Alaska Airlines is making 3 big changes to the upgrade process


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Editor’s note: This post was updated with more clarifying information on Alaska’s new upgrade process

Alaska Airlines is making some big changes to the upgrade process.

Specifically, the Seattle-based carrier is rolling out three tweaks to the upgrade waitlist, as confirmed by a carrier spokesperson. While the majority of the changes are good news across the board, one is a little bit more complicated.

The airline confirmed that the following changes apply to both first-class and Premium-class (extra-legroom seats) upgrades.

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The waitlist will show all eligible passengers

Alaska’s upgrade waitlist now lists all passengers standing by for a first-class seat, regardless of whether they’re checked in.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

This is a welcome change for everyone, as you’ll no longer have a situation where you see yourself as No. 1 because you happened to check in first, but then drop five spots as others with higher priority start checking in.

Companions will appear on the waitlist

Alaska’s upgrade waitlist will now also display all eligible companions next to the elite they are traveling with. This will make it much easier to ascertain where you and your companion are ranked on the upgrade list.

MVP Gold members and higher may upgrade one companion traveling with them on the same flight, in the same reservation and in the same class of service. If a reservation includes more than one companion, it will not be eligible for complimentary upgrades.

The companion will enjoy the same upgrade priority as the elite member.

A more equitable prioritization

The airline is also changing the waitlist prioritization on the day of departure.

Going forward, any members added to the waitlist between 24 hours and 60 minutes before the flight will have the exact same priority as prior to the day of travel — namely, elite tier, fare class and time of the request.

Previously, members who booked a flight within 24 hours of departure or made a same-day change within 24 hours were prioritized on the waitlist by tier and check-in time — without factoring in the fare class.

Alaska Airlines first class. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

That was especially punitive to members booking last-minute tickets, as well as those making close-in changes.

For instance, if an MVP Gold 75K member purchased a full-fare Y-class ticket 12 hours before a flight, they previously would have been below any 75K members who were on the waitlist — even though they purchased the most expensive coach fare. (This assumes that there wasn’t any confirmed upgrade space available at the time of purchase.)

Under the new rules, that same member will be placed at the bottom of any other waitlisted 75Ks who also purchased a Y fare, but above 75Ks in other fare classes — a welcome change for those buying expensive tickets at the last minute

Related: What airline fare classes tell you about your ticket

What isn’t changing

While Alaska is changing three elements of the waitlist process, the airline isn’t (currently) making any other adjustments.

Elites will continue to enjoy complimentary space-available upgrades, beginning as early as 120 hours before departure for top-tier MVP Gold 100K and 75K members. Those purchasing the most expensive tickets can even enjoy a confirmed bump to first class at the time of booking, assuming that upgrade space is available.

In addition to Alaska Mileage Plan elites, American’s top-tier Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro members will continue to enjoy space-available first-class upgrades on Alaska flights.

For more details, be sure to check out our comprehensive guide to getting upgraded on Alaska Airlines flights.

Featured photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines.

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