Reciprocal Elite Upgrades Between American Airlines and Alaska Airlines and Other Benefits

Members of the American Airlines AAdvantage and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plus frequent flier loyalty programs will enjoy more rewards in the form of reciprocal benefits as passengers on both airlines — once they are implemented in March of 2021 — as part of what is called the West Coast International Alliance.

Reciprocal Elite Upgrades Between American Airlines and Alaska Airlines and Other Benefits

Admirals Club Lounge Atlanta

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

The reciprocal benefits which passengers of both airlines who have earned elite status in either frequent flier loyalty program can enjoy — starting in the spring of 2021 — include:

  • Priority check-in, security and boarding
  • Reciprocal bag allowances
  • Access to the lounges of both airlines for select members with elite status when traveling internationally
  • For select members with elite status:
    • Upgrades on the domestic and international networks of both airlines next year
    • Complimentary access to extra legroom seats and additional preferred seating options at the time of booking
    • Same day flight changes

More Specific Information Pertaining to Reciprocal Benefits For Elite Members

Alaska Airlines

Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

As part of the enhancements, members of Alaska AIrlines Mileage Plan who have earned MVP Gold 75K, MVP Gold, and MVP Mileage Plan elite level status will be able to access premium seating — and members who have earned MVP Gold 75K elite level status will be eligible for upgrades — when they book flights on domestic and international routes which are operated by American Airlines. Travelers can take advantage of these benefits on itineraries that are solely on American Airlines — or when connecting to a flight which is operated by American Airlines.

What to expect includes:

  • In the spring of 2021, all elite members of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plus frequent flier loyalty program will receive complimentary access to preferred seats when traveling on American Airlines — including Main Cabin Extra.
  • Members who have earned MVP Gold 75K elite level status will be eligible to earn global upgrade certificates which can be used to move from the main cabin to Business Class on airplanes which are operated by American Airlines. For example, one of those certificates can be redeemed to upgrade from the main cabin to Business Class on the new nonstop international service of American Airlines from Seattle to London or Seattle to Shanghai in spring 2021, based on availability.
  • Later in 2021, members who have earned MVP Gold 75K elite level status will be eligible for unlimited complimentary, space available upgrades to Business Class or First Class when traveling on domestic flights which are operated by American Airlines.

Membership of Alaska Airlines in oneworld Alliance

Alaska Airlines

Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

The aforementioned reciprocal benefits will be in addition to those offered as part of the membership of Alaska Airlines in the oneworld global alliance, which becomes effective as of Wednesday, March 31, 2021. As a oneworld member, the travelers of Alaska Airlines who have earned elite status will be able to take advantage of priority services, international lounge access and baggage benefits.

Additional Reciprocal Benefits to Come in 2021

American Airlines

Photograph ©2018 by Brian Cohen.

The next phase of the relationship between American Airlines and Alaska Airlines 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 Airlines or Premium Class on Alaska Airlines.

While members can currently earn and burn miles on both networks, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines 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.

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

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.

Summary

American Airlines Santiago to Miami

Photograph ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

The reciprocal benefits for members of the American Airlines AAdvantage and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plus frequent flier loyalty programs further enhances and strengthens the partnership between the two airlines, which was first announced on Thursday, February 13, 2020 — as well as bring more international routes to Seattle and create more choice for West Coast travelers flying internationally.

Although customers benefiting from this new partnership overall is becoming more apparent, they also could possibly have fewer choices as well on affected routes, which could eventually mean more expensive airfares…

…but as with newly-formed alliances between airlines — such as the partnership between Delta Air Lines and LATAM as one example — only time will tell, as you will never hear from the marketing departments of airlines as to how customers will be adversely affected by the new partnerships.

Whether the new alliances actually mean “more choice for travelers” — through such items as codesharing of flights and opening the world to customers of Alaska Airlines — for the long term still remains to be seen…

All photographs ©2013, ©2018, and ©2019 by Brian Cohen.

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