Forget AAdvantage! I’m Switching to Alaska MileagePlan This Year

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The beginning of the year is an excellent time to set new travel goals.

Especially when you’re looking at this:


Ruh roh!

I already broke down the numbers of qualifying for top-tier status on American and Alaska, and found that Alaska MVP Gold 75K status is easier to earn with less flying. And you end up with more miles than AAdvantage Executive Platinum status when you start from zero and hit the top tier – 36,250 miles to be exact.

And now it’s even more attractive in light of American’s upcoming devalued award chart.

But… what about Dallas?

Yup, soon enough I’ll be in DFW AKA… American Airlines’ main hub. So… what gives?

It seems logical to give up the ghost and go after American Airlines status if I live in their backyard. But then I thought, yeah, just like everyone else.

Realistically, even with top-tier status, what are my chances of an upgrade on pretty much any flight out of DFW? Especially between DFW and LGA (which will remain my top destination)? Forget it.

While others zig, I’m gonna zag.

I will miss the systemwide upgrades with American.

But I won’t miss the devalued award chart.

At least, until Alaska devalues theirs, then it’ll be a free-for-all.

You're interesting

Stay the course

And, I don’t expect Alaska to make big changes to their program in 2016.

Although, reciprocal upgrades with American would be a nice addition. Not holding my breath for that one.

Win some partners, lose some partners

As options, I’ll miss American’s partnerships with:

  • Airberlin
  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Etihad
  • JAL
14 interesting and varied partners

14 interesting and varied partners

But I’ll gain Alaska partnerships with:

  • Air France
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Icelandair
  • KLM
  • Korean Air

And, should I happen to find myself on a Delta flight, I can still bank Alaska miles. That’s a huge selling point – being able to credit 2 out of 3 legacy carriers to 1 program and earn valuable miles.

Plain ol’ curious

Given I probably won’t get upgraded on an American plane out of DFW, I don’t have much to lose by exploring a new program. And, I’ve been very curious about Alaska MileagePlan for a while.

Now that the meters have reset to zero, now is a perfect time to make a switch.

I hope the Bank of America Alaska card goes above a 25K sign-up bonus soon. That would be the icing on my curiosity cake!

Weaning off American

But, American has me on lock-down for 2 more round-trip flights.

I’ll be flying to Dallas next week and doing something I have done in years: checking luggage.

Thanks to my Citi AAdvantage card, me and Jay can both check a bag and save $50 each way – not a bad deal. But I’ll have to credit to American to take advantage of the perk. So I’ll forgo the Alaska credit on this flight to save $100.

And the flight to Barcelona this month. That’s because American is giving 25,000 bonus AAdvantage miles on round-trip Business Class trans-Atlantic flights. I want those 25,000 miles – it’s simply too good to pass up. That’s a free round-trip domestic coach award flight!

But after that, it’ll be full steam ahead with Alaska.

I might not earn top-tier status

I don’t pay for a lot of flights anyway. So all of this might be a moot point. Even still, I’ll look forward to doing what I can and seeing what happens.

Most of my flights are award flights these days, but when I have a paid ticket, I’ll credit to Alaska in 2016 (after the 2 mentioned above).

And who knows, maybe I’ll earn Alaska MVP Gold 75K status. It’ll be fun to try, and I’ll get to explore a new program. And besides, nothing’s ever really lost.

Bottom line

In light of American’s upcoming award chart devalution, I’m gonna zag over to Alaska to see how it goes this year.

I’ll look forward to new partner airline options, increased mileage earning, and a new program to get into.

The beginning of the year is a great time to set new travel goals, and set the tone for the upcoming year.

I want 2016 to be about creativity, exploration, and travel. And I wanna try something new by switching to Alaska MileagePlan this year. Maybe I’ll even hit MVP Gold 75K, their top elite status level. I’ll post with updates as it goes along.

Is anyone else thinking of switching their loyalty since the reset to zero on January 1st?

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Memphis, traveling, and working toward financial independence.

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  1. Perhaps status match to Alaska and get the bags for free? Otherwise, check your bags and then have the agent in the lounge or at the ticket counter change your FF# to Alaska. You’ll just lose boarding privileges that way (but shouldn’t lose seat assignment in MCE).

    • That’s a great idea! I want to use the perk round-trip and purchased the ticket that way. Looking back, I should’ve bought 2 one-way tickets instead. Not sure if I could credit the 1st leg to AAdvantage and the 2nd to Alaska. Guess it never hurts to try!

      Excellent tip for future trips. Thank you!

      • Should be able to use it each way. Have the agent change it after you check bags for first flight and then fly. When you get to return flight, have them switch it back to check flights and then back to Alaska. You’re choice on accrual, but it shouldn’t be too difficult.

      • I used to do that with United and BMI. Was a little nutty going back and forth but it worked like a charm; should be same with AA and Alaska.

        • I can’t wait! Already thinking about a fancy Emirates flight lol. 🙂 Should be a fun experiment, and Alaska seems like a good choice for a free agent b/c of all the partnerships and no plans (yet!) to go revenue-based.

  2. I primarily fly United but just joined Alaska so my rare flights on the other two legacy carriers can actually accrue meaningfully (instead of being split). I got the BoA Visa for the miles and companion certificate since I wasn’t surethane how often the upped sign-up bonus is offered. Happy travels!

    • That sounds like a great idea, and a win-win for those one-off flights. And the companion certificate is a hidden gem!

      If they don’t up the bonus on the BofA Alaska Visa by the time I’m in DFW permanently, I might just go ahead and snag it, anyway – for the same reasons.

      Happy travels to you, too! Thank you!

  3. I’ve been thinking about switching to AA or AS, but I’ll probably stick with Delta. My 45K rollover MQMs is one reason, but this year will likely be a struggle to get to Diamond again.

    • Delta has a great system with those rollover MQMs. Wish other airlines would adopt. Plus, you make great use of SkyMiles on partner airlines so it sounds like you have a good thing going.

      Their Diamond tier is ridiculously hard to earn, but you have a nice leg up already with 45K MQMs. Let me know when you’re back in NYC again!

      • I’ll probably be back in the next few weeks to consider a possible new home. That or Knoxville. Will let you when the trip is scheduled. Cheers!

        • Wow, 2 very different places. Assuming same pay, I’d go for Knoxville. If pay based on location, lots of numbers to run. Unless you just really want to get the NYC experience. 🙂

          But yes, keep me posted (and congrats on taking steps toward the move!).

  4. I have to caution you as I went Elite with Alaska in 2014 and switched back to AA Elite for 2015. Alaska elites barely get any recognition with AA. As an Alaska elite there are zero chances for upgrades. Some AA agents try to not let you use AA Priority check-in. When I was lowly told AA Gold, I got upgraded about 25%. As Platinum, about 70%.

    I’m DFW based but it also depends on the routes you fly. If redeemable miles is your priority, I do understand why Alaska is so appealing.

    • Thanks for the heads up! I wouldn’t expect any recognition on AA’s side of things. Expecting nothing, really, and will be surprised if it gets me anything – seems like the best attitude to have about it.

      Nice insight about the upgrade stats. Hmmmz… thinking. Guess it really would come down to frequent routes. For DFW-LGA I’d expect it to be a single-digit number lol.

      Redeemable miles IS a huge lure. Also, when AAdvantage goes fully revenue-based it’ll be nice to already be attached to the last holdover program with traditional mileage-earning. If/when Alaska ever does the same, I can reassess. In the meantime it feels nice to be a free agent!

  5. Key word is you live in Dallas, makes no sense other than a line on a blog. If one lives on the west coast SAN or the NW AS is the only way to go. WE do get recognized on AA for boarding, at least I have. AS also does a much better job of taking care of it’s elites. Now there is a forth coming issue as they reduce the size up front in favor of better seating in “premium” coach and better leg room in FC. Going from 16 to 12 up front, for me not an issue as most of my travel is paid FC ( 100K) a year.

    • Thanks for the comments!

      The PNW (and West in general) is on my list to explore next year, and there’s a DFW-SEA route that will come in handy, so being in DFW isn’t a totally moot point (better than the EWR-SEA route as I can’t STAND EWR). Plus, with the BofA Alaska Visa, I’ll get a companion certificate to use on an otherwise expensive flight just for having the card.

      I primarily want RDMs from paid flying, not necessarily upgrades to Business Class. I’m fine to fly in coach domestically, as it really doesn’t make that much more difference flying up front except for food, drinks, and a bigger seat. On routes of 3-5 hours, I don’t mind. I can get a drink before or after the flight for free in the lounges.

      Plus, it’ll be nice to experience a new program and MileagePlan sounds like a nice one.

      And wow, congrats on the FC paid travel! Sounds like a good gig! 🙂

  6. Although I don’t have status with AA, I avoid flying them at all costs, even going through DFW. The last few AA flights I have been on have been horrible (ex: 3 weeks ago sitting on DFW tarmac for 30 minutes prior to pulling into a gate to deplane).
    Cheers to your new Alaska relationship! I hear great things!

    • Thank you, Mary!

      Yes, that’s another thing. AA is nowhere near operationally sound. I hate sitting on the tarmac before deplaning. That’s probably my #1 pet peeve about flying lol.

      We’ll see how it goes – thanks again! 🙂

  7. I’m having a hard time understanding the Alaska Air love. Does one need to fly or connect out of Seattle for every flight? I’m not seeing anything else for options. And from say MSP, where I’m located it never seems to have flights. Do you have to be part of the Mileage Plan (and logged in) to see flights on Delta/American/etc???

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