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How to upgrade on Alaska Airlines

Enjoy first class cabins without using money.

Updated

Fact checked

Loyal Alaska Airlines customers are often first on the list to get complimentary upgrades. However, even if you only occasionally fly Alaska Airlines, you can still get an upgrade using miles.

How can I get an upgrade?

To move up to Alaska Airlines first class without using money, you need to join Alaska Airlines’s Mileage Plan frequent flyer program. Then you’ll start earning miles every time you fly. Earn even more miles by spending with the airline using an Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card.

Also, frequent flyers who earn elite status get a complimentary upgrade to first class. They also get to earn more miles on their Alaska flights, which can be redeemed for award flights.

Alaska Airlines upgrade with miles

To get an upgrade on Alaska Airlines using miles, your ticket must be booked in a certain fare category. Typically, these fares are Y, S, B, M and H.

There’s also the option to check whether you can upgrade your fare at alaskaair.com. On the website, select Mileage from the Upgrades box and the fares that qualify for an upgrade will appear with a U next to the fare.

Whichever option you choose, it’ll cost you 15,000 miles to upgrade.

Alaska Airlines upgrade with cash

If you want to upgrade without joining the Mileage Plan program, you can upgrade using money. The price of your upgrade depends on the miles you’ll fly.

First class upgrade on a one-way trip Cost
0–450 miles $29
451–700 miles $49
701–1,400 miles $99
1,401–2,100 miles $149
2,101 miles and more $199

Data obtained April 2019. Values are subject to change and should be used only as a general guide.

How to use a credit card to get an Alaska Airlines upgrade

Getting an Alaska Airlines credit card won’t get you an upgrade directly. However, you can use your card to purchase airfare and earn accelerated miles. You can then use these miles to move up to first class, or you can redeem miles for an award flight.

You’ll also get a chance to earn an Alaska Airlines companion certificate every year on your card anniversary. If you often fly with the airline, this could be a useful perk to have.

Consider a card from another airline

United℠ Explorer Card

  • $0 first-year intro annual fee, then $95.
  • Signup bonus: 60,000 miles after you make $3,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening. Plus an additional 10,000 points after spending $6,000 in the first 6 months.
  • 2x miles on United purchases, hotel stays and restaurant purchases.
  • Credit every four years for your Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee.
  • 25% back as statement credit on United inflight purchases. Plus, priority boarding and your first checked bag free on United-operated flights.
  • 2 United Club one-time passes each card anniversary.
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Compare credit cards that can help earn an upgrade

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card

Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card

Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card

Compare airline credit cards

You might not be able to earn an upgrade on Alaska Airlines with these cards, but there’s a wide selection of airline credit cards with similar perks to choose from.

Name Product Welcome offer Rewards Annual fee Filter values
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months, a value of up to $750 through Chase Ultimate Rewards
5x points on Lyft, 2x points on travel and dining and 1x points on all other purchases
$95
Earn a signup bonus worth $750 with this popular travel card. Combine with other Chase Ultimate Rewards cards for even greater value.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months
10x points on Lyft rides, 3x points on dining and travel after earning your $300 travel credit and 1x points on all other purchases
$550
Get a generous $300 in annual travel credits, 3x points on travel and dining, and a 50% bonus on point redemptions with Chase's premier card.
Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card
35,000 miles after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months
2x miles on Delta purchases, restaurants and at US supermarkets and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0 intro annual fee for the first year ($99 thereafter)
With a welcome offer worth up to $600, up to 2x miles on select purchases, and assorted Delta perks, this is a strong choice for Delta fans. Rates & fees
Delta SkyMiles® Blue American Express Card
10,000 miles after spending $500 in the first 3 months
2x miles at restaurants and on direct Delta purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases
$0
Earn 2x miles on Delta purchases and dining with this simple, entry-level Delta card, and pay no annual fee. Rates & fees
Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi
N/A
4% at gas stations on up to $7,000 annually (then 1%), 3% at restaurants and on travel, 2% at Costco and 1% on all other purchases
$0
Get 3% back on your travel and dining purchases with no foreign transaction fees and use the card for your Costco membership.
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Compare up to 4 providers

How to upgrade with an elite tier status

Alaska Airlines has three elite status tiers for the most loyal flyers — MVP, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K. You can earn any of these tiers by flying Alaska or any of their partners. Once you reach the status, you can use it to get complimentary upgrades.

However, there are some limitations to which fares you can upgrade and how long before departure. Check out the table below for details.

MVP MVP Gold MVP Gold 75K
First Class upgrades at the time of booking Y, S or Z fares Y, S, B, M or Z fares Y, S, B, M, H or Z fares
Premium Class upgrades at the time of booking Y, S, B or Z fares Y, S, B, M, H, Q, L, V, N, K or Z fares All fares except Saver fares
First and Premium Class upgrades on Alaska non-qualifying fares 48 hours before departure 72 hours before departure 120 hours before departure

MVP Gold guest upgrade certificates

If you have MVP Gold elite tier status, you can upgrade the seats of your friends and family members who are traveling with you.

There are two ways to use the MVP Gold upgrade, if you already bought the tickets or if you’re looking to buy.

If you already bought the tickets

Here’s how to upgrade:

  1. Log in to your Alaska Airlines online account.
  2. Select the link of your confirmation code, next to MVP Gold guest upgrade
  3. Use the upgrade code if you’re eligible.

Note: You can also call 1-800-252-7522 to remove yourself from the waitlist.

If you are looking to buy the ticket

In this case, here’s what to do:

  1. When searching for a flight, choose MVP® Gold guest upgrade from the upgrade type section.
  2. Choose a flight with available upgrade. It should say F Available.
  3. As an alternative, select I want to apply an MVP® Gold guest upgrade code to one or more of my flights during booking.
  4. From your confirmed reservation page, select the MVP® Gold guest upgrades link and apply the code.

How to use miles to upgrade on an Alaska Airlines partner flight

Unfortunately, you can’t get an upgrade on Alaska Airlines partners. But you can get an award flight using miles on these airlines:

  • Aer Lingus
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Condor
  • Emirates
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Icelandair
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • Latam Airlines
  • PenAir
  • Qantas
  • Ravn Alaska
  • Singapore Airlines

Bottom line

Getting an upgrade on Alaska Airlines is easy. If you’re a member of the Mileage Plan reward program, you can upgrade without using money. Otherwise, you can purchase your upgrade out of pocket. Only the Mileage Plan elite tiers get a complimentary upgrade to first class.

If you fly infrequently with Alaska Airlines, check out other airline credit cards and compare your options.

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