Alaska Mileage Plan Changes How Status Is Earned

Filed Under: Alaska

Alaska Airlines has just adjusted how status in the Mileage Plan program can be earned in 2021. For most people this will make it easier to earn status, but not for everyone.

Alaska Mileage Plan adjusts elite requirements

Alaska Airlines is changing 2021 elite qualification, which applies for those looking to earn status for the 2022 program year. I’d assume there are a few reasons status qualification is being adjusted:

Alaska Airlines is joining oneworld in 2021

So, how is status qualification changing? Let’s compare 2020 and 2021 elite requirements.

2020 Alaska Mileage Plan elite requirements

For context, up until now Alaska Mileage Plan has has had different qualification thresholds depending on whether you qualify for status exclusively through travel on Alaska, or if you qualify through travel on a combination of Alaska and its partners:

  • MVP status has required 20,000 elite miles or 30 segments on Alaska, OR 25,000 elite miles or 30 segments on a combination of Alaska and partners
  • MVP Gold status has required 40,000 elite miles or 60 segments on Alaska, OR 50,000 elite miles or 60 segments on a combination of Alaska and partners
  • MVP Gold 75K status has required 75,000 elite miles or 90 segments on Alaska, OR 90,000 elite miles or 90 segments on a combination of Alaska and partners

2021 Alaska Mileage Plan elite requirements

For 2021, Alaska Mileage Plan will no longer differentiate between travel on Alaska and travel on partner airlines for the purposes of elite qualification… sort of. Here’s how you can earn 2021 Alaska Mileage Plan status:

  • MVP status will require 20,000 elite miles or 30 segments, AND at least two segments on Alaska
  • MVP Gold status will require 40,000 elite miles or 60 segments, AND at least four segments on Alaska
  • MVP Gold 75K status will require 75,000 elite miles or 90 segments, AND at least six segments on Alaska

Is the new status qualification easier?

With these changes, it’ll be easier to earn status through travel on partner airlines in terms of the number of miles you have to fly, but you’ll also have to fly a minimum number of segments on Alaska, which wasn’t previously the case.

For most people I’d say these changes make it easier to earn Alaska, though at the same time I know some people outside the US who earn status with Mileage Plan without ever flying Alaska (which can be a smart strategy).

For those people this is probably a negative change, though the truth is that I think Alaska is fine if they lose some customers who never actually fly with the airline.

In 2021 you’ll need to fly a minimum number of segments on Alaska

Will these elite requirements stick around?

As of now these are the elite requirements for 2021, though only time will tell if Mileage Plan takes a similar approach in future years. Personally I wouldn’t be surprised to see this hybrid qualification concept stick around, where you can earn status primarily through travel on partner airlines, though still have to fly a certain number of flights on Alaska.

I think this does a good job of encouraging the type of travel that Mileage Plan is looking for.

The number of elite miles required on partner airlines is being reduced

Bottom line

In 2021 Alaska Mileage Plan will be reducing the number of elite miles required to earn status, while at the same time requiring a minimum number of flights on Alaska. This all comes as the Seattle-based airline prepares to join the oneworld alliance in the spring.

Overall I’d consider these changes to be positive. The Mileage Plan program is particularly compelling, and I’m hoping the value proposition doesn’t change too much when Alaska joins the oneworld alliance.

What do you make to these changes to Alaska Mileage Plan elite qualification?

  1. It’ll be interesting to see if AS codeshare services on partner airlines count as Alaska segments (as they do with other airlines with similar requirements).

    Given how limited Alaska’s codeshare arrangements are, it would be somewhat moot unless that also changes.

  2. probably one of the best case scenarios for devaluation. We all know it is coming, but this is definitely one of the better cases.
    I used to dream that nothing changes and AS becomes the best program in the world, but I also dreamed about flying CX F and not gaining weight. 😛

  3. @ Ben — This is awesome. If (and I guess this might be a big IF) we complete our 4 QR J trips LAX-SE Asia next year, we will be 80% of the way on AA EXP and AS MVPG75k, Add in about 6 transcon domestic trips and we’ll be at 100%! Easiest qualification year ever (COVID permitting).

  4. @UA

    I’ve checked with Alaska and was told unequivocally that the flights have to be “Alaska Operated”.

  5. OT, but it looks like Citi has now implemented a new Merchant Offers program, similar to Amex Offers and Chase Offers. At first glance, it’s more profitable than Chase Offers, without the low earnings caps Chase imposes. It also includes a more extensive list of retailers. This could be a nice bonus for Citi cardholders.

  6. @david It’s interesting, in that I received the email on my Double Cash, but had no offers on that card. I had around 50 offers on my Premier and 90 on my Rewards+ though.

  7. I’m a little surprised that Alaska didn’t include an elite qualifying mile promotion for 2021 with this news. As of now 1.5x eqm ends on December 31st. They’re going to need to continue to incentivize in 2021.

  8. So for those of us who actually earn status by flying only on Alaska, we now get to compete for upgrades with those who may have only flown 4 to 6 segments while spending the majority of their dollars elsewhere? This is before we even know if AA ExP will get upgrades before MVP Gold with the already announced changes in March. With change fees going away, the advantages of being loyal to AS and having MVP Goldare quickly vanishing. I don’t travel for work but have made Gold on strictly domestic personal travel 5 years running (and then used miles to take an annual international trip) and I’ve generally been happy with Alaska. It’s frustrating to see status slowly devalued. I wish they’d just get it over with and announce a merger with AA already. They sure seem to be rolling out the red carpet for AA flyers lately.

  9. @ Andrew — There have been no further changes announced to American mileage earning rates through Mileage Plan, at least yet.

  10. @ JG_SEA — I don’t disagree with your sentiment in general, but to address one point:
    “So for those of us who actually earn status by flying only on Alaska, we now get to compete for upgrades with those who may have only flown 4 to 6 segments while spending the majority of their dollars elsewhere?”

    To be clear:
    — You would have been competing with them before (at least in theory), and they wouldn’t have had four to six segments
    — If they’re only flying four to six segments per year on Alaska, they’re not going to pose that much risk to upgrades (vs. an MVP Gold 75K flying Alaska every week, for example)

  11. Well done Alaska. Looking forward to 75K/OW Emerald next year without the differentiation in Alaska vs. partner flying for qualification!

  12. Now that the Delta-WestJet JV (or whatever it was) is a no go, will Alaska and WestJet get together?

  13. @DaKine, he did, but it was in the article about American upgrading Platinum Pro to Emerald, not in a separate article.

  14. Didn’t I also read the mileage (with bonus EQMs) accrued from Jan 1 – April 30 this year on Alaska count towards 2021 status? A nice head start to renewing my Gold 75 status for 2022. Moreover, while I was always able to get to MVP on AS metal, in the past I’ve always had to reach the 90K mile mark as my BA/SQ/CX flights were the only way for me to get to Gold 75. This change is great news!

  15. Oh wow… this is quite negative for me. I’m based in Asia right now and buy usually 300-400K miles every year. With these new requirements looks like I won’t be able to be MVP Gold or above which means I’m limited in the number of miles I can purchase. Might need to rethink where I move to. Any suggestions?

  16. The big advantage of having (Gold for me) elite status on Alaska is that i almost always get kicked to 1st Class. If they make it easier for outsiders to get/have status, my number of upgrades will go down, the value of my elite status will go down and as a result my loyalty will go down. Thus it looks like a bad deal for someone who wants to be a good Alaska customer because their FF program has been so effective.

  17. @Lan – are you referring to the new required segments that must be flown on AS metal?

    If you’re ever on the West Coast, see if you can find short hop flights (e.g. Seattle-Portland) that are cheap to use for your segment requirement. A short flight should qualify as a segment.

  18. @VX_Flier thanks for the suggestion. Will consider it next time I’m in the US

    @Geoff, the change I see mainly affects people like me who get status by not flying on AS metal. By definition, that group would not affect your upgrade chances I think 🙂

  19. Agree with the potential pros and cons depending on who you are and overall I think this is a pretty reasonable (if not slightly generous) offering for OneWorld, but I remain simply amazed that the prevailing trend in most parts of the world at the moment seems to be to pretend that Covid is over as of 1 January 2021 and expect people to meet their annual targets, especially airlines that haven’t reduced them.

    Here in Australia/NZ, where ironically we are effectively Covid-free (though can’t fly overseas), the major airlines are all basically saying if you fly even just one flight before March-June 2021, your status will be extended another year.

    Meanwhile, it’s like the rest of the world is like, “Well, we’re tired of this, so back to it you go.”

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