Flying Economy with Alaska Airlines This Summer? You Might Get a Free Upgrade

To court greater appreciation from fliers during what is predicted to be the busiest summer travel season on record, Alaska Airlines is giving away surprise upgrades.

Alaska Airlines plane ascending through the sky with some light clouds

We all could use a little additional legroom from time to time.

Photo by Y.S./Unsplash

It’s already shaping up to be a busy summer travel season in the United States. On the Friday before Memorial Day, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 2.95 million airline passengers, the highest number ever recorded in a single day. And Airlines for America, a trade group representing major U.S. airlines, has estimated a 6.3 percent increase in fliers this summer over the last. While airports are certainly going to be more crowded, one carrier is trying to make the in-flight experience a little roomier for some lucky fliers.

Alaska Airlines just announced a summer promotion called “upgrade unlocked” wherein at least one passenger booked in the Main Cabin of the Seattle-based carrier’s flights will get a surprise bump up to Premium Class every day between June 1 and September 2, 2024.

According to Eric Edge, managing director of marketing and advertising at Alaska Airlines, the program is “one way we’re showing guests our appreciation for choosing to fly with us to their favorite destinations this summer.”

Passengers in Alaska Airlines' Premium Class seats

Alaska’s Premium Class features four additional inches of legroom compared to the Main Cabin seats.

Ingrid Barrentine / Alaska Airlines

The winning guests (and their travel partner, if they have one—up to one additional guest can receive the upgrade as well) will be notified through the Alaska Airlines mobile app or by email that they’ve been randomly selected for an upgrade.

Alaska’s Premium Class seats are located directly behind first class. Typically they’re available for purchase (for as low as $15 per leg, according to Alaska) or are given to fliers who have elite status on Alaska Airlines or on a oneworld Alliance partner, like American Airlines or British Airways. Compared to Main Cabin seats, Premium Class seats have an additional four inches of legroom (for a total of about 36 inches) and include complimentary beer, wine, or spirits for of-age travelers on most flights that are 350 miles or more. Premium guests also board and deplane ahead of those in the Main Cabin and get earlier access to overhead bin space.

It’s worth noting that while the promotion only specifically mentions Main Cabin passengers, it also extends to those who have purchased Alaska’s Saver Fare.

Currently, Alaska Airlines flies to destinations in the United States, Canada, Belize, the Bahamas, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Mexico. Recently the carrier bolstered its service in Southern California with new year-round routes from San Diego to Las Vegas and Los Angeles to Reno and Pasco, Washington. The airline is also increasing the number of flights between Los Angeles and some of its most popular destinations, including Seattle, Portland, and Boise.

If you aren’t one of the lucky few to score the complimentary upgrade, another recent Alaska announcement could help ease the sting: On May 22, the carrier announced the return of hot meals in the Main Cabin. The new menu items, which include entrées like a chicken curry wrap and pretzel-roll sliders, will be offered on flights over 1,100 miles; they need to be preordered up to 20 hours before flying (though, if you want our advice, we recommend opting for the Signature Fruit & Cheese Platter).

Bailey Berg is a freelance travel writer and editor, who covers breaking news, trends, tips, transportation, sustainability, the outdoors, and more. She was formerly the associate travel news editor at Afar. Her work can also be found in the New York Times, the Washington Post, National Geographic, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, the Points Guy, Atlas Obscura, Vice, Thrillist, Men’s Journal, Architectural Digest, Forbes, Lonely Planet, and beyond.
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