It had to happen sooner or later.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, winner of the 2003 Freddie Award for Program of the Year, has announced it will be making changes to the MVP elite program on Jan. 1.
Regrettably, the news isn’t good (then again, it probably isn’t a deal-breaker, either).
For starters, the qualification threshold will jump from 15,000 flight miles for MVP status to 20,000 miles, and from 35,000 miles for MVP Gold to 40,000 miles.
By way of comparison, America West FlightFund, which offers three levels of elite status, sets its thresholds at 25,000, 50,000 and 75,000 miles.
To put the increase in perspective, consider that a roundtrip from Seattle to Los Angeles is about 1,900 miles. Coastal travelers will thus need to make three more trips than usual to qualify.
Veteran road warriors won’t necessarily bemoan the raising of the bar, however. In programs that offer complimentary upgrades to elite members (like Mileage Plan), a greater number of elite members translates to fewer seats available at the front of the plane.
There are also changes with regard to first class upgrades. The amount required for a one-way upgrade on Alaska will double — from 5,000 to 10,000 miles. And MVP Gold members will no longer be able to use their unlimited upgrade benefit in combination with an “AS50” award (the 15,000-mile, 50-percent fare discount). Also, the unlimited upgrade benefit itself is becoming somewhat, well, limited: MVP Gold members will only find it available at any time on Y, S, B, M, H or Q fares. Upgrades on other fares will need to be confirmed three days prior to departure.
Finally, there are two minor changes to redemption levels. The AS50 award caps the amount of its discount at $250. And the peak award level in first class jumps from 60,000 to 80,000 miles, bringing it to the same level as America West.