Reader Question: Can I Process OneWorld Upgrade Awards With Alaska Airlines Miles?

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Today we received a Reader Question concerning alliance wide upgrade awards with OneWorld and most specifically Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.

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While OneWorld is my favorite airline alliance there have always been certain things that were lacking and one of them if the missing ability to upgrade flights of other carriers with frequent flyer miles.

This option is readily available on Star Alliance and most programs offer this redemption opportunity although it’s worth to note that you can only upgrade full fare Star Alliance tickets (at least those booked in full fare booking classes) to other classes of service and not many people are able to take advantage of that.

I got a message from Brian asking if such an option is available with OneWorld now and in particular Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan:

I’m based in Seattle and have piled up more than one million Mileage Plan miles. Considering the direction aviation is going maybe it’s a good idea to reduce that stack so I’m looking for options.

I’d like to fly more on other OW airlines now that Alaska has joined the alliance but I’m able to book many if not most flights through my company. The downside: In most cases I can’t be purchasing Business, let alone First Class.

Is OW offering members to upgrade flights on partners and would I be able to use my Mileage Plan miles for such upgrades?

The short answer to this is: Unfortunately not. There has been talks as recently as summer 2020 about oneworld making upgrades within the alliance available but since there it’s been crickets on that front.

As far as Alaska Airlines and their membership in oneWorld is concerned they have just this week announced that their entire booking ability for oneWorld awards will be delayed until “later in 2021” for whatever reason (see John’s article about that here).

For what it’s worth Alaska did announce a reciprocal upgrade policy with American Airlines including upgrades on international flights for top tier members.

Coming Soon: Alaska & American Airlines Reciprocal Elite Benefits Including First Class Upgrades From April 5, 2021

Alaska Airlines often has delays launching award bookings on new partners, but you would think that they had everything in order by now? Why would they have pushed so hard for their joining date being fast tracked without having all the technical kinks sorted out?

Qatar Airways awards should be now available in August 2021. Keep in mind you can still book partner airline tickets through Mileage Plan that have been their traditional redemption partners for years, some of which are oneWorld members. The downside: You can’t book all routes! For example I can’t book Japan Airlines flying between Asia and Europe which is really annoying.

Conclusion

It would be good when there is at least the option out there to be able to upgrade other oneWorld flights. I have used the Star Alliance upgrade only a few times myself when I was booked or rebooked (after cancellations) into full fare booking classes on partner carriers. This was I was able to use both Lufthansa eVouchers and United miles to upgrade said flights.

There isn’t any official announcement from oneWorld yet how their program would look like or even when there is an official launch date. Alaska Airlines isn’t the most well versed carrier when it comes to the implementation of technical things so who knows when and if we’ll ever see this being implemented.

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