As you may have already heard by now, the results for the 2014 JD Power North American Airline Satisfaction Study among traditional carriers and the Airline Loyalty/Rewards Program Satisfaction Report have been announced. The undisputed winner? None other than SeaTac, Washington-based Alaska Airlines.
Alaska Airlines took home the top prize for both the former and the latter, and while this is impressive, it is important to recognize this achievement within the proper context. This is actually the seventh straight year that Alaska Airlines has won it all in the first category, and the tally wasn't even close: perfect 5/5 ratings in reservation experience, check-in experience, boarding/deplaning/baggage experience, cost/fees experience, in-flight services experience, flight crew experience, aircraft experience, and overall satisfaction. Not bad for an airline that started off transporting miners and liquor in wooden planes across the Alaskan bush, and certainly well "north of expected". To celebrate this monumental achievement, this week's topic for our Ultimate Guide is Alaska Airlines' award-winning Mileage Plan program.
Currently, Alaska Airlines flies more non-stop routes out of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport than any other airline. Destinations include far flung locations from Sun Valley to Fairbanks to New Orleans to sunny Puerto Vallarta, all excellent choices to consider for, say, a company retreat. In addition to all of these North American destinations, Alaska's partners have tremendous coverage around the rest of the world. Like many other frequent flyer loyalty programs, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan allows you to earn miles, take advantage of special privileges, and achieve higher status to open up an even wider set of possibilities. You can earn miles while traveling to all of the destinations described above, and in turn, redeem these miles for awards flights to the same set of destinations.
Joining The Program
Signing up for the Mileage Plan program is easy - simply visit the Mileage Plan website to learn more. Once you're ready to take the plunge, click on "join today". From here, you're halfway done - just follow the instructions and complete your application. Membership is free of charge.
How To Earn Miles
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members earn miles and segments towards elite qualification on flights taken with Alaska Airlines and all 12 global partners, excluding two of their regional partners: PenAir (The Spirit of Alaska) and Ravn Alaska. You can earn the basic MVP elite status with as little as 20,000 miles flown per year, and we will cover this in a bit.
To earn non-elite qualification miles, which are still 100% good for redemption opportunities, you can take advantage of hundreds of opportunities without ever even setting foot in an airplane. This "never setting foot in an airplane" strategy, of course, precludes you from enjoying Alaska Airlines' great customer service onboard, so it may not be the best idea. These methods include eating out at a local restaurant, ordering flowers, and the guilty pleasure of shopaholics everywhere: shopping. You can earn in the air, on the ground (rent a Hertz car), or even on the high seas (pay for that spiffy looking polo in the cruise ship gift shop with your Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card).
There are a number of ways to earn bonus miles, such as purchasing an Alaska Airlines Vacations package off their website. You can also take advantage of periodic promotional offers for bonus miles, which you'll find on the mileage deals site.
Mileage transfers are not allowed between different airline frequent flyer programs. Although you can earn points by traveling on a partner airline or redeem an award flight on one of these carriers, each individual mileage earning program is kept separate.
Make Sure Your Points Count
To make sure that you receive your hard-earned points, it is vital to remember to provide your Mileage Plan number when making a flight, car, or hotel reservation. While you can enter this number directly on the websites of some Alaska Airlines partners, others will require calling the partner in order to provide this number verbally over the phone (it's more personal, and who knows? You might get an interesting conversation out of it). Alternatively, if neither of those options sound appealing, you can provide the number in-person, face-to-face, when you check-in.
How To Redeem
To redeem your points, you can choose from an entire suite stuffed full of award options - whether you want some help in getting to Naples, Florida, Naples, Italy, or even Naples, Idaho. Miles can be used to redeem awards flights, upgrade a purchased ticket, or even for a magazine subscription through the Magazines for Miles program. Are you a voracious magazine reader? If so, it seems that Alaska may have read your mind. Choose from Time, The Economist, the Wall Street Journal, and more.
Most award tickets for Alaska Airlines or partner flights may be booked online, while some partner airlines may require booking through the phone under certain circumstances.
Keeping Your Points
As long as you earn or spend at least one mile every 24 months, you'll be able to keep all the miles you have accumulated for an extended period of time. Of course, even the smallest transaction will most likely come out to more than one mile, since awards flights or qualifying flights of this length are decidedly uncommon. If you do not credit any miles to your account in the first nine months after opening, or if your account is inactive over a 24 month period, Alaska may opt to delete your account and reassign your number, though you can reinstate it for a year by paying a $75 fee.
Gift, Transfer, and Donate Points
You can buy, gift, transfer, or donate miles. As a business owner, you can sign up for the Partner Miles program, through which you can motivate employees and reward customers with Mileage Plan miles. You can buy or gift miles in increments of 1000, from 1,000 miles for $27.50 to 40,000 miles for $1100. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles make great gifts for family and friends to commemorate special occasions, such as birthdays, weddings, and retirement. If you're a participant in the potlatch culture of the Pacific Northwest, these miles could potentially introduce a more modern touch into the traditional ceremonies.
In addition, you can transfer 1,000 to 30,000 points in increments of 1,000 miles at a cost of $10.00 per 1,000 miles, with a $25.00 fee for each transaction. A maximum of 100,000 miles can be deducted from your individual Mileage Plan account each calendar year, and you can receive up to a maximum of 100,000 miles per individual account each year via transfer.
As for donating to charities, here's some of the different organizations that you can choose from:
Alaska Airlines Charity Miles (an accumulated pool which is divided among different charities supported by Alaska Airlines)
Dream Foundation (grants wishes to adults over 18 years of age with life limiting illnesses)
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Foundation (researches prevention, early detection, and treatment of cancer)
Fisher House Foundation Hero Miles Program (provides transportation to wounded, injured, and ill military members and loved ones)
Make a Wish Foundation (grants wishes to children with serious illnesses and injuries)
Medical Teams International (provides disaster relief worldwide)
National Forest Foundation (promotes health and enjoyment of the national forest system by using collaborative conservation to restore forests, watersheds, wildlife habitat, and recreation resources)
Nature Conservancy (protects ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii)
So You Wanna Become An MVP?
Elite Status qualification is earned for the next full calendar year after the status is reached, but as a welcoming gesture, benefits will take effect within 1-2 weeks after the flight that earned you the elite status. Therefore, if you earned MVP status on a flight on January 23rd, 2014, the benefits should start kicking in by February 6th, 2014, and should be valid until December 31st, 2015. In leap years, you can get 366 days of elite status. For elite qualification miles purposes, flights operated by Alaska Airlines will count as an Alaska flight even if it has another airline's flight number attached, unless the flight is marketed by Korean Air or Qantas.
As a part of the Mileage Plan program, there's always room to improve and move up the rankings. After flying a certain number of qualifying miles or segments, which we'll discuss in more detail, you'll have become an MVP - joining the likes of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, though not exactly - this is a different kind of MVP: most valuable passenger. As a most valuable passenger, you'll be able to earn free upgrades, priority boarding, and more. Just make sure that your Mileage Plan number is in your reservation in order to receive all your qualifying points, and you can move up to MVP Gold and Gold 75K statuses, ever higher echelons in the totem pole. Think of MVP Gold 75K status as the top column, the part with the head of the bird and the giant beak.
Elite Levels and Earning Requirements
The annual qualification period is the calendar year, from January 1st to December 31st. You can qualify based on one of the following three criteria: flight miles only on Alaska Airlines, flight miles on a combination of Alaska Airlines and elite qualifying partner airlines, or flight segments on a combination of Alaska Airlines and elite qualifying partner airlines.
MVP Gold 75K
|Flight miles on only on Alaska Airlines||20,000||40,000||75,000|
|Flight miles on Alaska Airlines/ elite qualifying partners||25,000||50,000||90,000|
|Flight segments on Alaska Airlines/elite qualifying partners||30||60||90|
While flying on Alaska Airlines and elite qualifying partner airlines, MVP members can earn up to 50% bonus points, while MVP Gold and 75K members can earn up to 100% bonus points, though these points do not count towards elite status qualification.
Complimentary Upgrades with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Mileage Plan offers unlimited complimentary upgrades to first class on Alaska Airlines flights to elite members. However, since these upgrades are booked into the special "U" class of service, they may not be available on all flights. A qualifying elite Mileage Plan number must be entered into your reservation in order to qualify for this perk, and awards ticket flights (including Money and Miles awards) are not eligible.
To ensure that your fare qualifies for an MVP, MVP Gold, MVP Gold Guest, or a mileage upgrade, be sure to utilize the Upgrade Preference selection filter when you are looking for flights online.
These are some of the more valuable perks (MVPs) that MVP members get:
Flights booked in the Y, S, and B classes qualify for an immediate complimentary upgrade, while other fares are eligible for an upgrade up to 48 hours before the flight's departure.
Dedicated phone lines and phone staff for Alaska Airlines reservations and Mileage Plan customer care
Checked baggage fee waivers for the first 2 bags for members and companions traveling in the same reservation on Alaska Airlines (not group bookings)
Preferred seating on Alaska Airlines
50% off the initiation fee for Alaska Lounge membership (Lounge plug of the article: Alaska Airlines runs five Alaska Lounge lounges in Seattle (Concourse D, North Satellite), Portland, Los Angeles, and Anchorage. With an Alaska Lounge membership, you can access all of these lounges, in addition to many other lounges in North America, including a number of American Airlines Admirals Clubs. One of the best aspects of the Alaska Lounge is the opportunity to "print out" your very own pancakes.)
$25 off your annual Alaska Lounge membership
$75 off a 3 year Alaska Lounge membership
MVP Gold Benefits
MVP Gold members get all the above, in addition to the following:
Flights booked into the Y, S, B, M, and H classes of service qualify for an immediate complimentary upgrade, while other fares are eligible for an upgrade up to 72 hours before the flight's departure.
Upgrade one companion traveling on the same flight in the same class of service. If you and your companion are traveling on different reservations, contact the MVP Gold desk in order to process your request. This request must be made at the same time as the complimentary upgrade.
Receive four MVP Gold Guest upgrade vouchers each year. You can give them away to family members and friends so that they can receive a complimentary upgrade even if you're not traveling with them. You can also keep it for your own use when you are not traveling with a qualifying fare. These upgrades are booked into the "U" class, and you are eligible for an MVP Gold Guest upgrade as long as your flight number falls within the range of AS 1-999, and you are not traveling on a G, R, or T ticket, or an award flight, for that matter. The upgrade is good for one way travel for one person, and stopovers must be less than four hours for connecting flights.
Free main cabin extra, which provides a seat with extra legroom
Full initiation fee waiver for Alaska Lounge membership (50% for MVPs? Let's make it an even hundred for MVP Golds.)
$55 off your annual Alaska Lounge membership
$165 off your 3 year Alaska Lounge membership
Fee waivers for the call center ticketing fee, ticket change or cancellation fee, and left on board item return fee
Standby and wait list for full flights on Alaska Airlines
Free same day flight changes including all passengers traveling in the same reservation
Express security lane at select airports
Ability to provide an expression of thanks through employee recognition certificates. These are meant to reward Alaska Airlines employees who go above and beyond to make your travel experience much better - for example - you ask for a chocolate sundae, and they provide you one with whipped cream and a fresh cherry on top.
One complimentary premium beverage when flying in the main cabin, so here's the perfect opportunity to try out a Ginger Sunrise.
MVP Gold 75K Benefits
To paraphrase Bachman-Turner Overdrive, if you think that's nice, "you ain't seen nothing yet". MVP Gold 75K members get the same benefits as MVP Gold members, in addition to the following:
Flights booked into the Y, S, B, M, and H classes of service qualify for an immediate complimentary upgrade, while other fares are eligible for an upgrade up to 120 hours before the flight's departure.
50K (not 75K, sorry) bonus miles when you attain MVP Gold 75K status.
Nominate a friend or family member to MVP status.
Four complimentary Alaska Lounge day passes each year, exactly one for each season, or one for each of Vivaldi's violin concertos from the Four Seasons (not the hotel).
Benefits When Flying American or Delta
The rewards keep coming for Mileage Plan MVPs when flying with Delta Air Lines or American Airlines (with their Mileage Plan numbers on the reservation).
Perks of flying with American include:
Priority AAccess for check in and boarding (according to unsubstantiated rumors, this perk was provided by American Airlines as a reconciliation gesture for taking AA as their IATA designator).
Express security lanes at select airports: BOS, BWI, ORD, CMH, DFW, FLL, MCI, LAX, MIA, JFK, LGA, PHL, RNO, SAN, SFO, SJC, SJO, STL.
Checked baggage fee waiver for first bag for MVP member and companions traveling in the same reservation on American Airlines (not group bookings). MVP Gold and 75K members get checked baggage fee waivers for their first 2 bags, one more than ordinary MVPs.
Delta Air Lines
Perks of flying with Delta include:
MVP Gold and 75K members receive 100% Elite Bonus Miles, MVP members receive 50% Elite Bonus Miles.
Priority Check In and Zone 1 Priority Boarding.
Preferred Seating Option.
Departure date upgrade on Delta flights in the US, Canada, Mexico, and select Caribbean destinations. JFK to SFO, SEA, and LAX flights, as well as ATL-Hawaii flights, do not qualify. Once you enter your Mileage Plan number into your Delta reservation, you are eligible to be placed on the upgrade list.
Earn Miles By Flying With Alaska or Partners
When flying on Ravn Alaska and Penair, you can earn actual flight miles, but these do not count as elite qualifying miles. For all other Alaska Airlines global partner airlines, as well as Alaska themselves, miles that you earn will count towards elite status. For each airline, some deeply discounted and industry fares will be ineligible to earn miles.
Awards Flights Redemption Charts
To get a better idea of how many miles it'll cost you to redeem an awards flight, feel free to peruse the charts made available on this page. In order to switch between different regions, the menu on the left should come in handy.
Club 49 is a special Alaska Airlines program that is offered to Alaska residents only. This program is free to join, and members can count on receiving special perks, such as checked baggage, special travel discounts, and exclusive emails with new deals each week.
We'll mention a couple of the free perks here: two free checked bags when traveling to and from Alaska on Alaska Airlines, two annual one way certificates for 30% off refundable coach fares when traveling to, from, or within Alaska, and access to weekly fare sales - make sure to check your inbox.
As a member of Alaska Airlines' Mileage Plan frequent flyer program, you implicitly agree to abide by the following terms.
As mentioned earlier, Alaska Airlines offers a credit card through Bank of America: the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card. If you are approved for the Visa Signature card, you may earn 25,000 bonus miles upon approval. With this card, you earn three miles for every qualifying dollar in purchases of Alaska Airlines tickets, vacation packages, and Cargo purchases, up to 5 miles for every qualifying dollars at participating restaurants and hotels, and 1 mile per dollar for other purchases, including groceries, gym membership dues, filling up your tank, or going to the movies.
The credit card mentioned above is only available for US residents. However, if you are a Canadian resident, you can sign up for an MBNA-issued Alaska Airlines Mastercard, which provides benefits that are roughly equivalent to those provided by the American card.
Request Missing Miles
If you feel that you're missing some Mileage Plan mile credits to your account for whatever reason, feel free to submit a missing credit request. Before you do this, make sure to wait until at least 1 week has elapsed since your Alaska Airlines flight, or 2 weeks since your Alaska Airlines partner flight. Requests must be received within 11 months of your travel date on Alaska Airlines, or 6-9 months if traveling with a partner. To credit partner flights, you must have been a Mileage Plan member at the time of travel, and if you want to credit an Alaska Airlines flight, you must have been a Mileage Plan member within 6 months of your travel date. Just remember this timeless maxim: 5 months - you're in the clear, 7 months - you're out of here. Here's the form to get your miles credited for eligible Alaska Airlines (including flights operated by Horizon Air, PenAir to and from Dutch Harbor, or Skywest flight series 3440-3499) or American Airlines flights.
For air travel, you should have a copy of the passenger receipt and at least one boarding pass. For hotel bookings, a copy of the hotel folio or bill would be ideal. As for car rentals, a copy of your car rental agreement will be more than sufficient.
First Class Upgrades On Alaska Airlines
In order to receive a first class upgrade, choose from a number of options - either use your miles to upgrade in advance, request a paid upgrade at check-in or the departure gate, or upgrade for free as an MVP. Some fares don't qualify for upgrades, so make sure to do some rigorous research before you purchase a nonrefundable ticket.
Paid upgrades may be available within 24 hours of departure until check in on the departure date at the airport. One way to get one of these is through trip mile upgrades. For a trip of 0-1250 miles, the cost is $50. For 1251-2500 miles, $100, for 2501-3750 miles, $150, for more than 3751 miles, $200. These upgrades are only available on Alaska Airlines, and are subject to availability with no stopovers allowed. Qualifying fares are tickets booked in the B, G, H, K, L, M, N, Q, R, S, T, V, W, T, or Z classes of service.
So You Wanna Rack Up Bonus Miles?
Here's a list of some activities that will help you bulk up:
Purchase a vacation package on alaskaair.com - receive 1,500 bonus miles for each booking.
Purchase a Y-class refundable coach fare for a flight marketed and operated by Alaska Airlines (does not include government or other discount fares) - get a 25% bonus on actual flight miles. Note: Class of service bonuses apply to Mileage Plan elite status qualification
Purchase a premium economy fare on British Airways (World Traveller Plus class) - earn Mileage Plan bonus miles with a 10% bonus on actual flight miles.
Purchase a business class fare on Aeromexico, Air France, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Delta Air Lines, Fiji Airways, KLM, Korean Air, LAN Airlines, or Qantas Airways - earn 25% bonus miles on top of your actual flight miles.
Purchase a first class fare on Alaska Airlines, Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways, Delta Airlines, KLM, Korean Air, LAN Airlines, or Qantas Airways - earn 50% bonus miles on top of your actual flight miles.
Purchase a premium first class fare on Korean Air - receive a 65% bonus.
With hotel partners, you can earn miles on your stay, though the exact quantity you will receive differs depending on the hotel. Here is a list of Alaska Airlines' hotel partners.
|Aston Hotels and Resorts||Best Western||Choice Hotels|
|Coast Hotels||Fairmont Hotels and Resorts||Hilton HHonors|
|IHG Rewards Club||La Quinta Inns and Suites||Marriott Rewards|
|Preferred Hotel Group||Rocketmiles||Starwood Preferred Guest|
|Westmark Hotels||Wyndham Hotel Group|
You can also earn miles from qualifying car rentals, and miles earned usually come out to 50 per day, though there are exceptions for special circumstances.
Of course, you can earn miles with a Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card or an MBNA Alaska Airlines Mastercard.
If you have Club Rewards points from Diners Club, Americans can convert these to Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1 conversion rate. This rate is 1.25 Club Rewards points to 1 Mileage Plan mile for Canadians.
There are also a number of specialty partners, through which you can earn miles by partaking in activities that you may already practice in your daily routine. These include the following:
|Mileage Plan Shopping||Mileage Plan Dining||1-800 Flowers|
|Carr/Safeway (in Alaska)||CruisesOnly||e-Miles|
|teleflora||Vinesse Wine Clubs|
Alaska Airlines' Mileage Plan is an excellent frequent flyer program, particularly for those who travel frequently in Alaska and west coast cities like Portland and Seattle. As a Mileage Plan member, you can earn and redeem miles across a whole spectrum of partners, which vastly improves your globetrotting, wanderlusting prospects. Whether you want to relax in sunny Cancun or make a trek up to frigid Fairbanks for a chance to see the northern lights, Mileage Plan will help you get closer to realizing your goals. Perhaps, your trips up north may even help you come to the realization that Seward's folly was no folly at all. For the most adventurous, the last frontier may be MVP Gold 75K membership and redeeming an award flight up to visit Kotzebue or nearby Nome, which is just a short flight away.
Break out a forever stamp, an envelope and a trusty ballpoint pen to write a letter to:
P.O. Box 24948
Seattle, WA 98124-0948.
If you would rather speak to a customer care representative, head to your nearest phone booth and punch in 1-800-654-5669. This service available on Mondays to Fridays from 8 AM to 5:45 PM, and on Saturday from 8 AM to 4:45 PM (Pacific time).
On Sunday, the dedicated representatives take a day off to recuperate so that they can come back on Monday morning refreshed and ready to energetically tackle the next week of customer care responsibilities.
The fax service number is 206-433-3477. You can also email customer care on this page.