In the ever devaluing state of airline frequent flyer programs, Alaska has been adding benefits. They recently increased the miles earned for top tier elites (MVP Gold 75k), and randomly sent out a present earlier this year for elites to choose from (we chose two upgrades each).
But Alaska is a shining star in how many miles you can earn by having their elite status. If you were going for a program just for the miles alone, Alaska is a great and growing program, as well as a growing airline.
Earning is easiest
Alaska’s MVP Gold 75k can be earned from flying 75,000 miles on Alaska Airlines or 90,000 miles on partners.
I personally find flying 75,000 miles on Alaska impossible and would opt for 90,000 on partners. This is still 10,000 miles easier than most every other airline. It’s probably not a big enough deal to make or break that decision, but it certainly helps.
Bonus is highest
Most airline elite status’ give a 100% bonus of redeemable miles, but Alaska gives 125%. This means that for every 1 elite qualifying mile you fly, you’d earn 2.25 redeemable miles.
The difference is that “elite qualifying miles” are the pre-bonus miles used to keep track of elite status. The bonus is for redeemable miles, which is what you use for booking flights. If you already have the status and fly 90,000 miles to keep the status, you would also get 202,500 redeemable miles.
Another bonus 50k
Once you reach top tier status (via flying 90,000 miles), you get a bonus of 50,000 redeemable miles for reaching the status.
Just in redeemable miles let’s say someone who has MVP Gold 75k status does 100,000 flown miles. They would get:
- 100,000 miles for flying
- 125,000 bonus miles for the 125% bonus
- 50,000 bonus miles for reaching the status
For a total of =
- 275,000 redeemable miles
Most airlines’ top tier statuses would earn you 200,000 miles for the same amount of flying.
Other Alaska MVP Gold 75k benefits
Complimentary upgrades, including companion upgrades. If you’re flying economy on a paid ticket, get upgraded automatically to “first class”.
Upgrades are explained here, but basically if you have status and book a fare with the “booking class” of “Y, S, B, M, or H” you’ll be upgraded immediately. Other fares will be upgraded automatically 120 hour before flying.
4 Guest Upgrades. This is a cool benefit for helping friends get the same upgrades. It seems like I had tons of friends who were flying on Alaska and could use a couple, which is cool, because what else am I going to do with em? I’d easily value these at $75+ or about 5,000 miles each.
MVP status nomination. You also get the ability to nominate a friend to MVP status (which is not the same as MVP Gold 75k). It’s the lowest level status but still easily valued at $150 or 10,000 miles.
4 “board room” (lounge) passes.
There are certainly other benefits to the program, but I’m trying to mention specifically the things that I can give a specific value for, that I can see getting back. All that to say that 100,000 flown miles with this status would not only get you 275,000 redeemable miles, but another 30,000 miles in value from upgrades and status nomination.
Not far fetched to get 300,000 miles out of this top tier status, even from the minimum of 90,000 flown miles. Obviously the numbers only work out this way if you already have status. So it was important for us to status match to Alaska (we did from AA Exec Plat). Have the status already in order to get the 125% bonus (and the upgrades/nomination).
If you’re doing the minimum of 90,000 flown miles on partners, to get MVP Gold 75k, it’s a good time to be doing so. I could credit the Delta segments from an earlier mistake fare to Alaska. Now we have the AA mistake fare which we’ll likely be crediting to Alaska.
But even if you were just flying on decent fares at 4 cents per mile, that’s easily $3,600. If that sounds like a lot to you, then join me on the mistake fare plan. On the other hand, I know plenty of people that would gladly pay $3.6k for 300k miles. Heck, I’m certain I know people who’d pay $3.6k for a roundtrip on Emirates First Class to Africa/ME/Asia, and that’s 180,000-200,000 Alaska miles. A lot of flying to do so.
The draw back of Alaska Status
The good part is also the bad part. Alaska isn’t part of any alliance. They do partner with many airlines that you can use your miles on, like:
- American Airlines
- Air France
- British Airways
- Delta Air Lines
- Fiji Airways
- Korean Air
- Ravn Alaska
And since they are kind of this disjointed program in terms of partnerships they do some cool things. For example they partner with Emirates, or they match AA’s off-peak award prices (like 20,000 miles to Europe), or they allow stopovers on oneways, etc… Plenty of cool things likely related to their unique non-alliance status.
See the Alaska award chart here.
However, with an alliance, if you have status on one airline, you have at least some of level of status with all of ’em. But when I flew KLM or Delta internationally with Alaska top tier status, I didn’t get any benefits. No lounge access, and not even small things like a higher boarding zone. Alaska status benefits seem to end at domestic travel.
Lounge access and boarding zones are small things, truth be told. After all, it’s not like with AA status I was getting upgraded on Cathay Pacific… but at least I got into The Wing. That being said, most advanced miles and points people don’t have to worry about lounge access.
Routing partner awards
The other thing to know is that having 20,000 Alaska miles to use on AA’s off-peak to Europe isn’t quite as good as having 20,000 AA miles. With Alaska miles I have to redeem those miles on AA flights. Luckily AA now has US Airways which gives a lot more flights in general, but a lot more to Europe.
However, with AA miles I can redeem on anyone in the OneWorld alliance. Again, now AA is the biggest airline in the world, so this shouldn’t matter much, but it does in terms of destinations. On AA I can’t fly east of Germany. No Greece, Istanbul, or even Vienna on AA off-peak using Alaska miles.
I guess you can’t have it all, but that is an actual draw back.
But in defense of Alaska, they are great miles…
Still, in terms of award pricing, it doesn’t get much better than Alaska. The miles are diverse and well priced. Yes, some of the best awards are AA and stolen from the AA chart, and I’d concede, I’d rather have AA miles most of the time.
Even if they do copy AA, AA is a partner and it puts Alaska miles among the best priced miles in the hobby.
That makes Alaska some of the highest earning miles and best usable miles. A killer combination.
75,000 flown miles on Alaska Air or 90,000 flown miles on partners is still a lot of miles and a lot of money. But it’s totally conceivable to earn top tier status on Alaska at 4 cents per mile in 75k flown miles. Getting you 125% bonus and 50,000 bonus miles.
Or consider the price tag of $3,600 I mentioned earlier, of flights earning 4 cents per flown mile. That’s a lot of money but surely could get you a lot of flights. Then consider what you would do with 250,000 to 300,000 miles.
With 300,000 miles I could do 15 oneways to Europe in off-peak, or 10 oneways in summer. That’s $240 per oneway (plus airport taxes), plus the benefits, plus the fun of flying for the miles.
Doesn’t sound worth it to me personally, but I’m half way there on mistake fares alone. So if you could cut the cost, or have a lot of it paid for by your business travels, I’d say Alaska’s MVP Gold 75k status is one of the best airline programs in terms of redeemable miles.