Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Program Review

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Program Review

Who Is Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Good For?

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has an intriguing fan base. People who live in the Northwest, near the airlines hubs, love its availability, perks and pricing. But many people who don’t live near or regularly fly Alaska Airlines routes are also devoted Mileage Plan members.

Overall, Alaska Airlines has a powerful track record with customers that has earned it J.D. Powers Highest in Customer Satisfaction Among Traditional Carriers in North America award for seven years in a row. For its Mileage Plan specifically, Alaska earned J.D. Powers highest ranking for Airline Loyalty/Rewards Program Satisfaction in 2014, and it has garnered 20 Freddie Awards (the premier loyalty travel awards) since 2000.

Though Alaska is not part of any of the three airline alliances, it has very strong partnerships with many airlines, including American Airlines and Delta. It’s a great program to get elite status on, because it not only shares benefits with a number of other major carriers, it also allows you to accrue elite qualifying miles by flying other carriers.

If you fly a lot domestically, but not always on the same airline, crediting miles to Alaska can be a great way to get upgrades and perks on a variety of airlines.

Hubs:

  • Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
  • Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport
  • Los Angeles International Airport
  • Portland International Airport

How Can You Use Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles?

While Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles are easy to get and theoretically easy to spend, the actual award redemption charts can be a bit difficult to decode in practice, since Alaska uses a different award chart for each of its partner airlines.

If you book online, it’s not an issue, because the system will tell you what’s available. There are three types of economy awards (super saver, saver and refundable) and two types of first class awards (refundable and nonrefundable), along with two levels of Money + Miles tickets.

As you may have gathered from the different award charts, the main hitch when redeeming Mileage Plan miles is that you can only have one partner airline on each itinerary. This limits routing (though you can book one-ways, where you use one partner airline in one direction and another on the way back), so your options for stopovers are generally limited to hubs of partner airlines.

But with partners like Air France (Paris hub), British Airways (London hub), KLM (Amsterdam hub) and Cathay Pacific (Bangkok and Taipei hubs), your stopover options are not too shabby.

Program Perks:

  • Low taxes and fees
  • One-way awards allowed
  • One stopover or open jaw per international ticket
  • One stopover each direction on international trips if all on Alaska Airlines planes
  • Cancel free within 24 hours of ticketing
  • One free itinerary change within 72 hours of ticketing
  • Option to buy miles at a discounted rate anytime you book a ticket
  • Club 49 for Alaska state residents offers members two checked bags and two annual one-way fare discounts of 30 percent
  • No close-in booking fee so you can book the day of your flight with no charge
  • Expired miles can be reinstated within one year of expiration with a $75 fee

Booking Quirks:

  • No stopover of more than four hours on domestic itineraries
  • You cannot mix partner airlines on one itinerary
  • $15 ticketing fee by phone
  • No holds on award tickets
  • Cannot book American AAdvantage AAnytime awards
  • No fees for changes/cancellation made at least 60 days to ticketed flight departure, $125 for changes/cancellation made less than 60 days prior to ticketed flight departure

Best Value Awards:

Alaska’s award chart really shines for long-haul flights to bucket list destinations. Thanks to its partnership with Air France, one of the only airlines that flies to Tahiti, you can get to Tahiti from the U.S. starting at 120,000 miles round-trip in business class.

Award chart Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines award chart

The only one partner per itinerary rule allows you to create an excellent round-the-world itinerary by flying Cathay Pacific through Hong Kong to South Africa for just 140,000 miles in first class: a bargain for that many long-haul flights in a superior first class cabin.

Worst Value Awards

Ironically, some of the worst Alaska awards are in the area it makes the most sense to fly Alaska: North America. For most domestic flights, Alaska has the same award levels you’ll find on all the legacy carriers, but it also upped its award levels to Hawaii and Mexico last year.

If you want to fly Alaska domestically, you’re better off using British Avios and saving your Alaska miles for long haul flights.

The Good Stuff: Upgrades and Elite Status

Upgrades on Alaska are very straightforward. There’s just one price in miles no matter where you’re going to bring you straight up to first class: 15,000 miles. They are only available on Y, S, B, M or H fare class tickets.

Likewise, complimentary elite status-based upgrades are only available on Y, S, or B fare classes for MVP members and Y, S, B, M and H fare classes for MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K status members.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Elite Levels and Perks

Alaska keeps it relatively simple with three levels of elite status. How you reach them depends on whether you fly Alaska or a combination of Alaska and partner airlines.

The difference in qualification miles is not too hefty at the lower levels, though (20,000 miles solely on Alaska flights, versus 25,000 miles needed on a combination of Alaska and partner flights).

Each level includes the perks of the previous level unless otherwise noted.

  • MVP: 50 percent bonus miles, complimentary upgrades 48 hours before departure, day-of complimentary upgrades on Delta, dedicated phone line, two free checked bags on Alaska flights, one free checked bag on American flights, discount on annual lounge pass, preferred seating and priority boarding on Alaska, American and Delta
  • MVP Gold: 100 percent bonus miles, complimentary upgrades 72 hours before departure if available, four one-way guest upgrades per year to use when people aren’t on your itinerary, complimentary companion upgrades for individuals on your itinerary, two free checked bags on American flights, fee waivers for the call center, and four lounge passes per year.
  • MVP Gold 75K: 125 percent bonus miles, 50,000 bonus miles with status, unlimited first class upgrades for member and a companion, unlimited upgrades on Delta flights, priority check-in and boarding on Alaska, American and Delta, express security at select airports, four Alaska Board Room day passes, partner lounge access at select airports, free same-day flight changes, free in-flight entertainment player and premium beverages in main cabin

Associated Credit Cards

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card issued through Bank of America is the only card associated with the airline, but it packs a very powerful set of perks.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Credit Card
LEARN MORE
Earn 30,000 miles after spending $1,000 within 3 months

Though it fluctuates, the typical sign-on bonus is 30,000 miles after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days. You’ll also receive a companion pass every year for a $99 economy ticket. The sign-on bonus occasionally goes as high as 50,000 points, with a $1,000 spend in three months.

Bank of America issues the Alaska card in three varieties, Visa Signature, Platinum and Preferred. The only differences between them are what you pay in annual fees, the APR and what credit line they give you. The signature card carries the highest fee at $75.