks will be eligible for upgrades, when they book flights on American’s domestic and international routes. Travelers can take advantage of these benefits on itineraries that are solely on American or when connecting to an American flight.

Here’s some of what’s to come:

  • In the spring, all Alaska elite members will receive complimentary access to preferred seats when traveling on American Airlines, including Main Cabin Extra.
  • Alaska MVP Gold 75K members will be eligible to earn global upgrade certificates that can be used to move from the main cabin to Business Class on American. For example, one of those certificates can be redeemed to upgrade from the main cabin to Business Class on American’s new nonstop international service from Seattle to London or Seattle to Shanghai in spring 2021, based on availability.
  • Later in 2021, Alaska MVP Gold 75K members will be eligible for unlimited complimentary, space available upgrades to Business or First Class when traveling on American’s domestic flights.

These benefits will be in addition to the elite perks offered as part of Alaska’s membership in the oneworld global alliance, which takes effect on March 31, 2021. As a oneworld member, Alaska’s elite travelers will be able to take advantage of priority services, international lounge access and baggage benefits.

“Our upcoming membership in oneworld makes these added benefits with American even more rewarding for our guests,” said Andrew Harrison, executive vice president and chief commercial officer. “On any American flight, our elites will have access to premium seating or a possible upgrade for a more comfortable journey, in addition to other perks.”

American’s AAdvantage program elite members will receive reciprocal benefits on Alaska.

“Alaska and American are improving our service on the West Coast so that customers can enjoy their loyalty benefits on either carrier,” said Vasu Raja, American’s chief revenue officer. “Next year will bring significant enhancements that will make the experience more seamless and rewarding for our customers traveling to, through or from the West Coast.”

The expanded relationship between Alaska and American was first announced in February 2020. In fall 2021, American will begin its inaugural service from Seattle to Bangalore, India – connecting two global technology hubs.

And from American Airlines:

  • Select elite members will be able to upgrade on both airlines’ domestic and international networks next year.
  • Starting in the spring, elite members will receive priority check-in, security and boarding, as well as reciprocal bag allowances and select elites receive access to both airlines’ lounges when traveling internationally.
  • Select elite members will also receive complimentary access to extra legroom seats and additional preferred seating options at time of booking and same day flight changes.

FORT WORTH, Texas — AAdvantage® members will enjoy more rewards when American Airlines and Alaska Airlines implement reciprocal benefits as part of the West Coast International Alliance.

“We look forward to offering our loyal members more ways to earn miles and realize the benefits of our West Coast International Alliance with Alaska Airlines,” said American’s Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja. “We’re working tirelessly to bring our customers the value they deserve with access to the best of both networks, and a seamless travel experience throughout the customer journey.”

Reciprocal Benefits Begin in March

The next phase of the relationship between American and Alaska will enhance the elite member experience when flying on either carrier, from priority check-in to lounge access. Elite customers will also be able to relax in flight with access to preferred seating and extra legroom with options to book Main Cabin Extra seats on American or Premium Class on Alaska.

While members can currently earn and burn miles on both networks, American and Alaska are working together to offer enhanced mileage accrual — an opportunity to earn even more miles — next year, with more details to come. The partnership will also provide members additional flexibility when traveling with baggage allowance and same day flight changes.

More to Come in 2021

Following the initial reciprocal benefits, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members will be eligible for free domestic upgrades on Alaska and MVP Gold 75K will be eligible for free domestic upgrades when traveling on American.

“Our upcoming membership in oneworld makes these added benefits with American even more rewarding for our guests,” said Andrew Harrison, Alaska’s Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. “We look forward to welcoming American’s elite members with our award-winning service and growing network of destinations.”

In February, American and Alaska announced a West Coast International Alliance designed to bring more international routes to Seattle and create more choice for West Coast travelers flying internationally. American intends to launch new service from Seattle (SEA) to London (LHR), Bengaluru (BLR) and Shanghai (PVG) beginning next year.

When the long-haul international flights launch, MVP Gold 75K members will also have the opportunity to access long-haul upgrades when traveling on American. Additional details on reciprocal upgrades will be revealed at a later date.

Conclusion

I find it interesting that Alaska’s MVP Gold 75 members will receive certs that can be used for lucrative long-haul upgrades on American Airlines flights. Definitely a very worthwhile benefit.

Domestic upgrades for Alaska’s MVP Gold 75 and AA’s Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members on each other’s flights are interesting. I would assume that both airlines will prioritize their own elites at each level?

American has West Coast Alliance with Alaska and East Coast one with JetBlue. It makes you wonder what happened to America West (west coast) and US Airways (mostly east) networks, both part of American Airlines?

Are these long-haul flights from Seattle to London, Bangalore, and Shanghai going to materialize in 2021? I would not be certain.

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