Alaska Airlines
Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Changes: A Reminder

Alaska Airlines released some announcements three months ago today pertaining to changes within the Mileage Plan frequent flier loyalty program; and this article is more of a reminder of what are those changes — or perhaps you did not already know about them.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Changes: A Reminder

A summary of the changes which were announced include:

  • The end of the partnership with Delta Air Lines
  • Lowered the redemption requirements for the lowest award tier
  • Increased the earning of Mileage Plan miles in the business class or first class cabins aboard the airplanes of ten global partners by up to 80 percent
  • Elite status level members are now eligible for complimentary upgrades on award travel on flights operated by Alaska Airlines when tickets for seats in the main cabin are booked
  • You can earn elite qualification miles on flights operated by Virgin America

Partnership With Delta Air Lines Ends

The current partnership of Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines ends as of Sunday, April 30, 2017 — meaning that effective as of Monday, May 1, 2017, the SkyMiles and Mileage Plan frequent travel loyalty programs will no longer be partners.

You can still earn and redeem Mileage Plan frequent flier loyalty program miles for any flights operated by Delta Air Lines through Sunday, April 30, 2017 — meaning that you still have 42 days before the partnership ends, not including today — but that will no longer be true on Monday, May 1, 2017. Any reciprocal benefits will also discontinue.

“This should come as no surprise as our relationship has become increasingly competitive over the last few years”, said Charles Breer — who is the managing director of alliances for Alaska Airlines — according to this article posted at the official Internet weblog of Alaska Airlines. “Given our own growth and expansion, Alaska Airlines now can take people virtually anywhere they need to go. We’ve grown tremendously and with the recent acquisition of Virgin America, we’re now the fifth largest airline in the U.S. We offer more nonstop West Coast departures than any other airline. And, along with our extensive global partner network, you can seamlessly travel to more than 900 destinations worldwide, including on American Airlines, which is the world’s largest airline.”

Lower Redemption Requirements for the Lowest Award Tier

You can now book one-way non-refundable award travel within the continental United States and Canada starting at only 5,000 miles plus taxes and fees — which is up to 30 percent fewer Mileage Plan miles than were previously required; and without a reduction in the number of award seats available.

New Reduced Mileage Plan Award Levels
New Starting Price Previous Starting Price Distance Each Way Sample Route
5,000 miles 7,500 miles — Intra-state 700 miles or fewer San Jose to Orange County
5,000 miles 12,500 miles 700 miles or fewer Seattle to San Francisco
7,500 miles 12,500 miles 701 – 1,400 miles Los Angeles to Portland
10,000 miles 12,500 miles 1,401 – 2,100 miles Portland to Saint Louis
12,500 miles 12,500 miles 2,101 or more miles San Diego to Orlando

Taxes and fees start from $5.60. Award availability and pricing may vary. The purchaser of an award ticket is responsible for all applicable taxes, fees, and checked baggage charges imposed by the transporting carriers or United States or international authorities.

Earning Mileage Plan Miles Faster on Partner Airlines in Premium Classes

Earn up to 80 percent more miles — not including any elite bonus Mileage Plan miles — when you fly as a passenger in a seat in the business class or first class cabins of select global partners of Alaska Airlines. Additionally, you will also earn Mileage Plan miles on more economy fare classes than ever before.

Examples offered by Alaska Airlines include:

  • British Airways Seattle to London in First (F) Class
    Previously earned: 14,403 — Now: 24,005
  • Cathay Pacific Los Angeles to Hong Kong in Business (I) Class
    Previously earned: 9,059 — Now: 16,306
  • Emirates Seattle to Dubai in Business (J) Class
    Previously earned: 9,281 — Now: 16,706
  • Qantas San Francisco to Sydney in First (R) Class
    Previously earned: 11,126 — Now: 25,960

Complimentary Upgrades on Award Tickets for Elite Status Level Members

Unlimited complimentary upgrades on award tickets to seats in the first class cabin are awarded to members of the Mileage Plan frequent flier loyalty program as a benefit of elite level status. To be eligible for complimentary upgrades, your qualifying Mileage Plan membership number must be included in the reservation; and flight miles must be credited to Mileage Plan.

Certain fares are eligible for immediate upgrades into the first class cabin — provided that space is available. To ensure you are purchasing a fare which qualifies for your desired upgrade — and to view available upgrade space — please use the “Upgrade type” preference selection filter on the advanced search booking form when shopping for flights.

Qualifying Fares for Immediate Upgrade
Elite Status Level Fare Classes
MVP Members Y, S, or Z fares
MVP Gold Members Y, S, B, M, or Z fares
MVP Gold 75K Members Y, S, B, M, H or Z fares

Complimentary upgrades are booked into U class of service and are subject to availability as U class may not be available on all flights.

Z class = refundable Main Cabin awards.

If you have purchased the qualifying fare for your elite level, and upgrade space is available on your flight, you will be upgraded immediately. If there are no upgrades available for your flight, you will be placed on the upgrade waitlist.

If you have purchased a discounted fare which does not qualify for an immediate upgrade, you will be placed on the upgrade waitlist at the upgrade window for your elite status level.

W or N fares are nonrefundable main cabin awards.

Upgrade Windows Prior to Departure for Discounted Fares and Nonrefundable Awards
Elite Status Level MVP Members MVP Gold Members MVP Gold 75K Members
Upgrade window 48 hours 72 hours 120 hours

Upgrades will be processed by elite status level within the upgrade windows noted above; then by fare class; then by the time of booking. If an upgrade is available on your flight, you will be upgraded immediately. If there are no upgrades available for your flight, you will remain on the waitlist until one is available.

Once you are on the upgrade waitlist and within the upgrade window for your status level, Alaska Airlines will continue to look for available upgrades and process them until approximately one hour prior to departure. Any upgrades that become available less than one hour prior to departure will be processed by the agent at the boarding gate. Fare classes are cleared in the following order: Y, Z, S, B, M, H, Q, L, V, N, K, G, T, R, W.

Once check-in begins, the waitlist is available to view either via the official software mobile application program of Alaska Airlines; the gate information display; or at the official Internet web site of Alaska Airlines under flight status.

Please note that the waitlist display only shows travelers who have already checked in for the flight; so your place on the display will move if or when someone ahead of you on the waitlist checks in.

If you are a member with MVP Gold and Gold 75K elite level status, you may upgrade one companion traveling with you on the same flight, in the same reservation and in the same class of service. If a reservation includes more than one companion, it will not be eligible for complimentary upgrades.

Earn Elite Qualification Miles on Flights Operated by Virgin America

That Alaska Airlines has partnered with Virgin America is of no surprise since the acquisition of the airline was approved by the Department of Justice of the United States on Tuesday, December 6, 2016. The acquisition was celebrated with both a sweepstakes and bonus Mileage Plan miles.

Not only can you earn elite qualification miles; but you can also earn Mileage Plan miles on flights operated by Virgin America. Base miles earned and class of service bonuses on flights operated by Virgin America count toward Mileage Plan elite level status.

Cabin Class of Service Base Miles Earned Class of Service Bonus
First Class J, C, D 100 percent 75 percent
Economy — Main Cabin Select W, Q, Z 100 percent 50 percent
Economy — Main Cabin Y, V 100 percent 50 percent
Economy — Main Cabin B 100 percent 25 percent
Economy — Main Cabin H, E, U, M, I, L, S, N 100 percent Not applicable

Flights must fall within the eligible flight number range of 0001 – 1951; and your flight must be operated by Virgin America and marketed by either Virgin America or Alaska Airlines.

To ensure flight credit, the two-letter airline code — AS or VX — must precede the flight number on your ticket receipt or boarding pass.

Mileage earned is based on a percentage of actual flight miles flown, with 500 minimum miles on flights shorter than 500 miles. No miles will be earned for classes of service not listed above.


I chose not to participate in the frenzy of the aforementioned information by myriad weblogs back on Monday, December 19, 2016; but instead chose to use this time as a reminder of the changes — especially as I received an e-mail message recently from Alaska Airlines pertaining to these changes.

Many of the changes seem to be positive overall; and I hope that they are beneficial to you.

Photograph ©2013 by Brian Cohen.

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