How I upgraded to BA First with Avios, used my AA status for premium seats, and credited it all to Alaska

a plane with seats and a blue light

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The Key is FinnAir

I recently got an alert from Expertflyer that an upcoming British Airways flight of mine was available to upgrade. BYAH! Here’s the thing…I was crediting that flight to Alaska so when I called into to upgrade, the rep changed my loyalty number and added my Alaska number. Bummer, right? What it did was provide me with an opportunity to explore what I thought to be possible, but hadn’t actually tried out.

The Facts:

  • I’d booked a discount ticket in British Airways Club World
  • I was originally crediting the flight to Alaska
  • I had set an alert with Expertflyer to notify me when a First Class upgrade was available
  • I wanted to Upgrade to First with Avios
  • I wanted to secure 1A or 1K which are reserved seats for BA Gold or One World Emerald
  • I wanted to credit the flight to Alaska after all was said and done.

While all of this can be done over the phone – it never works out quite how I’d like it, and I’ve found doing it myself creates the results I want.

The First step was receiving an email alert from Expertflyer notifying me that the seat I wanted was available.

You don’t need to do this, but it makes the process easier. If you don’t have ExpertFlyer you can check the AA website as upgrades are coded as award seats, so if you find an award seat, then you’ve found an upgrade as well ( assuming you’re ticketed into an upgradeable fare bucket).

a close-up of a document

I then called to upgrade the ticket from Business to First.

While you are technically capable of upgrading online, this feature has never worked for me. Going through the phone process resulted in my upgrade being secured, BUT my Alaska number was stripped from the reservation and replaced with my Executive Club. Not a big deal, but kind of annoying.

This created an opportunity to test a theory I’d wanted to try out: Could I switch in my AA number to get access to 1A and 1K, switch it back to Alaska, and still keep the seats? 

a teddy bear on a seat
British Airways First Class 777-300ER Seat 1A

The BA website doesn’t accommodate loyalty changes online after one has been selected. So I went to FinnAir.

The Finnair website streamlines changes and allows you to use your BA or AA record locator. In fact, I’m fairly certain that you can change any partners Record Locator ( help me out if you’ve one that doesn’t work )  —–>

Here’s the 1,2,3 Steps.

Since I’m AA Executive Platinum I should be able to access other seats in BA’s cabin. BA’s website showed the change instantaneously.

Sure enough…I could.

a screenshot of a computer

I then repeated the steps with FinnAir —-> changing it to Alaska.

Sure Enough…It worked and my loyalty is credited to Alaska and I still have seat 1A

a screenshot of a flight

Why did I want to be sure I credited this flight to Alaska?

  1. I’m going to Top Tier Status with Alaska
  2. Look at how many points you earn
a screenshot of a screen
Alaska partner earn for British Airways

Interested in seeing what it’s like to fly on BA First Class? Check out my last experience with Miles aboard the A380


Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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  • Michael November 11, 2017

    I attempted doing the same thing with regards to using my AA EXP status to book 1A on an upcoming avios F flight. Expert flyer shows 1A being open but once I enter my AA number is takes me through to BA website to select seat and shows 1A as unavailable…..Is this possibly due to my booking being done with avios and no upgrading/purchasing a ticket? Many thanks, found this to quite informative nonetheless!

  • Sean November 10, 2017

    Enjoy it while you can. I do not see how it will be viable for them going forward being so lucrative.

    Not being negative, I have been MVP for 4 years in a row, 2017 finally made Gold, and thanks to some killer LATAM fares lately, going to hit 75K status (90K flown partner miles) in a couple weeks. It will be the highest airline status I’ve ever had and could not be more pumped!

    • Miles November 10, 2017

      Sean – agreed, won’t last forever. I’d think at some point next year they’ll back off the promotional bonuses, but amazing while they’re around. Certainly, to keep a competitive advantage, Alaska is going to have to keep their loyalty program sweeter than legacy carriers otherwise they’ll turn into the Hyatt of the air

  • Danny November 10, 2017

    Nice job on this post. I too credit my AA and BA flights to AS. Just earned 75k yesterday. AS is the best FF program around.

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