Major: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Adds 100K Elite Tier

Filed Under: Alaska

This is huge. In an email to members, Alaska Mileage Plan has just announced that it will be introducing a new top elite tier. This comes shortly before Alaska Airlines joins the oneworld alliance on March 31, 2021.

Alaska Mileage Plan’s new 100K elite tier

In 2022, Alaska Mileage Plan will be introducing a new elite tier that will require 100,000 elite miles (I’d assume it will be called MVP Gold 100K, but that’s just a guess). For context, here are Alaska Airlines’ elite tiers for 2021 (which have already been modified):

Here’s how Mileage Plan explained the new tier in an email to members:

For members who fly 100,000 miles per year, we’re also introducing a new tier starting in 2022. This will recognize our absolute top echelon road warriors and offer perks such as increased bonus miles, top upgrade priority on Alaska flights, lounge benefits, and more. Look for more details later in 2021.

That’s all we know as of now — as you can see, details are limited.

As before, I would expect that Alaska MVP gets you oneworld Ruby, Alaska MVP Gold gets you oneworld Sapphire, and Alaska MVP Gold 75K & 100K will get you oneworld Emerald.

Alaska Airlines is introducing a new elite tier at 100K miles

Why is Alaska Airlines introducing a new elite tier?

Alaska Mileage Plan introducing a new elite tier probably has little to do with the airline joining the oneworld alliance, and a lot more to do with Alaska Airlines’ new strategic partnership with American Airlines, which goes way beyond the two airlines both belonging to oneworld.

American Airlines is turning Seattle into an international gateway, and plans to offer flights to BangaloreLondon, and Shanghai, with more to come.

We’ve known that Alaska and American plan to introduce reciprocal upgrades for elite members, because the airlines want to create metal neutrality as much as possible. If this partnership is going to work, American AAdvantage elite members have to be treated well on Alaska Airlines, and vice versa.

A big question has been how upgrades would be prioritized. I was told by AAdvantage leadership that they were aiming for true reciprocity, which I interpreted to mean that a top tier elite on one airline wouldn’t be prioritized behind the lowest level elite on the other airline.

It seems pretty clear here that Alaska and American are essentially aligning elite tiers, so that they can work towards aligning upgrade policies.

We had also learned that top tier Alaska Airlines flyers would eventually get upgrades that can be redeemed on American Airlines globally, so presumably that’s part of this. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alaska Mileage Plan introduce an “Elite Choice” perk, similar to what American offers.

Mileage Plan elite members will be able to upgrade on American

Could Alaska Airlines and American Airlines merge?

Maybe, but I wouldn’t read into it based on this. Pre-coronavirus I would’ve said that consolidation in the US wasn’t on anyone’s radar, though who knows what the future holds given how the industry has changed.

Personally I wouldn’t in any way read into this announcement as suggesting that the airlines are anywhere close to a merger. That would be the wrong order of operations — mergers don’t start with aligning of elite tiers. This is clearly all about commercial cooperation.

I don’t think an Alaska & American merger is imminent

Bottom line

Alaska Airlines will be introducing a new 100K elite tier in 2022. It seems pretty obvious that this is intended to align elite tiers with American, which makes sense if the two airlines are going to work closely together.

This is purely speculation on my part, but I’d assume that Alaska MVP Gold 100K and American Executive Platinum members would have similar upgrade priorities, just as Alaska MVP and American Gold members would have similar upgrade priorities.

Personally I think this is an exciting development when you’re looking at the bigger picture of the two airlines cooperating together. However, undoubtedly many Mileage Plan elite members are probably saying “you’re ruining my favorite program, and the floodgates are being opened to AAdvantage members.” Prove me wrong. 😉

What do you make of Alaska Airlines introducing a fourth elite tier?

Comments
  1. A big problem with the notion of “a top tier elite on one airline wouldn’t be prioritized behind the lowest level elite on the other airline” is that AA is the much bigger airline, and AAdvantage members could flood available upgrades on AS for all but the highest tier of AS Mileage Plan customers.

  2. @ Dan — Except there’s no reason to believe that American has disproportionately more elites than Alaska. If someone flies Alaska a lot, they’d probably be better off crediting to Alaska. If someone flies American a lot, they’d probably be better off crediting to American. In other words, I think there will be a balance between Alaska flyers on American and American flyers on Alaska. Perhaps the exception is those connecting to American’s international network. But for this partnership to be mutually beneficial, there needs to be proper reciprocity.

  3. @ GoAmtrak — Yeah, wondering that too. The program lowered requirements this year, and I’d guess that in 2022 the program will fully align tiers, to 25K/50K/75K/100K. I’m curious to see if Alaska also introduces a revenue requirement at that point.

  4. @ Mark — I wouldn’t expect this to change anything. We already knew that MVP Gold 75K would be oneworld Emerald, so I’d expect 100K to also get Emerald. This also aligns with American, where both Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum get you Emerald.

  5. @ Gene — That’s a good question. I think it’s about qualifying in 2022 for 2023 status, since requirements for this year have already been published.

  6. You’re ruining my favorite program, and the floodgates are being opened to AAdvantage members

  7. I’m willing to bet quite a bit of jelly beans on MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K mapping to oneworld Sapphire and only MVP100K mapping to oneworld Emerald.

  8. I do suspect that we’ll see AA and AS merge, especially if vaccine rollout continues to be sluggish and domestic travel remains heavily depressed this summer. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see two of the ultra low cost carriers merge…

  9. Probably also a lot to do with Alaska suddenly going to get many more big miles earners with more people able to earn Alaska miles on long transpacific international flights. Gold 75k is like 4 flights.

    Use those miles now. AS miles will deval soon. 70k Cathay F with stopover was based on making only a small portion of award space available to AS, not the same space as OW.

  10. @ Bobby J — I’ll bet that’s not the case. 😉 American just made Platinum Pro oneworld Emerald, and that’s intended as a permanent change. In terms of aligning tiers it makes sense that both Platinum Pro and MVP Gold 75K would have the same oneworld status.

  11. Hopefully Alaska will avoid the American/USAIR kiss of death that utterly destroyed PSA, Reno Air, Air California and Piedmont as well as the ultimate casualty American Airlines.

  12. I’m skeptical about a merger. Alaska is well run, and therefore expensive to buy. Alaska’s current market cap is around $6 billion. American’s is around $9 billion, even though it’s a much larger carrier. Not sure how AA could afford to buy Alaska.

    I also remember merger talk around Alaska and Delta a decade ago, when they formed a close partnership, and nothing came of it.

  13. My email included this information, confirming MVP gold = sapphire.

    Starting April 2021, you’ll begin enjoying the benefits of oneworld Alliance. Your MVP Gold status automatically gives you oneworld Sapphire privileges. You’ll enjoy elite advantages such as priority services, international business lounge access, baggage benefits and more.

  14. As someone whose “road warrior” days are over — if they ever existed in the first place* — a 100k elite level does nothing for me whatsoever…OTHER THAN make me increasingly worried about what elite benefits will (or more likely, *won’t*!) “trickle down” my way.

    _______________
    * I only qualified for MVP Gold for two years, otherwise I’ve maintained MVP status for several, of one goes back and includes all the years I was top tier at Virgin America.

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