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