Alaska Airlines Breaking Up with Delta, but Improving Mileage Plan

Buenas tardes everyone,

I’m on a Delta flight from Monterrey to Atlanta right now, and right before takeoff I received an email from Alaska Airlines announcing changes to their mileage program. “Enhancements” is often a code word for devaluation, but for the most part these seem like good things – with one glaring exception.

Alaska and Delta Ending their Partnership Effective April 30, 2017

Buried at the end of their updates and press releases is the big news that Alaska and Delta are severing their partnership next year. People have been predicting this since Delta expanded their Seattle operations several years ago and launched head-to-head competition on some of Alaska’s core west coast routes, and it’s finally happened: the last day of the partnership will be April 30, 2017. After that, Alaska and Delta will stop codesharing each other’s flights, and members of their respective mileage programs will no longer be able to earn or redeem miles on the other airline. However, both airlines will still award miles for flights booked prior to today’s announcement, even if the flights are after April 30 – a very nice move. (No elite benefits will be honored after that date, though).

For me, this is particularly disappointing – neither Alaska nor Virgin currently operate flights to Mexico City, many American flights earn fewer miles on Alaska, and Alaska’s partnership with Aeromexico is weak – I earn miles on Aeromexico flights, but can’t redeem them and don’t get any elite benefits. I may end up shifting more of my travel to United after May, since I also have Gold status with them, though I do love the Delta Sky Clubs. Decisions, decisions…

Reduced Award Pricing for Short-Haul Flights

This is a nice improvement – Alaska is moving the low end of its mileage award chart to a distance-based model: for flights under 2,100 miles, the cheapest award tickets will range in price from 5,000-10,000 miles one way (previously intra-state flights cost 7,500 miles and any flights that crossed state lines started at 12,500 miles). This makes their award prices equal to or better than using Avios on these routes. Note that this will only apply to Alaska-operated flights, and only to the lowest “saver” award level – other award levels will maintain their higher prices.

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New award chart for Alaska flights under 2100 miles.

Earning Miles on Virgin America flights

It appears that all revenue fare classes on Virgin America will earn 100% of the miles flown when credited to Mileage Plan, with bonus earning for the most expensive coach fares and First Class tickets, just like Alaska-operated flights. Main Cabin Select tickets also get a 50% class of service bonus.

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Earning Elevate Points on Alaska Flights

Virgin America Elevate members can earn points on Alaska flights based on a percentage of the miles flown, depending on the fare class – similar to the way that Alaska members currently earn miles on flights operated by American and Delta.

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Transferring Miles from Virgin America to Alaska

One Mile at a Time discovered that Virgin America’s new partner page for Alaska reveals that starting January 9, Virgin America Elevate members will be able to transfer miles to Alaska’s Mileage Plan at a rate of 1 Elevate point = 1.3  Alaska miles. This is less than what some had hoped for, but a reasonable choice.

Elite Upgrades on Award Tickets

Effective December 5, Mileage Plan elite members are eligible for upgrades on award tickets. Refundable coach awards are eligible for upgrade at time of booking, and all other coach awards will be upgraded during the normal elite upgrade windows. This is good news for MVP Golds and 75Ks, but will probably make upgrades more difficult for MVPs.

Increased Class of Service Bonuses on Partners

Alaska has increased the class of service bonuses for paid first and business class tickets on its global partners, up to 80% in some cases. I never travel on paid tickets in premium cabins, so I’m not an expert on this, but you can check out the new earning rates here.

Bottom Line

The end of the Delta partnership is unfortunate, but the writing has been on the wall for a long time – and they’ve done the right thing by providing 4+ months’ notice and honoring mileage for tickets booked before the announcement. The rest of the changes announced today do seem like genuine enhancements, an increasing rarity in the miles and points world, and continue to make Alaska’s Mileage Plan extremely attractive compared to other US-based mileage programs.

One thought on “Alaska Airlines Breaking Up with Delta, but Improving Mileage Plan

  1. Pingback: The 4 Alaska Airlines changes I'm most excited about (and the one big negative) - Points with a Crew

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