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Upgrade Alaska flights with miles

by on Mon May 22, 2017 • 3 Comments


Alaska Airlines First Class isn’t the most luxurious around, but you’ll get plenty of legroom, a wider seat, free drinks, and a basic meal on longer flights. And you don’t need a lot of miles in your account to splurge on an upgrade, since every Alaska flight can be upgraded for just 15,000 miles.

What miles you’ll need

If you want to upgrade your Alaska flight with miles, you will need Alaska Airlines miles. Unfortunately, Alaska Airlines is not a transfer partner of any of the major transferrable points currencies, but they do have their own credit card that you can use to earn miles directly. It’s also possible to regularly upgrade Alaska Airlines flights with cash within 24 hours of checkin.

How many miles do upgrades cost?

When traveling on a paid fare, you can upgrade your Alaska Airlines flight for 15,000 miles. This includes any Alaska Airlines flights, even those to Hawaii and Mexico.

How much do cash upgrades cost?

Cash upgrades are dependent on the length of the flight in miles.

Length of Flight (Miles) Upgrade Cost
1-1,250 $50
1,251-2,500 $100
2,501-3,750 $150
3,751+ $200

Are there extra fees for upgrades?

You won’t pay anything in addition to the cash fare you have already booked and the miles or cash upgrade cost, but the fares eligible for upgrades are usually more expensive than the cheapest available fare, so you’re effectively paying extra for the right to upgrade. 

What fares can you upgrade?

Only specific fare classes are eligible for upgrade.

If you are upgrading your Alaska flight with miles, you must have purchased your ticket in Y, S, B, M, or H fare classes.

Keep in mind, these fare classes are not Alaska’s discount economy fares, so will likely cost more than the cheapest ticket available for your date of travel.

For example, on a flight between Seattle and Chicago – you could be paying almost double to have the privilege to pay more to upgrade your flights.


If you want to upgrade with cash, you have a little more flexibility. You must have purchased your ticket in B, G, H, K, L, M, N, Q, R, S, T, V, W, Y, or Z fare classes.

How to know upgrade space is available

In order to upgrade an Alaska Airlines flight with miles, there will need to be ‘U’ space available. To search for fares that are eligible for mileage upgrade, select ‘Mileage upgrade’ as your upgrade option when searching for flights on Alaska Airlines’ website. The option to select which type of upgrade you are interested in will be on the left after submitting your search.

And flights that have a dark blue box with an ‘F’ in it are available for an instant upgrade.


You can also verify U space on Expert Flyer, which requires a paid subscription.

Paid upgrades will be offered upon check in if there are still First Class seats available.

Can you waitlist if no upgrades are available?

Alaska doesn’t keep a waitlist for mileage upgrades.

If there is no upgrade space, you can check back with Alaska, either online or over the phone, until departure to see if the space does open up – there isn’t an upgrade waitlist that you can just sit on. Keep in mind that complimentary upgrades for elites begin to clear 72 hours before departure, so you are less likely to find upgrade availability within this time.

Do upgrades get lounge access?

No. While paid First Class tickets and First Class award tickets on Alaska get you Alaska Lounge access, upgrades from Economy Class don’t get access to the Alaska Lounge.

Are these upgrades a good deal?

In short, they can be but it depends on how you value your miles. Let’s look at an example flight from Newark to San Jose, CA.


The most likely flight option that you would be interested in is the direct flight from EWR to SJC. Economy class costs $199 in a non-upgradable fare class but $354 if you want to be able to upgrade. This means that you would actually be paying $354 and 15,000 Alaska miles to fly in first class.

If you were to outright purchase a first class ticket you would need to pay $553. First class costs $199 more than the upgradable economy fare, meaning that you 15,000 miles is essentially saving you $199. This gives your miles a value of 1.33 cents each. We typically value our airline miles higher than that, but the value won’t always work out to be the same. Additionally, if you don’t have many miles this could still be a good redemption.

Can you upgrade Virgin America flights?

You can’t use Alaska miles to upgrade Virgin America flights yet, but that will change in 2018.

How to book the upgrade

You can redeem a First Class Mileage Upgrade by calling Alaska Airlines at 1-800-252-7522. If you haven’t yet booked your ticket, you’ll be able to process the entire upgrade at time of booking.

Cash upgrades, when available, will be offered at check in.

The following two tabs change content below.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee the first year, then $95

Annual Fee


Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes - transfer to United MileagePlus, Southwest Rapid Rewards, Marriott Rewards, and more

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

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3 thoughts on Upgrade Alaska flights with miles


      @Mike – If the fare is elgible, and you purchased Alaska Airlines flight numbers (not for example an American Airlines codeshare flight operated by Alaska), then it should.

  1. James Lovejoy

    Another point to consider is that for people flying on a Companion Fare, only one flier has to pay for the upgradeable fare. The companion still pays $99 +taxes no matter how expensive the upgradeable economy ticket is.


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