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Alaska Airlines Upgrades: How to Upgrade to First Class

Alaska Airlines Upgrades: How to Upgrade to First Class

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If you fly Alaska Airlines frequently, you can make your journeys easier and much more comfortable by learning how to easily get an upgrade with the airline.

Instead of jostling through the crowd at the boarding gate, you could enjoy first-class priority boarding that will get you nestled in your cushy seat, sipping a predeparture beverage while other passengers file onto the plane and hoist bags into the overhead bins. And getting an Alaska Airlines upgrade may be easier and less expensive than you imagined.

This guide will outline all the ways you can get upgraded to first or premium class on Alaska Airlines and will give you all the info you need to secure that great seat and all those amenities affordably — or even for free — on future flights.

Types of Alaska upgrades

Alaska Airlines offers a few different kinds of upgrades. Depending on your elite status and your willingness to spend money or miles, you may be eligible for one or more of these types of upgrades.

First Class upgrades

First Class upgrades on Alaska are upgrades that are given to elite members in the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program. This is the main upgrade available on Alaska Airlines, and is complimentary for elites. If you want to be eligible for a complimentary upgrade, make sure that your Mileage Plan loyalty number is on your reservation.

First Class companion upgrades

One of the perks of MVP Gold, Gold 75k and Gold 100k status is the ability to also upgrade one companion to First Class. Your companion must be traveling with you on the same flight, same reservation and in the same class of service. Note that if your reservation has more than one additional companion, it will not be eligible for a companion upgrade.

Guest upgrades

If you are an Alaska MVP Gold member or above, you have the ability to use Guest upgrades to upgrade friends or family members when they aren't traveling with you. You can also use these Guest upgrades to upgrade yourself if you are traveling on a non-qualifying fare. Once you have earned at least MVP Gold status, your Guest upgrades will be automatically deposited to your account. You'll get four Guest upgrades to use each year you reach MVP Gold or above.

Premium Class upgrades

In addition to First Class upgrades, Alaska Airlines elite members can also get upgraded to Premium Class. Premium Class seats have extra legroom, access to early boarding and complimentary alcoholic beverages. A single waitlist is used for both First Class upgrades and Premium Class upgrades.

Upgrades for American Airlines AAdvantage elites

Alaska Airlines has a partnership with American Airlines, and American Airlines AAdvantage elites are eligible for upgrades when flying Alaska. American Airlines Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro members will be prioritized in the upgrade queue after Alaska MVP Gold 75K members.

Upgrade with miles

One use for your Alaska Airlines MileagePlan miles is to upgrade a paid ticket to First Class. If you want to upgrade your paid ticket to First Class, it will cost 15,000 Alaska miles. Keep in mind that only certain fare classes are eligible and there will need to be upgrade space available. You can select "mileage upgrade" as your upgrade preference option when searching for a flight on the Alaska Airlines website.

Paid upgrades

You can also pay to upgrade your ticket to First Class. The cost to pay to upgrade to First Class varies with the length of the trip, and can be as little as $29 one way. Upgrades do not include stopovers, and exclude award travel, Saver fares and industry discounts. If you're planning on upgrading, make sure you upgrade before paying for baggage, since if you are upgraded after baggage has been accepted, you won't be eligible for a refund of baggage fees.

Should I use miles for Alaska upgrades?

We value Alaska MileagePlan miles at around $0.016 per mile. That means the 15,000 miles you'll need for an upgrade are worth about $240. While that may be worth it on some longer flights, you'll also need to buy a higher fare to be eligible to use miles to upgrade, since Saver fares are not eligible for miles upgrades. That may make using miles for Alaska upgrades not worth it for you.

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How elite status helps you get a First Class upgrade on Alaska

All First Class and Premium Class complimentary upgrades are awarded based on your elite status. Depending on your elite status and the fare class of the ticket that you purchased, you will be eligible for automatic first-class and premium-class upgrades. If you buy a type of fare that does not qualify for an automatic upgrade, then you may still get an upgrade. Alaska Airlines will start processing upgrades at a specified time before departure, depending on your elite status.

Upgrade benefit
MVP
MVP Gold
MVP Gold 75K/100K
Automatic first-class upgradesY or B faresY, B, H or K faresY, B, H, K or M fares
Automatic premium-class upgradesY, B or H faresY, B, H, K, M, L, V, S or N faresAll fares except X upgraded at booking
Upgrades on Alaska non-qualifying fares48 hours before departure72 hours before departureImmediate upgrade
Companion upgrades to first classNoYesYes
Companion upgrades to premium classNoYesYes
Four one-way guest upgrades to first classNoYesYes

Upgrade order

All complimentary Alaska upgrades are processed in a certain order of priority. This order of priority is based on your level of elite status, the fare class of the ticket that you purchased and when you purchased your ticket.

Immediate upgrades

Specific fare classes are eligible for immediate upgrades, if there is First Class space available on your flight. Upgrades will be granted depending on level of status, along with other factors, such as fare class purchased.

First Class upgrades
MVP® membersY or B fares
MVP® Gold membersY, B, H, or K fares
MVP® Gold 75K members and MVP® Gold 100K membersY, B, H, K, or M
Premium Class upgrades
MVP® membersY, B or H fares
MVP® Gold membersY, B, H, K, M, L, V, S or N fares
MVP® Gold 75K and MVP® Gold 100K membersAll fares except X upgraded at booking

Waitlisted upgrades

If you purchase a fare class that does not qualify for an immediate upgrade, then you will be added to a request queue. Once your upgrade window opens (based on your elite status), all elite members in your status level will have their upgrades processed in order of the fare class purchased. If there aren't any upgrades available on your flight, then you will be added to a waitlist queue. Alaska will continue checking for upgrades up to one hour before flight time.

First Class upgrades
Elite levelMVP membersMVP Gold membersMVP Gold 75K/100k members
Upgrade windows48 hours prior to departure72 hours prior to departure120 hours prior to departure
Fare class orderH, K, M, L, V, S, N, Q, O, G, TM, L, V, S, N, Q, O, G, TL, V, S, N, Q, O, G, T
Premium Class upgrades
Elite levelFare classesUpgrade windows
MVP membersK, M, L, V, S, N, Q, O, G or T fares48 hours prior to departure
MVP Gold membersQ, O, G or T fares72 hours prior to departure
Gold 75K and Gold 100K membersAll fares except X qualifyImmediate upgrade

Can a credit card help you get an upgrade on Alaska?

Having an Alaska Airlines personal or business credit card won't help you directly get an upgrade on Alaska Airlines. The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card does have some excellent perks if you regularly fly Alaska, like a companion fare, free checked bags and discounted lounge access and in-flight purchases. That may mean you fly Alaska more often, which will help you get a higher elite status (and more upgrades).

Other ways to upgrade to First Class on Alaska

If you're not eligible for complimentary upgrades, there are several other ways that you can upgrade to First Class.

There are two main ways you can use your miles to get a first-class seat for less:

1. Alaska Airlines upgrade to first class with miles

You can get an Alaska Airlines mileage upgrade at the time you book your ticket or after you have purchased your ticket. The first step is to make sure you have enough miles in your account and that you purchase a flight that is eligible for an upgrade. When searching for a flight on the Alaska Airlines website, select "mileage upgrade" as your upgrade preference option. The first-class Alaska Airlines upgrade cost in miles is 15,000 miles each way.

After you book your flight, you can request a mileage upgrade by calling Alaska Airlines reservations at 1-800-252-7522.

You can also request a mileage upgrade during online check-in within 24 hours of your departure or at the check-in kiosk when you arrive at the airport. Your chances of getting an upgrade will be based on availability. Keep in mind that elite members will get first priority, so you probably don't want to wait until the last minute.

2. Get a first-class seat with Alaska Airlines Money & Miles

While it's not technically an upgrade, you can get a deeply discounted first-class ticket at the time of booking when you combine your miles with cash. There are two Money & Miles options:

  • 10,000 miles gives you a 50% discount up to $100 off the base fare for both one-way and round-trip flights.
  • 20,000 miles gives you a 50% discount up to $200 off the base fare for both one-way and round-trip flights.

Before you book, you should know that Money & Miles cannot be used with Saver fares. As you can see, cashing in some of your Alaska Airlines miles offers an easy way to get into first-class affordably.

If seats are available within 24 hours of takeoff, you may purchase an upgrade during your online check-in. You may also be able to complete the purchase at a kiosk or airport ticket counter on the day of departure. Note that this is an unreliable method for getting an upgrade since you need to wait until close to your departure date to see if any upgraded seats are available.

If possible, you should upgrade before you pay to check bags. If you get the upgrade after you have paid the checked-bag fee, you won't be able to get a refund. You can purchase upgrades to premium class starting at $29, but if you want top-notch flight accommodations, then you'll want to move on up to first class.

Elite members can take one friend or family member with them to first class or premium class with a companion fare upgrade. The companion must be on the same reservation as the elite member to be eligible for an upgrade. That means both you and a friend can get more legroom and a more enjoyable flight.

When you are upgrading at the time of purchase, follow these steps:

  1. Select the advanced search booking form.
  2. For "Upgrade type," choose MVP Gold guest upgrade.
  3. The icon next to the flight will show whether the first-class upgrade is available.
  4. Choose to apply the guest upgrade code during booking.
  5. Once you get to the confirmation page, you will be prompted to enter your guest upgrade code.

When the ticket has already been purchased, follow these steps:

  1. Go to AlaskaAir.com, log in and view your reservation.
  2. Select the link that says "MVP Gold guest upgrade."
  3. If the flight is eligible, enter your guest upgrade code.

If you are using a guest upgrade for yourself, you will have to call Alaska Airlines reservations to remove yourself from the waitlist before requesting a guest upgrade.

Alaska Airlines is now a member of the oneworld alliance, which means that your Alaska elite status may entitle you to upgrades and other benefits when flying other oneworld airlines, including American Airlines. Just make sure that you have your Alaska Airlines loyalty number added to your ticket when making your purchase — this will make you eligible for upgrades on qualifying partner airlines.

How to check for upgrade space on Alaska Airlines

If you're looking to score an upgrade on Alaska, you'll want to make sure the flight you're booking has upgrade space. When you are looking at flights, make sure to use the "Upgrade type" preference selection filter on the advanced search booking form.

Alaska Airlines

What can an Alaska upgrade get you?

If you're not sure if paying for an Alaska Airlines upgrade is worth it, here's a quick look at what amenities you'll get when flying First Class or Premium Class.

Alaska First Class

Here are some of the benefits and amenities of flying First Class on Alaska:

  • Spacious, custom-designed seats
  • Two complimentary checked bags
  • Free beer, wine and cocktails
  • The ability to pre-order complimentary meals
  • Priority boarding

Alaska Premium Class

Here are some of the benefits and amenities of flying Premium Class on Alaska:

  • 4 inches more legroom than standard Main Cabin seats
  • Complimentary beer, wine, and cocktails for flights over 350 miles
  • Priority Boarding and deplaning
  • Access to reserved overhead bin space

Tips for getting upgraded on Alaska Airlines

Whether you have elite status or not, here are five tips that will help you get upgraded on Alaska Airlines:

  1. Book flights on less-busy travel days. Understand that you may not be able to get an upgrade on the busiest flights to the busiest airports. Try to book your flight on a less-popular travel day to increase your chances of getting an upgrade. For example, avoid holidays and three-day weekends, and try to book on a Tuesday or Wednesday instead. Even Saturday may be a better travel day than Sunday, when everyone else wants to head back home from vacation.
  2. Consider a flight with a connection. Direct flights are more popular, so you may have a better chance of getting an upgrade if you're willing to book a flight with a layover. It's a trade-off, but it may be worth the inconvenience if you really want that first-class seat.
  3. Check availability before you book. If first class is already nearly full or full at the time you book your flight, that tells you your chances of an upgrade are practically nil. Taking a look at the seating chart in advance can save you a lot of wondering, waiting and stress.
  4. Use the advanced search menu. If you do have elite status, make sure you use the advanced search menu when you are looking for a flight. This will tell you before you book whether you can get an immediate upgrade or not, and it's a great way to avoid surprises.
  5. Be proactive when asking for an upgrade. If you want an Alaska Airlines mileage upgrade, call the reservations line as soon as possible to ask for one. If you want to score a paid upgrade, go up to the desk and ask for one as soon as you get to the airport. If you enlist help, you'll be more likely to beat less-proactive passengers.
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Frequently asked questions

How much does it cost to upgrade to first class on Alaska Airlines?

You can use either money or miles (or both) to upgrade to First Class on Alaska Airlines. It will cost 15,000 Alaska Airlines miles to upgrade a one-way flight. If you want to use cash, the cost will depend on the length of the flight, with upgrades starting as low as $29.

Is food free in first class on Alaska Airlines?

Yes, passengers flying First Class on Alaska Airlines have access to complimentary food. You can even pre-order the specific meal that you prefer. You are also eligible for complimentary beer, wine and cocktails.

Does Alaska Airlines have a first class lounge at LAX?

Yes, Alaska Airlines offers several airport lounges, including one at LAX in Terminal 6. You'll have complimentary lounge access with a First Class fare or a First Class award ticket (but not a First Class upgrade).

When does Alaska Airlines release first class seats?

First Class inventory is constantly changing, depending on a variety of different factors. Alaska elite members flying on certain fare classes have access to immediate upgrades. If you are an elite member flying on a fare class that is not eligible for an immediate upgrade, your upgrade window opens anywhere from 48 to 120 hours before flight.

Do I keep my seat preference when I get an Alaska Airlines upgrade?

If you've chosen an aisle or window seat and you get upgraded, you'll get the same type of seat in the upgraded class. For example, if you select a window seat in the main cabin and you are upgraded to first class, then you will also have a window seat in first class.

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Example of how we calculate the rewards rates: When redeemed for travel through Ultimate Rewards, Chase Sapphire Preferred points are worth $0.0125 each. The card awards 2 points on travel and dining and 1 point on everything else. Therefore, we say the card has a 2.5% rewards rate on dining and travel (2 x $0.0125) and a 1.25% rewards rate on everything else (1 x $0.0125).