InsideLook: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

InsideLook: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

WEST COAST TO THE WORLD Seattle-based Alaska Airlines has a strong West Coast presence as well as to, from and within the state of Alaska.

The carrier serves more than 100 cities through a network in Alaska, the lower 48 States, Hawaii, Canada and Mexico. Hub cities include Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Anchorage and Portland, Ore.

Alaska Airlines is not a member of any of the three major air alliances. However, it has codeshare agreements with some members of oneworld, such as British Airways, LAN Airlines and American Airlines, and with some SkyTeam members, including Air France, Korean Air and Delta Air Lines. Close ties to American and Delta result in Mileage Plan members receiving some elite benefits when traveling those airlines. Regional partners include Era Alaska and PenAir.

Earning Ability
Members earn one mile per mile flown on Alaska Airlines and partner airlines. Unlike most legacy carriers, the program continues to offer a minimum of 500 miles for short hops. First class fares earn an additional 50 percent mileage bonus and Full Flex Y class fares earn an additional 25 percent. Earning with partner airlines includes the opportunity to earn bonus miles ranging from 10 to 65 percent on higher fare classes as well as elite-qualifying miles with Delta, American and all international partners.

Members can also earn miles for all credit card purchases with three miles earned per dollar spent on Alaska Airlines purchases, compared to the industry norm of two miles per dollar spent, hotel stays, car rentals, dining and retail purchases, among other mileage earning activities.

Award Choices
Mileage Plan’s award structure has two award levels for first class flights and three award levels for coach. Coach awards are 25,000 miles roundtrip on flights within the continental U.S. and Canada and are capacity controlled. A second level of award travel is offered in the main cabin with awards at 40,000 miles roundtrip and greater availability. Members who book Refundable Coach for 60,000 miles roundtrip have unrestricted access to last seat availability and are not required to pay change or cancellation fees. In first class, only first and Refundable First awards are offered at 50,000 miles and 120,000 miles, respectively.

Mileage Plan offers one-way awards for half the required number of miles for roundtrip. Members can book the lowest price level of coach one way and the higher price level of coach for the return trip or mix and match fare classes or airlines on award tickets.

Award flights to Mexico start at 35,000 miles in the lowest coach price level and 60,000 miles in first, and flights to Hawaii start at 40,000 miles in coach and 80,000 miles in first.

Mileage Plan’s award options are in line with the rest of the industry with the exception of intra-state awards that can been booked for a bargain 15,000 miles for a coach award flight wholly within one state (Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon or Washington).

Budget-conscious travelers can watch for limited-time award sales that can save members 5,000 to 10,000 miles on flights to select destinations.

One-way upgrades to first class require 15,000 miles and can be used system-wide on Alaska Airlines flights, including flights to Hawaii. Mileage upgrades can also be requested in conjunction with Money & Miles awards.

Mileage Plan members can redeem a Money & Miles award for a discounted fare. Members can redeem 10,000 miles for a 50 percent discount, up to a $100 reduction in fare or 20,000 miles for a 50 percent discount up to $200. Money & Miles awards can only be booked online.

Most partner flight awards may be booked online and you can mix and match partners on award flights (one on the outbound, another inbound) or book one-way award flights. Our online search for flights from San Francisco to London in November resulted in finding seats at the lowest level for 40,000 miles plus $237.80 in taxes and fees, flying on American Airlines.

Members can use their miles for magazine subscriptions through the Magazines for Miles program or donate miles to Alaska Airlines Charity Miles. Hotel award stays, car rentals or other types of non-flight awards are not available.

Mileage Plan’s airline partner list is solid and gives members access to many worldwide destinations. Partners include American, Aeromexico, Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Emirates, Era Alaska, Fiji Airways, KLM, Korean Air, LAN, PenAir and Qantas. Alaska Airlines charges a $25 non-refundable fee for all awards booked on partner airlines.

Hotel partners include Aston Hotels and Resorts, Best Western, Choice Hotels, Hilton, InterContinental Hotels Group, La Quinta, Marriott, Red Lion, Starwood and Wyndham. Mileage Plan also partners with a host of smaller and regional hotel groups. Members can generally expect to earn up to 500 miles per stay or two miles per $1 spent for qualifying hotel stays with most partners.

Members earn 50 miles per day on car rentals with Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, National and Thrifty; 500 miles per rental of five or more days with Hertz and Avis.

Bank of America is Alaska Airlines’ co-branded credit card issuer and members in the U.S. can choose from the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card or Business Card. Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus and World Elite MasterCard credit cards are available for members in Canada.

The Visa Signature Card has a $75 annual fee and comes with a 25,000-mile sign up bonus and a $99 base fare companion ticket each year. The card offers three miles per $1 spent on Alaska Airlines flights and vacation packages and one mile per $1 spent everywhere else. The annual companion discount fare allows cardholders to book a ticket for a companion on the same reservation for $99 plus taxes and fees when traveling on Alaska Airlines.

Mileage Plan partners with Diners Club and U.S. cardholders can transfer points into miles at a 1:1 ratio. Canadian Diners Club cardholders can convert 1.25 points into one mile. With Mileage Plan Dining by Rewards Network, members can earn up to five miles per $1 spent at restaurants. New members receive 500 bonus miles.

The partner list is rounded out by Teleflora and FTD (10 miles per $1) and (15 miles per $1); Masterpark (25 miles per day); Cruises Only (up to 2,500 bonus miles), Vinesse Wine Club (2,250 for registering and five miles per $1 spent), Mileage Plan Dining (up to five miles per $1),, e-Miles, e-Rewards and telecommunications provider GCI (one mile per $1 spent). Members can also earn 100 miles for every $300 spent at Safeway stores in Alaska.

Through Mileage Plan Shopping, members can choose from over 800 participating retailers and earn miles while shopping online. Members can qualify for bonus offers when shopping with an Alaska Airlines credit card.

Elite-Level Program
Alaska’s elite program is three-tiered: MVP, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K. Attaining MVP status requires 20,000 miles flown on Alaska during a calendar year; 25,000 miles flown on Alaska and elite qualifying partner airlines, including Delta, American and all international partners; or 30 segments on partners and Alaska.

MVP members receive a 50-percent mileage bonus on Alaska Airlines and elite qualifying partner airlines; unlimited complimentary upgrades (Y, S or B fares at booking when available; 48 hours prior to departure on other fares); complimentary day-of-departure upgrades on Delta within the U.S. (excluding Hawaii), Canada, Mexico and select Caribbean destinations; a dedicated customer service line; Priority AAccess on American; preferred seating and priority check-in and boarding (on Alaska, American and Delta); a 50-percent discount on the initiation fee and discounted Board Room membership; two complimentary checked bags for member and companions on Alaska and American and one free checked bag on Delta.

MVP Gold is reached after flying 40,000 miles on Alaska; 50,000 miles on elite qualifying partner airlines and Alaska or 60 segments on partners and Alaska in a calendar year. MVP Gold members receive a 100-percent mileage flight bonus and can expect all the benefits of MVP, with a few extra perks. Unlimited upgrades are available at any time on Y, S, B, M, H fares at booking or 72 hours prior on other fares. Gold members also receive unlimited upgrades for one travel companion, priority standby and waitlist, four one-way guest upgrade awards annually, two free checked bags on Delta, waiver of service charges and change fees, Sky Priority benefits on Delta, free same day standby, express security lines at select airports and the Board Room initiation fee is waived. Members also receive a complimentary premium beverage when traveling in coach, the opportunity to attend an MVP Gold Event and the ability to give Alaska Airlines employee recognition certificates.

MVP Gold 75K is reached after flying 75,000 miles on Alaska, 90,000 miles on elite qualifying partner airlines and Alaska or 90 segments on partner airlines and Alaska in a calendar year. MVP Gold 75K members have the ability to upgrade 120 hours prior to departure on non-qualifying fares, ability to nominate a friend or family member to MVP status, 50,000-mile threshold bonus when you reach the MVP Gold 75K level, dedicated customer service line, complimentary inflight entertainment player when flying in the main cabin, a discounted Board Room membership and four complimentary day passes.

Mileage Plan also offers a lifetime Gold elite-level membership to members who earn a million miles through flying Alaska.

Rules and Conditions
Mileage Plan miles don’t expire as long as you earn or redeem miles every 24 months. Accounts that are inactive for two years may be closed and miles forfeited. Deleted mileage can be reinstated for a $75 fee for up to one year.

Awards are transferable and may be issued in anyone’s name. Award travel is subject to blackout dates and capacity controls.

Miles cannot be combined but they can be purchased, given as a gift and transferred. Miles cost $27.50 per 1,000 miles. Mileage Plan awards may include one of the following: a one-way, roundtrip or open jaw itinerary. One en-route stopover for each one-way award is allowed on international itineraries or when award travel is redeemed solely on Alaska Airlines.

Service Support
Members are often impressed by the customer service of Alaska Airlines. When we called on a Monday afternoon, we were connected to a customer service representative in less than two minutes.
Members can contact the Mileage Plan service center between 8am and 5:45pm Pacific time, Monday through Friday, and 8am to 4:45pm Pacific time on Saturday. Customer care can also be contacted via email, but responses can take five to seven business days. We received an accurate response to our inquiry within four business days.

Online Services
Awards on Alaska Airlines and all partner airlines can be booked online, with the exception of Cathay Pacific and LAN, which must be booked over the phone. Elite members at the MVP Gold level and above are exempt from the phone-ticketing fee but are required to pay the $25 partner fee. If you book a hotel stay through, you’ll get 250 bonus miles per booking. The Ask Jenn Virtual Assistant is a quick way to find answers to your Mileage Plan questions.

Plus Features
Mileage Plan has good award availability and exceptional customer service. The $99 companion ticket for co-branded credit cardholders is a generous benefit many members value. When using the companion fare discount for credit card holders, you both will still earn miles for the flights. Award change fees are waived for elite members and Mileage Plan offers a complimentary premium beverage to elites traveling in coach. The program offers a 500-mile minimum and intra-state award flight bargains. Club 49 is a special program offering free checked bags and more, exclusively for residents of Alaska.

Minus Features
Although Alaska has strong partnerships with several airlines, it does not belong to a global alliance so elite members don’t have very many reciprocal elite benefits with other airline programs. Non-flight awards are also missing for those who wish for varied ways to spend their miles.

Report Card from Readers
Rating: A
I like the Mileage Plan customer service team. They believe in quick turnaround times and making their customers feel satisfied with their airline.
DIG/R_1K [Milepoint]

Rating: B
Pros: Large partner network covered all the continents on the planet (except Africa but Emirates have some coverage there); elite members have good benefits on Alaska metal, and some benefits on Delta/American metal; reasonable mileage redemption rate.
Cons: Elite members have no benefits on other partners; no multi-partner redemption.
Fishy [Milepoint]

Rating: A–
The thing I don’t like about it is having to look at not only the fare class when you book on partners, but also the flight number. Not really a huge deal, but a pain and somewhat cumbersome, nonetheless.
LETTERBOY [Milepoint]

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