Adjusting to Negative Alaska and AA partnership changes

Alaska Airlines Plane
courtesy of AlaskaAir.com

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Adjusting to Negative Alaska and AA partnership changes

Last week Alaska and AA announced that there were going to be some substantive changes to the way you can earn, redeem, and enjoy reciprocal benefits between each program. As a little preface, I currently hold top tier status in both airline loyalty programs. I organically produced 100k EQM in AA’s program last year, and status matched to AS MVP75. My year’s strategy was to try and maintain top tier in both airlines.  I was going to credit my domestic flights to AA, and all of my international travel to Alaska ( their partner award chart is insane.) My travel plans changed, and I dropped any ambition to keep AA status mostly because of the reciprocal benefits that Alaska was given on AA flights: Main Cabin Extra seating, priority boarding, and free checked bags. However, with 6 months left in the year, we have new circumstances to take into consideration because of the negative Alaska and AA partnership changes. Let’s take a look

3 Big Changes:

1) If your domestic flight isn’t purchased with an AS flight number, you won’t earn points with Alaska. 

a close up of a text

*International flights on AA will continue to earn the same AS mileage as they do currently.

2) No more Elite benefits for Alaska MVP Gold and MVP75k

This is the biggest for me. A large part of my 2017 strategy was having the ability to fly in Main Cabin Extra as an Alaska Elite. This will require some pivoting in how I credit the remainder of my flights this year.

a close up of text

3) Big Award chart changes

I’m shocked this took this long. Alaska has one of the most competitive award charts in the business, and it’s actually cheaper to use AS miles than AA miles on AA flights. Although…finding avail on AA long haul and premium cabin flights is a big fat toughy. This is the least of my concerns on the partner devalue.

a table with numbers and a list of flights

I’ve been a vocal supporter of Alaska’s program since late last year. This announcement doesn’t undermine my support

Looking at how each airline has released the news you can see the difference in how each corporation understands and values their customers. I found the Alaska email to be far more clear, straight forward, and the award chart comparison very easy to understand. American, however, didn’t take the same care. Take a look at this, for instance…

a white background with black text

“Buy an eligible published fare ticket booked in an eligible booking code and fly an eligible route”

Compare that to…

Alaska says… you will no longer be able to earn miles if purchasing flights directly through AA.

  • clear, transparent, and in language normal people can figure out.

So what to do now?

I do like having my Executive Platinum status, but I’m not going to requalify. The biggest perk that I value on domestic travel is being able to reserve Main Cabin Extra and preferred seats. My strategy was to hit 75k with Alaska and I wouldn’t have to worry about that at all. Domestic First is nice, but I don’t think it’s THAT much better than coach. Now…I’m wondering if maybe I should straddle? Go for MVP Gold and AA Gold and this would give me access to MCE day of, preferred at booking, and at least the ability to use 500s for upgrades – which would probably never clear.

I don’t organically fly Alaska, but rather earn miles and status via partners. So the upgrades, priority check-in etc isn’t as valuable to me as say someone who lives in Seattle. Virgin and Alaska are merging into one airline and the Elite benefits will be the same regardless of whose metal you’re flying, but it’s not there yet.

So it basically comes down to this for me..

  • 125% bonus on miles flown for MVP75 vs 100% bonus on miles flown for MVP Gold
  • 50k requalification bonus for MVP75

Are those bonus miles worth more than being an AA Gold? I think yes…

Another possible alternative is that I leverage my top tier status to match into another program.

Two options within One World: Air Berlin and British Airways.

Air Berlin will more than likely match my Alaska MVP75, but they stipulate that U.S. residents must show proof of a roundtrip flight between the U.S. and Europe. That I don’t have, but the terms and conditions don’t stipulate whether that could be an award ticket.  Since my Executive Platinum status allows me to book and redeposit for free, I could in theory, book the ticket, apply for a status match, and cancel the ticket after I’m matched. Or book a fully flexible ticket for the same purpose. Their status match is for 12 months.

British Airways doesn’t advertise a status match, but on statusmatcher.com there are successful ex-OneWorld matches. So potentially I could use my Alaska Air status and request a match via BA. The hope being that I’m able to backdoor my way into One World Sapphire which would grant me Main Cabin Extra seats on domestic bookings.

Forget it, and potentially go for it next year…with a run

I keep going back and forth on flying from Stockholm to Singapore/Krabi on Qatar in business. They have flights that often range between $1100-$1400 roundtrip. I haven’t flown Qatar’s A350 or their 787, never been to Doha or Krabi, and the roundtrip earns 560 Tier points – 40 points shy of BA Silver, which is One World Sapphire. I’m going to be in Europe for New Year’s and could factor this in pretty easily, I think. If I booked it now…I could also get 50% back with Amex Points… meaning, I could book this for roughly 60k Membership Rewards, get a cool trip, and close to One World Sapphire. This would give me status for 2018 and 2019…

Any ideas?



Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities.

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1 Comment

  • Alan Peterson July 13, 2017

    I wanted to fly First Class with Alaska and American but American would not let me use Alaska miles for First Class from Dallas to Santiago. This is unlike British Airlines which is another Alaska partner. They would let me use Alaska miles for First Class all the way from Vancouver to London with no Alaska flights. I think Alaska made a big mistake aligning with American. With that and other things going on with my flight to Santiago I will not, under any circumstances, fly American again.

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