Taking another look at Alaska Airline’s MileagePlan program

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I’ve been curious about Alaska’s MileagePlan program for a while. Between trying out Delta, then racing to qualify for status on American, Alaska has always been that airline that I’ve known about but never really explored. MileagePlan was discussed quite a bit at April’s FTU, and since then, I’ve been looking into the program more.

Pros and Cons

Being in Seattle was a fun experience. As soon as I landed, I could palpably feel the “battle in Seattle” between Delta and Alaska. Delta had their banners and ads up all over SEA, as did Alaska, though Alaska’s felt more “homegrown” and organic whereas Delta’s felt like they were muscling into new territory. Or maybe that was all in my head from reading too many blog posts recently.

You better believe I will bank any future Delta flights to Alaska. I don’t have any Skymiles any more, and I am planning to dump the Delta Skymiles Amex as soon as the annual companion certificate hits my account. American flights, on the other hand…

I’m still a ways away from qualifying for status on American next year. With all the program changes to so many frequent flyer programs, I have been in a burn mode as of late with very few rev trips banked. And American, who was my knight in shining armor after Delta, has now proven to be just as tenuous.

While Delta and Alaska do have a reciprocal upgrade policy, none exists between American and Alaska. I’m hoping that will change in the upcoming merger. And honestly, I can foresee American and Alaska deepening their partnership and ditching Delta (or at least reversing their current upgrade situation).

Maybe a list will help:

  • Pro: Can bank Delta flights
  • Con: No upgrades on American
  • Pro: Numerous flight partners
  • Con: Will probably never/rarely fly Alaska metal
  • Pro: That might not matter
  • Con: Until American gets settled into their merger, things are “up in the air”

The partner situation

I have to say, I really like Alaska’s partners:

Alaska MileagePlan Partners

Alaska MileagePlan Partners

Which leads to me to isolate the American partners I find useful:

  • Airberlin
  • Qantas (maybe)
  • Cathay Pacific
  • JAL
  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • Etihad
  • Fiji Airways

While a personal valuation, there are number of overlaps with Alaska and American: LAN, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, and Fiji Airways. I also like the gain of Emirates, Air France, and Korean. Win some, lose some. But when I think about it, I can get to nearly anywhere in the world with Alaska partners, same as American. The only hard place to get to would be Africa, but that’s also true with American.

The upshot

It’s an easy one: banking from numerous programs! And, all at a 1:1 earning ratio, which I like.

The only downside is that I won’t actually fly on Alaska much, and won’t really get a lot of the benefits on the airline where the miles are. It remains to be seen what’ll happen with Alaska’s relationship with other airlines in the future. But I’m definitely keeping an eye on it.

Bottom line

This post was a lot of babble, but the takeaway is that Alaska’s MileagePlan might be the best place to bank miles for a while until the dust settles with the American/US Airways merger. And it’ll definitely be my place for banking Delta miles moving forward. Next time I have an American rev flight, I predict a major dilemma about where to bank the miles.

Has any other non-Northwest/Alaska person switched over to Alaska’s MileagePlan? I’d be curious to hear about the switch, and how Alaska runs their FF ops “from afar.”

Label this one as developing…

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About Harlan

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

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  1. I’m a Seattlite, and I love Alaska Airlines. Their service is usually great, and they can get me to most places around the US that I want to go, including Hawaii and NY, and many places in between. Plus, their miles are easy to accumulate via the Bank of America credit cards, as well as other mile-earning opps.

    I also use Delta and United miles a lot too, mainly for international travel. But Alaska seems to be my main go-to for domestic.

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