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Alaska Airlines miles are some of the most valuable airline miles out there. The Mileage Plan award program has some very unique and useful features but also some restrictions that can make their miles more difficult to use than other programs.
Here’s why I love Alaska Airlines miles even though they can be tough to use (and some considerations to make them less tough to use).
With the launch of the new World of Hyatt Program, Hyatt is really upping their game when it comes to their new top-tier status, which will now be called Globalist Status. Previously, this was referred to as Hyatt Diamond status in the former Hyatt Gold Passport Program. With new benefits added, we’re going to see how Starwood Preferred Guest Platinum status compares.
Transferring points from credit card rewards programs, such as Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou, or American Express Membership Rewards is a great way to fly on their partner airlines, but that’s just the beginning. Since so many airlines are members of airline alliances (and those that aren’t can partner with other airlines in ways you wouldn’t expect), it feels sometimes that you can use points to fly on almost every one of them.
Over the past several years, airlines have taken steps to differentiate their classes of product segment in order to maximize revenue. Cabin configurations traditionally consisted of either two classes (economy and business class) or three classes (economy, business and first class).
Now planes are configured with four or even five cabins, with the more recent additions being premium economy. In many cases, premium economy has become the new “middle class” as airlines have done away with first class, and are flying with planes that have standard economy, premium economy and business class.
Let’s take a closer look at premium economy products by comparing the products and services offered, as well as the booking process and elite upgrade rules.
Delta’s premium economy offering is called Comfort+. This product is clearly the best of the three legacy airlines. Comfort+ seats offer 3 inches of additional leg room compared with standard economy seats. The seats are located in front of the main economy cabin, so you will be able to exit the plane faster.
There is dedicated overhead bin space so you don’t have to worry about your roll-aboard getting checked at the ramp. You receive priority boarding so you can get on the plane and get settled more quickly. Delta offers complimentary alcoholic beverages including beer, wine and spirits. The seats include both connectivity and power so you can charge your devices while you fly.
You will have a choice of a variety of complimentary premium snacks instead of just the standard offerings like pretzels and peanuts. Longer transcontinental flights include additional sleeping and entertainment amenities such as a pillow, blanket, complimentary headset and amenity kit. The seats on these flights also recline up to 50% more than standard economy. In addition, since this is a true premium economy product, it is being sold as a separate class of service. This means that the seats can be booked directly as an award ticket for a price between the standard economy price and business/first class price.
There are a variety of details to keep in mind if you are an elite member looking to upgrade from a standard economy seat. The availability rules based on elite status are as follows:
Diamond and Platinum elites can get confirmed upgrades at the time of booking
Gold elites can be confirmed beginning 72 hours prior to departure
Silver elites can be confirmed beginning 24 hours prior to departure
Elites may be upgraded along with one companion traveling on the same reservation. In a tweak to the program, companion upgrades are now based on the highest elite status of the two people. Previously, upgrades cleared based on the lowest status, which was very irritating to higher level elites who may have been passed over by passengers with a lower level of status because their companion had an even lower status.
There is one significant downside to the way Delta handles upgrades into Comfort+ seats. If you are cleared for an upgrade, the upgraded seat is automatically assigned based on availability. Therefore, you could have reserved a window or aisle seat in standard economy and be “upgraded” to a middle seat in the Comfort+ section. You will have to decide for yourself what is more important: avoiding a middle seat at all costs, or the extra legroom, snacks, and free drinks offered in Comfort+.
If you decide you’d rather not take the chance of ending up in a middle seat, there is an easy way to opt out. When you make a booking, and click on the upgrade request link, there are two separate boxes. One is for upgrades into first or business class, and the other is for upgrades into Comfort+. You may simply check the box for first/business class, and leave the box for Comfort+ unchecked. This will ensure you are only considered for upgrades into first or business class. The relevant portion of the screen will look like this:
American does not have a true premium economy offering on domestic flights. However, it does have a product called Main Cabin Extra. Some people simply refer to these seats as “extra legroom seating”. The list of amenities is quite short. The only real benefits are extra legroom and a position in the plane in front of the standard economy seats.
Unlike their true premium economy seats on long haul international flights, these Main Cabin Extra seats are not a separate class of service. This is nice because it means that an upgrade is not required; you simply select the seat at the time of booking. Main Cabin Extra seats are highlighted in red, and the price is displayed for those who do not receive complimentary access. As you can see, some of the seats that cost extra are simply the exit-row seats and are not located as far forward in the plane as the rest of the Main Cabin extra seats.
AA elites with Platinum status or above have complimentary access to these seats.
Gold elites may select these seats and receive a 50% discount at booking, and complimentary access if seats are still available within 24 hours of departure.
United is very similar to American in that they do not offer a true premium economy product on domestic flights, but they do offer extra legroom seats which are called Economy Plus. As with American, these seats are not sold as a separate class of service, but are available to select at the time of booking. The screenshot below shows an example seating map with Economy Plus seats in blue:
United has different rules for elite access and guest privileges.
Those with Platinum elite status and above receive complimentary access for themselves and up to eight companions at the time of booking.
Those with Gold elite status receive complimentary access for themselves and up to one companion at the time of booking.
Silver elite members may receive complimentary access for themselves and up to one companion at the time of check-in.
Are you ready to apply for a new rewards credit card? But maybe you’re not sure which one you’ll qualify for? We’ve taken a look at the major travel cards on the market and figured out the credit scores you’ll need to get them.
Do you want to enjoy all the benefits of elite status at your favorite hotel including complimentary room upgrades, discounts, club access and more? There are a number of ways you can earn status quickly.
Every week I see a post or a picture in one of the frequent flyer communities of someone celebrating their Million Miler status with one of the legacy carriers. Often the elated and relieved poster will recall countless years and flights it took to achieve the milestone. This is followed by congratulatory remarks, memes, and GIFs from onlookers who themselves recall their personal victory or their current journey towards that goal.
I hope I never achieve it, and I hope you don’t either. I do have an alternative goal to strive for though.
Alaska bought Virgin America last December, and though have released a few details on how the merger would impact elite benefits, mileage earning, and other short-term concerns, they have kept travelers waiting for a bigger picture view of what these airlines will look like when the merger is complete.
Now, we finally have the answers. In general, there are more positives than negatives, especially for Alaska elites, though some features will be disappearing that Virgin America loyalists will probably miss.
You might think thatinternational airlines only fly to and from their home country, but that’s not always true. Many fly “Fifth Freedom”routes as a result of the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation. According to the ICAO, the fifth of the nine freedoms guarantees the right of an airline to fly between two foreign countries en route to or originating from their home country.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is an amazing airplane and it keeps getting better with each new release. The latest iteration from Boeing is the 787-10. This version will hold more passengers due to its length. It can hold 330 passengers as opposed to the 787-9 which carries 290 and the 787-8 which holds 242. Note that seat configurations will vary by airline.
Domestic airlines have long lagged behind their international competitors when it comes to providing a luxurious and comfortable premium cabin experience on long haul routes. American currently has the best offering of the three legacy carriers with the bulk of its international long haul fleet featuring private reverse herringbone seating in a 1x2x1 configuration.
Qatar Airways has been hinting for a while that they would be revealing a brand-new business class product. They were promising that new product would be revolutionary, and for once the reality lived up to the hype. The new seat is called the QSuite and will be accompanied by enhancements to the soft product as well.
Ever since Chase released the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, Amex has been playing catch up in the premium card market. Amex’s first response was far less than hoped for – they added 5X earning on airfare to the personal card and the ability to receive a 50% points rebate for premium cabin booking to the business card.
If you’ve worked hard and earned elite status at one airline, you may be able to use that as leverage to quickly earn status with another carrier. Find out what status match and challenge offers are available from regional and low-cost carriers and how to take full advantage of them.
Elite status with an airline can get you some fantastic benefits: free upgrades, discounts, bonus points and more. While status is generally limited to those who earn the hard way—through flying and spending—you shouldn’t forget about status matches and challenges. These offers can be a quick way to get status with an airline, particularly if you plan to do a lot of traveling in a short period of time.
Priority Pass hit a milestone last year by offering members access to over 1,000 lounges worldwide. That makes it the most comprehensive independent airport lounge network available, all but guaranteeing that you’ll have a comfy place to relax, snack or get a little work done at any major airport in the world. The best part? You can get a free membership with the right credit card.