One of my favorite features of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program are its generous upgrades. MVP Gold members who fly 40,000 miles each year with Alaska (or 50,000 miles with Alaska and its partners) get four upgrade certificates that they can use on any flight. A few limitations exist, but many fare classes are eligible. Even better, you can apply them to tickets purchased with the Alaska credit card companion fare.
But what happens if you change or cancel a ticket? Or if you move up your flight to get home earlier? These are easy things to do with MVP Gold elite status since there are no change fees.
Asking that Upgrades Be Returned
In fact, you can send a quick email to Alaska Airlines (or call them) with the information about the flight in question and ask that the upgrade be returned to you. You could cite the exact upgrade code if you have it, but I usually just provide the confirmation code and flight number it was applied to.
Alaska has a pretty dire sounding warning that suggests you won’t get your upgrade back. Something along the lines of “if you cancel this flight, the upgrade will not be returned to you.” That’s actually intended as a warning to non-elite members; they are called Gold Guest Upgrades, after all. The upgrade will not be returned to the guest, but it can be requested by the member who originally earned it. Looking at the page with your remaining valid Gold Guest Upgrades, the language is more permissive.
Once a MVP® Gold Guest Upgrade is applied to a reservation, no flight changes are allowed. Only MVP® Gold members may contact Customer Care by phone or email for a replacement code.
Because Alaska’s loyalty program runs on a 12-month basis through December 31, 2015, many upgrades are expiring in a couple weeks. If you had any travel this year that was interrupted or changed and upgrades may have been lost, I recommend looking up the details and asking the Mileage Plan desk for assistance returning the upgrades.
Upgrade Expiration May Be Extended
Here’s the best part: In nearly every case when an upgrade was returned to me, it was returned with a new expiration date of December 31, 2016. They were extended for a full year. Because Alaska awarded a couple extra upgrades to my wife and I earlier this year as a holiday gift (other options were Board Room day passes or a third thing I can’t remember) we still have six upgrades unused. I’ll get another four when next year’s status begins.
Several of these upgrades are sitting in my wife’s account. She did not travel much this year, so she did not requalify for MVP Gold status. Even so, I checked with an agent who confirmed that her upgrades expiring in 2016 will remain valid. That makes sense. They’re just coupon codes, much like the companion fare and other discounts that Alaska provides to members.
I’m not quite sure why upgrades are being returned with an extra year of validity, why they can still be used after status expires, or why it’s so complicated to request that an upgrade be returned. But it works, gosh darn it, and I’m definitely thankful. Hopefully it works for you too!