Is Detroit Alaska’s Most Elite Heavy Route?

Filed Under: Alaska, Mileage Runs

I might joke that Detroit is Alaska’s most elite heavy route… at least through the end of this month.

As I wrote about back in February, Alaska announced new service to Detroit which started on September 4th, and a double elite qualifying miles (EQMs) promotion to go along with it through October 31st, 2014. Just a week later, Delta announced double miles & MQMs for Washington residents through the end of 2014. Tit for tat is great for consumers.

Mirrored Upgrade Lists

My PointsPros colleague, Alex, emailed me yesterday with something I found interesting. He had a same day mileage run Seattle > Detroit > Seattle to re-qualify for MVP Gold status, and the upgrade list for the outbound flight is nearly identical to the return. 21 names match, to be precise. 

Alaska Seattle Detroit Upgrade List
Seattle to Detroit upgrade list

Alaska Detroit Seattle Upgrade List
Detroit to Seattle upgrade list 

This also doesn’t take into account mileage runners who are in first class, who don’t have status yet, or who may not be on the upgrade list. 

At least Alaska throws a bone to their MVP Golds in coach by offering them a complimentary drink. You can bet everybody took advantage of this, seeing as Alex mentioned the flight had run out of liquor not even ninety minutes in. Let’s hope they re-catered the flight in Detroit. 😉

FlyerTalk member PDXPremier even started a FlyerTalk thread on this topic: Did anyone purchase a seat on the new SEA-DTW that actually WANTS to go to DTW?

It seems yesterday’s flight isn’t a one-off, but it should be expected considering how efficient the mileage run is — out at 9:05AM and back by 6:55PM. Plus, there were sale fares in September for $190.60 round-trip, making this an extremely good deal.

The flight is 3,854 miles roundtrip, so with elite qualifying miles that’s 7,708 miles roundtrip. If you’re MVP Gold you also earn double redeemable miles, as usual.

Seattle to Detroit

MVP Gold could be attained for under $1,200.  

Bottom line

Alaska is obviously at a disadvantage in the Seattle to Detroit market, as they’re going head-to-head with Delta, which has several daily frequencies. So they needed to do something to lure people onto their planes, and this is certainly one way to do that.

Alaska Airlines

In general, if an airline starts a new route, it isn’t profitable for some time. Hopefully, Detroit will stick around, as Alaska usually has a way of avoiding competition (well, except for Delta). They put up a fight in their bread-and-butter and business markets, but if you take a look at the rest of their network, you’ll notice very little overlap with other carriers. A great example of this is Alaska’s Hawaii route network, where they are the only carrier on several routes.

In reality, Detroit probably isn’t Alaska’s most elite heavy route. That title likely goes to Seattle to Anchorage, Newark, or Washington. But even if you’re an MVP Gold 75K, don’t count on getting upgraded if you fly to Detroit through the end of the month.

I also find this especially impressive considering there’s no way all these mileage runners are FlyerTalkers, blog readers, or “travel hackers.” This just shows how our hobby has evolved over the past several years. I fondly remember my domestic mileage run days, and how crews or other passengers would negatively react when they found out what I was doing.

At least I can say I was doing this before it was cool mainstream. 😉

Are you doing a Detroit run? If so, where did you end up on the upgrade list?

  1. My wife and I used our upgrade certificates to fly to Detroit this weekend (to go to the Chicago Sessions). Based on previous experience, I knew that was the only way we would get upgraded. And we are both MVP Gold.

  2. Say what you will about Delta and their forthcoming elite program changes, not to mention their slightly brutal marketing for it, but they’re right. When everyone and their grandmother has elite status, as they do on Alaska, it becomes rather difficult to take advantage of the offered benefits. As a lowly MVP member I rarely get upgraded and usually find myself 31st in line for one seat. Compare that to my last two flights on Delta where the first class cabin was only half full after the diamond and platinum upgrades cleared and my upgrades confirmed 4 days out.

    I had considered going for MVP gold via DTW along with a friend. She was on the inaugural flights and went again a week later. While she got her gold I decided not to go. Rather, Delta decided for me. Now…I’m a die hard Alaska fanboi and I actually felt dirty walking past the Alaska check-in counters. But when I have mid level elite status, lounge membership, 25,000 bonus miles, AND double elite qualifying miles on segments into/out of SEA (yes, even SEA -> AMS qualifies) basically handed to me on a silver platter, even I will bed down with the enemy…at least for a little bit. I mean, heck…Delta is doing everything short of reaching down the front of my pants to have a little rummage. I’d be crazy not to let them!

    This weekend I did a quick run down to the Bay Area to see friends. That’s one of two round trips needed to fully qualify for the Seattle Loyalty promo. The next one comes in two weeks with a SEA->AMS->BCN->JFK->SEA trip that should get me requalified for Silver and well on the way to Gold, but with the MQD requirement it’s not going to happen. I’ll happily go back to flying with Alaska and standing 31st in line. Now if only Delta was transfer partners with something useful so I can actually take advantage of all those SkyInches I’m going to accumulate…

  3. It was a bit amusing how many people I knew were passing me in the aisle as the plane boarded. Some of us knew we were going to be there, and for others it was a surprise. FWIW, a few people were actually staying the night before coming back the next day. I did just two MRs, both same day turns.

  4. This reminds me of the days WN would open a new route, charge $49 one way, and give everyone a free systemwide one way pass sellable for at least $135 wholesale upon exiting the plane.
    I hired a group of kids to fly SAT-BNA-IND-CLE-IND-BNA-SAT daily for 2 weeks.

  5. lol its shenanigans like these that are gonna mess up Alaska’s number crunchers big time this quarter… and when the demand falls off next quarter on this route and they will be left wondering WTH is going on. hahah, wonder if they have checks and balances or algorithms to sort out anomalies like these. I’m sure they will readjust frequencies and what not — it just might be a rude awakening.

    anyways wish we could take advantage of such promos or MRs down here in the southern US. AS needs to fly direct down here 🙂

  6. lucky,

    Just flew into SEA with an Alaska Air Exec, who told me they quite understand the pressures on them, and that the glut of Elites in both camps (DELTA’s and Alaska’s) is making them consider a new “upper tier” more seriously. Anything for either airline out of SEA is getting ridiculous for upgrades and he said that goes directly against the spirit of how Alaska wants to treat any Elite (in either camp).

    In addition, he told me that a future hard alliance with of the of the three (Oneworld, SkyTeam or Star Alliance) wasn’t that far off, either. For Alaska, they look at it as necessary step for their own survival to fall under the wing of one of the big three.

  7. Nice, I did that flight and I am doing it again this Saturday… One thing I am really confused about is how AS handle the upgrade list? I know airlines like UA take consideration of fare, so a Y fare silver might beat a 1K with a deep discount ticket. Does AS do that too? The reason I ask is cuz on Sept 27 I flew SEA-DTW RT and cleared first class both legs. I am a MVPG who bought the ticket months ago and my seatmate is only a MVP. I only cleared at the gate (T fare) but he apparently cleared the upgrade ahead of me. (The only explanation I can think of is he has a H+ fare? But that is not a MR then given how expensive the fare is) I also know there are 75Ks on that flight who didn’t clear… What’s going on??

  8. Another lesson to go counter to what bloggers promote.

    UNITED is looking really appetizing right now if you just need the major routes out of SEA.

  9. Interesting. An alliance with UA and Star Alliance could actually work, given how much UA has pulled back in SEA. *A airlines have a good amount of international service at SEA. AA and Oneworld is the other realistic candidate, though their reach at SEA is more limited. But that will be the end of the DL alliance.

    Also, AS already has a 75K tier. It just that the benefits at that tier aren’t that significant.

  10. I find Alaska upgrade clearance to be virtually incomprehensible, and I’ve tried to have it explained to me. I think there are situations where they treat MVPs and MVPGs as identical tiers, which makes no sense. I think they ignore fare category unless upgrade space is available ahead of the 5-day/3-day timeframe, and you have an instant upgrade fare. But within 24 hours of flight, if you haven’t cleared in the res system, I am convinced there are significant loopholes and shenanigans as available seats always disappear without preferred (exit row or row 6) seats opening up. Someone knows how to game the upgrade system on the day of flight.

  11. @Carl- It used to be if you called some call centers you could claim you had a guest certificate and snag the space. Not sure if that’s still the case.

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