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Upgrade Alaska Flights with Miles

Upgrade Alaska Flights with Miles

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This article was last updated Sep 13, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

Alaska Airlines first class doesn’t offer the premier amenities or luxuries seen on other airlines, but it does give passengers priority boarding, comfortable seats, legroom and freshly prepared food. Upgrading to a first class ticket on Alaska Airlines won’t set you back you an arm and a leg either — it only costs 15,000 miles each way.

In this article:

Which credit cards earn Alaska Airlines miles?

There are currently two cards you can use to earn Alaska Airlines miles—the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card and the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card.

Here’s what the two credit card deals have to offer:

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card
Annual fee $75 $50 for the company and $25 per card
Regular purchase APR 15.99% to 23.99% Variable APR on purchases
Rewards 3 miles for every $1 spent directly on Alaska Airlines purchases, 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases
Sign-up bonus $100 statement credit and 40,000 bonus miles with this special online offer. To qualify, make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account. 40,000 bonus miles when you make at least $2,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account
Foreign transaction fee None none

What miles you’ll need

Alaska Airlines miles are the only miles you can use to upgrade to first class. Alaska Airlines doesn’t accept miles from other point programs for seat upgrades. But you can earn points with the Alaska Airlines’ credit cards and use points to book travel, upgrades and hotels.

Both Alaska Airlines branded credit cards have a sign-up bonus. Meet the conditions of the promotion and you could have the miles you need for your first upgrade in no time.

Don’t fret if you want to make an upgrade, but you’re running low on miles. You can also purchase an upgrade within 24 hours of check-in.

How many miles do upgrades cost?

It costs 15,000 miles each way to upgrade to first class. Mile upgrades are available on flights operated by Alaska Airlines and SkyWest (when operating on behalf of Alaska Airlines). Upgrades cannot be made on stopover flights, award travel flights, saver fares or industry discounted flights.

How much do cash upgrades cost?

The cost of a cash upgrade depends on the length of the flight in miles. Here’s how much it costs:

Length of one-way flight (miles) Upgrade cost
0-450 $29
451-700 $49
701-1,400 $99
1,401-2,100 $149
2,101 and above $199

Are there extra fees for upgrades?

There are no extra fees charged when you upgrade a trip with cash or miles. But fares that are eligible for an upgrade typically cost more than the cheapest available fare, so you’ll likely have to spend a bit more for the right to move up to first class.

What fares can you upgrade?

You must purchase a ticket within the Y, S, B, M, or H fare classes to upgrade your Alaska flight with award miles. Again, these fares may cost more than the cheapest ticket available for your travel dates. For example, on a flight between Anchorage to Seattle, you would be paying almost double for a ticket that can be upgraded to First Class.


You have a bit more flexibility when booking an upgrade with cash. You can purchase an upgrade for tickets 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

To look for mile upgrade availability, select ‘Mileage’ as your upgrade type when searching for flights on Alaska Airlines’ website.

After submitting your flight search, you can review the cost of each first class upgrade ticket. Tickets with ‘F’ in the dark blue box have an available first class upgrade. Tickets with ‘F’ in a white box are eligible for upgrade, but don’t currently have upgrade space available.


Besides the Alaska Airlines’ website, ExpertFlyer.com is a paid membership website you can use to check for Alaska Airlines’ upgrade award space.

If you want to pay for an upgrade in cash, there will be a link to pay for the upgrade during online check-in if seats are available. On the day of travel, you may also be able to pay for an upgrade at the departure kiosk, ticket counter or gate.

Can you waitlist if no upgrades are available?

Alaska doesn’t have an option to sign-up for an upgrade waitlist unless you’re an elite Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan member. If there is no upgrade space available, you can check online or call Alaska Airlines before departure to see if space opens up.

Elite Alaska Airlines members are eligible for immediate complimentary upgrades on certain fares. If there are no upgrade seats available, you get put on a waiting list and cleared as upgraded seats come available.

Do upgrades get lounge access?

No. You need a paid first class ticket or first class award ticket to get complimentary access to the Alaska Lounge the day of your flight. A complimentary, paid or mile upgrade to first class does not get you into the lounge. However, Alaska Airlines Visa® cardholders can purchase a lounge day pass for $25.

Are these upgrades a good deal?

Let’s look at an example flight from Newark to San Jose.

The most convenient flight option would be the direct flight from EWR to SJC at 6:25 p.m.

The lowest fare costs $159, but it’s not upgradeable. You need to spend $404 for the chance to upgrade. In total, you would pay $404 plus 15,000 Alaska miles for a first-class seat.

How much are your miles worth?

In this case, a first-class ticket costs $529, which is $125 more than the $404 upgradeable economy fare. The 15,000 miles you would spend on the upgrade to get to first class are worth $125, giving your miles a value of 0.83 cents per mile.

This is a decent redemption value compared to other Alaska Airlines’ miles redemption options. A hotel in San Jose, Calif. for example, can cost 79,000 miles or $254 per night, which works out to a redemption value of 0.32 cents per mile.

The value of your miles won’t always work out to be the same depending on where and when you’re flying. But if you don’t have enough miles to pay for first class, paying for the ticket in cash and then using miles for the upgrade could be a good redemption strategy.

How to book the upgrade

You can redeem a first class upgrade by calling Alaska Airlines at 1-800-252-7522. If you haven’t yet booked your ticket, you can look for availability and make bookings online. Cash upgrades, when available, are offered at check-in online, at the kiosk or departure gate.

Bottom line

Upgrading Alaska flight with miles is a simple and affordable process. You don’t need a long runway of miles to get a first class experience and the Alaska Airlines’ website makes it easy to look for availability in the right fare classes.

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