Alaska Airlines Lowers Elite Status Requirements
Alaska Airlines is joining oneworld on March 31, 2021. Some, including me, were worried that there would be disruptions to what makes Mileage Plan fantastic.
I think that COVID prevented Alaska from making any changes that could be viewed as negative. This is not the time to turn off any customers. In fact, the changes that Alaska Airlines has announced are positive changes. It is now easier to earn elite status with Alaska’s Mileage Plan.
Currently (through December 31, 2020), the requirements for earning status are tiered between miles flown on Alaska Airlines metal and those earned on partner airlines.
- MVP – 20,000 miles / 25,000 miles with partners
- MVP Gold – 40,000 miles / 50,000 miles with partners
- MVP Gold 75K – 75,000 miles / 90,000 miles with partners
Essentially if you earn your status through partner flights, you have to fly about 25% more miles to get the same status.
For someone like me that only travels for leisure and not business, I have never met any level above MVP with only Alaska Airlines flights. Most of my flights on Alaska are under 1,000 miles up and down the West Coast.
For example, in 2019 I earned 63,000 elite qualifying Mileage Plan miles through Alaska and partner flights. This put me well above the 50,000 needed to earn MVP Gold. Only 11,000 of those miles were earned flying on Alaska Airlines flights. That would not have earned me even MVP status. In fact, if I had not flown a single Alaska Airlines flight in 2019, I still would have earned MVP Gold status.
In 2016, I earned 107,000 elite qualifying miles. A healthy 30,000 of those were on Alaska flights, but the other 77,000 were on partner airlines. It was the difference between MVP status and MVP Gold 75K status.
For 2021, Alaska Airlines is doing away with the partner tier of status earning requirements. Here are the requirements starting January 1:
- MVP – 20,000 miles – at least 2 Alaska Airline flights
- MVP Gold – 40,000 miles at least 4 Alaska Airlines flights
- MVP Gold 75K – 75,000 miles at least 6 Alaska Airline flights
Alaska has added a requirement that you must fly a minimum number of Alaska Airlines flights in order to qualify. The numbers are very low, but it prevents someone in Asia flying only on JAL and Cathay from getting status with Alaska Airlines.
For me, this is good news. I find MVP Gold to be the sweet spot for status (even more so now that MVP Gold will get oneworld Sapphire status). I will be required to earn 10,000 less elite qualifying miles a year to get this tier of status.
One thing to note is that while on Alaska Airlines flights, one mile flown is equal to at least one elite qualifying mile, with certain partners in certain ticket classes, you may earn less than that. For example, flying W class of ticket on new partner Qatar will only earn you elite qualifying miles equal to 25% of the actual distance flown. So flying Seattle to Doha, ~7000 mile flight, will only earn you 1,750 elite qualifying miles with Alaska.
Alaska could change earning rates at any time on partner airlines, and in future years could increase (or decrease) the required miles to earn status. For now the outlook is good once we can get back to traveling more regularly.
What do you think of the changes? Will this impact your goal of reaching elite status?