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As part of the special relationship with American Airlines and Alaska Airlines, American is providing eligible Alaska Airlines elites with systemwide upgrades (SWU) for use on American Airlines flights throughout the system.
Earning These Upgrades
First off, it’s worth noting that these upgrades are only for Alaska Airlines elites that earned status in 2021 for the 2022 program year:
- MVP Gold 75K earns 1 one-way systemwide upgrade
- MVP Gold 100K earns 2 one-way systemwide upgrades
While you cannot earn more than these allotted upgrades in a program year, this perk is expected to be offered to Mileage Plan elite members in years to come, so every year, assuming you earn status, you should see these upgrades deposited in your account.
Unlike American Airlines elites who receive these upgrades, they are not tied to your AAdvantage number or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan number. You’ll be sent an email with a specific redemption code, and this is the code you’ll need to give to the American agent when applying your upgrade. Usually, American elites can simply tell the agent they wish to use an upgrade from their account, but in this case, you’ll have to give the specific code number.
Applying These Upgrades
To apply these upgrades, you need to look for 1 of 2 things when reserving your flight:
- To upgrade from Main Cabin to first class on a 2-class plane, you need to look for “C” inventory
- To upgrade from Main Cabin or premium economy to business class on a 2-class plane, you need to look for “C” inventory
- To upgrade from business class (paid) to first class on a 3-class plane, you need to look for “A” inventory
While an American agent can tell you if this inventory is available on your desired flight, you can also use a third-party service such as ExpertFlyer to search for yourself.
If the upgrade inventory is not available on your flight, you’ll be placed on a waitlist that could clear anytime between the time of request and departure. If you’re placed on the waitlist, you would fall behind the respect AAdvantage tier that relates to your Alaska status. So, for MVP Gold 100K that would be Executive Platinum, and for MVP Gold 75K that would be Platinum Pro.
Admittedly, using these upgrades can be rather difficult as there is heavy demand for booking premium cabins. When looking for availability, you’re best finding space on non-desirable routes and flight times. For looking internationally, New York (JFK) to London (LHR) tends to have the most amount of upgrade space open, and from there you can jump to any other city throughout Europe.
These systemwide upgrades are a great perk if you’re an upper-tier elite on Alaska Airlines. While they can be challenging to use, if you’re able to find upgrade space, the upgrades could save you hundreds or even thousands in cash.
Featured Image Credit: Daniel Ross
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UP's Bonus Valuation
This bonus value is an estimated valuation calculated by UP after analyzing redemption options, transfer partners, award availability and how much UP would pay to buy these points.