Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Review

Map From First Starbucks (Pike Place, Seattle)

Well, today seemed like a fitting day to blog about the Alaska Airline Loyalty Program (Mileage Plan), as they’re headquartered in Seattle, and that’s where I am today.  I even managed to visit the very first Starbucks!

Although considered a major carrier, Alaska Airlines is not part of any of the three major airline alliances. They do, however, have agreements with OneWorld and SkyTeam members such as British Airways, LAN airlines, American Airlines, Air France, and Delta Air Lines (see the full list of Alaska Airlines partners here). Because Alaska Airlines isn’t part of a global alliance, its loyalty program provides opportunities to earn and redeem miles and receive perks and benefits across airlines from different alliances.

Alaska Airlines is primarily a west coast airline

Alaska Airlines has a major presence in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Anchorage, Portland, and, since 2007, Hawaii. With 91 routes in total, Alaska Airlines flies to various major East Coast and Midwest cities as well. It’s likely that you’ll fly through one of their major cities before being routed to your final destination.

You can check out their route map here.

A Quick Primer on Alaskan Airline Rewards: Mileage Plan

Before I get into the rewards system, it’s worth mentioning that Alaska Airlines has a sister carrier, Horizon Air, that is closely integrated into Alaska Airlines’ operations. Not only do they share a number of routes, but they share the same rewards program. So regardless of which airline you fly, the perks, benefits, and rewards will be exactly the same.

Here’s where it gets complicated. Mileage Plan is partnered with a number of other airlines, with the most notable ones in America being American Airlines and Delta. You can redeem miles for a flight on Alaska Airlines, Alaska Airlines and one partner airline, or a partner airline only. You can’t mix and match partners on award tickets. This means if you fly into a destination on Delta and the return time that works for you is on American Airlines, you won’t be able to purchase the return ticket with Mileage Plan points.

Earning Mileage Plan Points With Alaska Airlines

Each mile you fly earns you one point on Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air, or any of their airline partners. Unlike most legacy carriers, Mileage Plan offers a 500 mile minimum for short flights. This way, if you’re only flying 100 miles (hope not though! you should just drive!), you’ll still receive 500 points for the flight. First class fares earn 1.5 points per mile and Full Flex Y class fares earn 1.25 points per mile (Fuel Flex Y Class is a fully refundable, no-change-fee ticket that gives you preferred seating as well as priority boarding).

Alaska Airlines also gives you the opportunity to purchase additional points at $27.50 per 1,000 miles (we don’t recommend this, as that works out to $0.0275 per mile, more than 2x the intrinsic value of these miles). You can also transfer your miles at a rate of $10 per 1,000 miles, up to 30,000 miles, with a $25 processing fee.

Elite-Level Program Tiers

Mileage Plan’s elite program has three tiers: MVP, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75k. We’ll go into a bit of detail on each.

alaska airlines mvp levelMVP Tier

Attaining MVP status requires you to fly 20,000 miles/30 segments in a calendar year on Alaska Airlines alone or 25,000 miles/30 segments on select airline partners. These partners are Air France, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, KLM, and LAN.
Here are some of the benefits of MVP status:

  • Unlimited complimentary upgrades on Value Fares booked in S or B and Full Flex fares in Y or YAS or 48 hours prior to departure on other fares.
  • Complimentary Upgrades on Delta Air Lines within the U.S. (excluding Hawaii), Canada, Mexico, and some Caribbean destinations.
  • Priority Boarding on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines.
  • First 2 bags are free on Alaska Airlines and American Airlines; first bag is free on Delta Airlines.

MVP Gold Tier

Gold status requires 40,000miles/60 segments in a calendar year on Alaska Airlines or 50,000 miles/60 segments on the same airline partners for MVP. You’ll receive all of the MVP perks in addition to some of the following:

  • Unlimited ability to upgrade one companion into First Class when they are traveling with you
  • First class check-in privileges at Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines
  • Express security lines
  • 100% bonus flight miles on Alaska Airlines, Air France, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Emirates, KLM, or LAN.
  • One complimentary premium beverage of your choice during your flight

MVP Gold 75k

Gold 75k status is the highest echelon of loyalty for Alaska Airlines. You must fly at least 75,000 miles/90 segments in a calendar year on Alaska Airlines, or 90,000 miles/90 segments on select airlines. Here are some of the benefits you’ll receive in addition to the MVP Gold benefits:

  • Top priority on the first class waitlist when you purchase a qualifying fare
  • Opportunity to nominate a family or friend to MVP status
  • 50,000 bonus points when you attain the MVP Gold 75k level
  • Complimentary in-flight entertainment player when flying in the main cabin
  • Complimentary Board Room Day passes (the Board Room is Alaska Airlines’ upscale lounge located in their major hubs as well as 50 affiliate locations worldwide)

You can get the full list of benefits for all tiers here

It’s worth noting that if you make it to a million miles, you’ll receive a Gold Level lifetime membership. There’s not that much information about it this program, but I suppose by the time you fly 1M miles with Alaska Air, you’ll have your own sources of inside information far better than mine.

All About The Mysterious Club 49

This is a special and unique program that’s exclusive for Alaska residents only. This program is a way for Alaska Airlines to show Alaskan residents their appreciation for supporting the company for the past 80 years and pay homage to the residents’ unique travel needs. Alaska Airlines offers Club 49 with the benefits of 2 free checked bags, two annual one-way certificates for 30% off of full flex fares when flying to, from or within Alaska, and exclusive weekly fare deals. To be a part of Club 49, you must be an Alaska state resident and a Mileage Plan member, and there are no costs or annual fees. If you’re a resident of Alaska and you fly on Alaska Airlines, this is a no brainer, though if you’re not living in Alaska, this probably isn’t the one perk that’s going to cause you to move there!

Redeeming Mileage Plan Points

Miles can be redeemed on Alaska Airlines website directly for Alaska Airline tickets or on some partner airlines such as Delta and American Airlines. Most partner airlines, however, require you to redeem your points over the phone. When you do so, there’s a $15 phone fee. Elite members at the MVP Gold and above are exempt from this phone fee but are still required to pay the $25 partner fee.

When you book a flight through points, one en-route stopover is allowed in each direction. Any flights with a stopover must be booked by calling through the service center, thereby incurring the service fee.

This isn’t the only place Alaska Airlines tries to nickel and dime you. Your Mileage Plan points 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 your miles forfeited. However, forfeited or deleted miles can be reinstated for a $75 fee for up to one year after account closure.

Closing Remarks on the Alaska Airlines Loyalty Program

While understanding the value you get from miles or points from a given frequent flyer loyalty program is important, perhaps even more important is understanding whether a given airline is a right fit for your future travel needs.

For example, if you know you’ll be flying to Africa quite a bit in the near future, then Alaska Airlines probably doesn’t give you much benefit (ya think?). However, if you plan on commuting between Anchorage and San Francisco quite a bit, then this may be the perfect loyalty program for you. Stay strong, and stay loyal. Yours, the PIQ crew.