How To Credit American Flights To Alaska Mileage Plan?

Reader concorde02 asked the following question in the “Ask Lucky” forum:

I remembered you did SFO-DFW-HKG trip using SWU to upgrade to J but credit the miles to AS. How does it work? Should I leave the AA number with the reservation until the upgrade is confirm then change to AS number?? Would that be too risky to not get miles to credit?

I figured this question would be worth answering here, as it addresses a topic which I think is interesting “big picture.”

Airlines having been changing up their frequent flyer programs significantly over the past several years, whether it’s going fully revenue based, slashing mileage earnings on cheap fares, etc. So more than ever before there are arbitrage opportunities, whereby you can maximize your miles by crediting to airlines other than the one you’re flying with.

The partnership between Alaska and American is especially lucrative, since both airlines offer 100% reciprocal mileage earning, even for the cheapest fares.

Here’s the AAdvantage earnings chart for travel on Alaska:

AA-AS

Meanwhile here’s the Mileage Plan earnings chart for travel on American:

AS-AA

When can you credit American flights to Alaska?

As a general rule of thumb you can credit your American flights to Alaska Mileage Plan on any paid fare. This includes when you’re using miles or systemwide upgrades to upgrade.

The exception is when you’re getting a complimentary status upgrade or using 500 mile upgrades. Why can those not be credited to Alaska Mileage Plan? Because those upgrades are tied directly to you being the traveler on the reservation, and your status.

In the case of using miles or systemwide upgrades, though, those can be applied for anyone. That means they’re not linked specifically to you having to credit your miles to that program.

American-777-300-1

What’s the best way to add your Alaska number to the reservation?

While you can credit your American flights to Alaska, you might not immediately want to add your Alaska frequent flyer number to the reservation.

In the case of concorde02, he’s trying to apply an American systemwide upgrade to a reservation. Therefore he’d want to leave his Executive Platinum number on the reservation as long as possible, so he has the highest priority for getting the upgrade to clear.

So if trying to upgrade an American flight, you’ll want to leave your AAdvantage number on the reservation as long as possible — only change to your Alaska Mileage Plan number after your upgrade has cleared.

Personally my strategy for adding my Alaska Mileage Plan number to American flights is simple. I’ll leave my AAdvantage number on the reservation, and then:

  • If my upgrade has confirmed by the time I check-in, I’ll ask the agent at check-in to switch to my Alaska Mileage Plan number
  • If the upgrade only clears at the gate, I’ll ask the gate agent there to switch the number; in the event that they’re stubborn or refuse, I just ask them to take the AAdvantage number off the reservation altogether, and then request retro mileage credit

American-777

Again, you technically won’t be able to change your mileage number to Alaska if you received a complimentary or sticker upgrade on American on account of your status.

If upgrades aren’t at stake, then you can add your Alaska number to the reservation any time — when you book, by calling reservations, through the “My Trips” section of aa.com, etc.

Bottom line

As I’ve written about in the past, there are plenty of circumstances under which it can make sense to credit American flights to Alaska. Mileage Plan is a great program, and their miles are among the most valuable out there.

alaska-737-parking-lot

MVP Gold 75K members (those who credit 75,000 Alaska miles or 90,000 partner miles to the program annually) not only get a 125% mileage bonus, but also get 50,000 bonus miles. That means 90,000 credited miles to Alaska would earn you 252,500 redeemable miles. Not bad!

While I’ve personally stopped crediting to Alaska (simply because I’ll barely requalify for MVP status with them this year, as I’m trying to cut back how much I’m flying), it’s still an awesome program under the right circumstances.

Do you credit your American flights to Alaska, or vice versa? Do you prefer AAdvantage or Mileage Plan?

Comments

  1. Lucky, thanks for this post. As an MVP Gold with no AA status, I credit all my AA flights to AS. However, I want to point out that mechanically it is a pain. In the past, I call ahead of time (long wait time), and then after they change it the reservation disappears from “My Reservations” on AA….but it’s also not on the AS website. In addition, Admirals Club agents get very puzzled when I’m trying to check into the lounge.

    For me, doing it ahead of time lets me choose a free main cabin extra seat before they fill up, but maybe I’d be wise to change the number at the airport? What do you think?

  2. @ Daniel — I’d say it’s worth it if you can select a Main Cabin Extra seat in advance. Yes, it makes it tougher to manage your reservation online, but in my opinion that’s a small price to pay for a better seat on a flight.

  3. Unfortunately, my travel is down considerably since I changed jobs a couple of years ago. So despite having lifetime (of the program) Platinum status on AA, I’m crediting everything I can to AS to retain MVP Gold. It’s nice to have the flexibility of booking AA, AS, or DL domestically and have them all collectively count towards status. And MVP Gold plus the BofA credit card’s companion ticket have let me book inexpensive coach fares to Hawaii the past couple of years for my husband and myself, and confirm first class upgrades at the time of booking. Pretty sweet!

  4. Thanks Ben for clarify this confusing process.
    Qualifying for MVP gold has got difficult since DL earnings are cut back. I don’t fly short haul enough to qualify MVP gold without long flights… DL flights came in handy (even it means flying Y) since it provides international nonstop from SEA, but after the cut back, it is hard.
    Having EXP with AA, Platinum with UA, I thought for a sec I may not wanna retain AS MVP anymore.. (work gets in a way) but the idea of buying the cheapest fare for short weekend trips domestically (especially bay area or LA) and call 10pm the night before to move to the time you actually prefer and still get first class.. and not even have to take time off from work… nothing can beat that…

  5. Interesting post. I have this predicament a lot based out of Seattle, and having status with both programs. The AA agents a lot of times are apathetic, and don’t know how to switch numbers out. They AS staff can be a little more accommodating and nice. For example I was on the waiting list for an upgrade on an AA flight as an AA PLAT. I was #10 with 3 seats left in F, so it was unlikely I was going to get the upgrade. I asked the agent at the gate to please take out my AA number, and to move in my AS number. First she said it wasn’t working because I was on the upgrade list, and handed me back my boarding pass. I slid the boarding pass back to her and said, ‘well then take me off the list, and put the AS number in there please.’ (This was at JFK)

    After asking for help from her colleague at the gate, she got me a new BP with my AS number printed on it. I always figured it was important to get an AA ticket stock BP with the AS number on it. The reasons for this is because my friend had a PHL-DFW-SEA that he was crediting to AS, and the flight from PHL to DFW got cancelled. They moved him onto a US PHL-SEA. The PHL-SEA was on a US BP, and AS did not give him credit, even for the original flight routing.

    Thanks for pointing out Ben, that you can just tell them to delete the number all together and then manually request credit from AS. I had not thought of this.

    One question I have is how do you get credit to AS when you are issued only US BP’s, and they don’t have AA BP’s? (or just lie and refuse to issue you AA BP’s) For example I was on a LAS-PHX-JFK flight. The PHX-JFK portion was AA operated, but all boarding passes were US. The flight ended up getting diverted, and that was another story for another time, but I did end up getting credit to AS.

  6. @Ryan… No, not until they merge computers (I think October time). Until then only AA metal.

  7. @ Ryan — Nope, unfortunately not. You’ll have to wait until October when the reservations systems merge.

  8. I have no status on either so no upgrade option, but I do get a free bag as an AA citicard holder. Will the system not know I am entitled to a free bag if I change the airline to which I earn the miles to Alaska? Or can I get both my free bag and credit the miles towards Alaska not AA? Thanks.

  9. I was once told by an AA agent that AA miles to Hawaii could not be credited to AS since AS also flew that route (SFO-HNL). Is that still true?

  10. Don’t leave out the part that some AA flights are not eligible to earn miles on AS. Pay attention to those flight number bands on the AS site.

    I was on DAY-DFW a couple of months ago and changed flights for operational reasons. My flight didn’t credit to AS properly even though the second leg from the same itinerary did. When I pinged AS CSRs, they pointed out my flight (AA 2195) was not eligible.

    I tried to go back to AA and ask them to credit this particular segment to AA. I know it’s not easy but they could have given me some RDMs. Instead, they morphed this into an epic message exchange which culminated with a voicemail I received from a CS manager from AA customer service center in Phoenix, AZ (yes, our new educated agents) who stated AS is a Star Alliance airline. Too bad I couldn’t talk to this lady but calling her back is not worth the miles.

  11. @ Pat — You’ll want to have your AAdvantage number on the reservation until you check-in, and then you can switch your number at the gate.

  12. I’m trying to add my AS number to my AA reservation, but it’s all grayed out and I can’t change it in the My Trips section of aa.com. I tried calling, but the agent said that I can only credit to AS if AS is part of the entire reservation. I can’t find anything online to back up her statement. The flight number, AA 2872, definitely falls within an eligible AA flight. I was hoping to do OLCI instead of waiting in line to check-in. Suggestions?

  13. I want to credit my AA flights to my AA or AS account (no status), but I do have OW Sapphire giving me access to Main Cabin Extra at booking. Would I lose my seat assignments if I change to my AA/AS number after ticketing? How do I do this?

  14. @ George — I’d recommend just changing day of departure at the airport. That’s probably the easiest way to do it while making sure you don’t get kicked out of seat.

  15. Hi Lucky, this is exactly the post I was looking for, but I’m confused by this:

    “Again, you technically won’t be able to change your mileage number to Alaska if you received a complimentary or sticker upgrade on American on account of your status.”

    It seems like it contradicts everything else, but maybe I don’t understand there’s a difference between upgrades? For example, if I am AA Sapphire and my 500 Mile Upgrades are confirmed – can I change my number to Alaska? Or for an International leg, where I cannot use 500 Mile Upgrades, and I’m upgraded due to oversold seats? Thanks.

  16. @Derek – What he means is that when you receive a complimentary upgrade, which does not include using your Systemwide Upgrade, you cannot switch out your AA number for your AS number. When using a systemwide upgrade however, you can do the swap. However, just be sure you have confirmed your systemwide upgrade BEFORE switching out your AA number to your AS number.

    However…I have a question now along those lines. Say you’ve just confirmed your systemwide upgrade on the outbound portion of your flight. You now want to switch out your AA number for your AS number. If you do that, though, will it not affect your position on the upgrade list for your return trip?

    And also, what if you have received a complimentary upgrade on just one segment of your entire roundtrip itinerary…does that now mean the entire itinerary cannot be credited to AS?

  17. The heading says “HOW TO CREDIT THE MILES”. I’ve read it twice and I don’t see any instructions on how to enter my milage number from one plan to the other. Just a bunch of fluff about IF i should do so. Grrr.

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