Alaska Airlines has announced changes to the Mileage Plan program effective Nov. 1, 2008. For over 13 years, Alaska Airlines has offered a domestic roundtrip coach saver award for 20,000 miles — 5,000 fewer miles than the industry standard.
Last year, Alaska Airlines increased the cost of redeeming this award when booking over the phone to 25,000 miles. Now, all roundtrip domestic coach saver awards will require 25,000 miles, including those made online. First class saver awards will increase to 50,000 miles roundtrip (up from the current 45,000 miles by phone or 40,000 via the Web) and unrestricted travel in first will require 100,000 miles roundtrip (up from 90,000 miles by phone or 80,000 miles via the Web).
Mileage Plan is following SkyMiles’ lead and introducing a third award redemption level. The current saver awards will be re-named “Super Saver” and will continue to have capacity controls and limited availability. A new middle “Choice” award level offering greater availability and fewer restrictions will be introduced for 40,000 miles roundtrip within the continental U.S. and Canada; 20,000 miles one way. The current unrestricted Peak awards will now be called “Full Flex” awards and will require 55,000 miles roundtrip in coach; 27,500 miles one way. While most award levels are increasing as a result of the changes, Alaska Airlines is continuing its 15,000-mile Intra-Alaska award and expanding the offer as an “Intra-State” award. Roundtrip Super Saver coach awards will now be available for 15,000 miles roundtrip or 7,500 miles one way for travel wholly within one state, including Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon or Washington. First class intra-state awards will also be introduced for 30,000 miles roundtrip or 15,000 miles one way for Super Saver, or 60,000 miles roundtrip or 30,000 miles one way for Full Flex.
Awards that include a partner airline will now incur a $25 fee, following Delta’s lead. And only half the former mileage will be given when traveling on an “AS50” Money and Miles award. The AS50 award offers a 50 percent discount on a flight, up to $250, for 15,000 miles roundtrip. When the changes were initially announced, Mileage Plan was planning to stop offering any mileage with the AS50 awards, but quickly reversed the policy when members expressed their dismay at the decision. Even though members will now only earn half the mileage they earned before, they will continue to earn the same flight segments toward elite that they have in the past.
In an email to members, Alaska Airlines said the changes were made “in an effort to reduce costs, while at the same time continuing to deliver the level of service you have come to expect.” All changes will apply to Mileage Plan awards redeemed on or after Nov. 1, 2008. Awards redeemed prior to Nov. 1 will not be affected by the changes, regardless of the travel date.
Reaction to the changes was swift and varied. Overall, members are complimentary to Alaska for giving them advance warning but they were taken aback by how many changes were thrown at them in one email. Many members were the most upset that they would no longer earn miles when redeeming an AS50 award — one of the main reasons Mileage Plan was quick to give them back some of the mileage earning when using the AS50 award.
Not many members like to see the cost of award tickets go up, but most see this as a sign of the times, as reflected by this FlyerTalk member, “Compared to the rest of the industry, Alaska’s Mileage Plan changes are just a soft blow.”