Flying Flexibly with Alaska Mileage Plan Partners
Not all travels need to be with alliance airlines, and in fact various options exist outside of them. Many travelers from Asia are unaware of Alaska Airlines, mainly a regional US-based airline, and the Mileage Plan.
Here we look at the airline’s loyalty program and how it would make sense even to Asian travelers.
Mileage Plan Program
With Mileage Plan, the frequent flyer program run by Alaska Airlines, members can accumulate and spend miles for travel flown on Alaska or partner carriers.
Elite Status and Perks
Mileage Plan also has its own set of status tiers similar to other airline programs. Fundamentally, these statuses are earned and enjoyed within a calendar year.
There are three ways of earning this elite status:
- boarding 30 Alaska, Virgin America or non-regional partner flights
- crediting 20,000 miles from Alaska or Virgin America flights
- crediting 25,000 miles from Alaska, Virgin America or non-regional partner flights
By getting to this tier, immediately in the current calendar year and the next a member gets 50% bonus on any miles earned.
All Mileage Plan members with elite status enjoy these common benefits (on Alaska Airlines flights, where applicable):
- Class upgrades on specific booking classes.
- Priority check-in and boarding.
- Two additional checked bags.
- Preferred seating.
- Elite Leave for new parents, which extends status for another calendar year.
Members move up to this next tier by:
- boarding 60 Alaska, Virgin America or non-regional partner flights
- crediting 40,000 miles from Alaska or Virgin America flights
- crediting 50,000 miles from Alaska, Virgin America or non-regional partner flights
Members on this level earn 100% bonus on all earned miles, companion upgrades to higher classes, four one-way First Class guest upgrades, and waived Alaska Lounge membership initiation fee and reservation changes fees.
MVP Gold 75K
Members move up to this next tier by:
- boarding 90 Alaska, Virgin America or non-regional partner flights
- crediting 75,000 miles from Alaska or Virgin America flights
- crediting 90,000 miles from Alaska, Virgin America or non-regional partner flights
Members on this level earn 125% bonus on all earned miles, 50,000 bonus miles (from qualification), Premium Class upgrades with any booking class, companion upgrades to higher classes, four one-way First Class guest upgrades, four Alaska Lounge day passes, waived Alaska Lounge membership initiation fee and reservation changes fees, and the opportunity to nominate someone for MVP status.
Like the tier name, members earn this privilege after clocking in one million miles on eligible flights. By landing this status, the member gets his MVP Gold status renewed automatically. The member also gets rewarded with complimentary meals even in the main cabin.
There are a number of ways to earn miles under the Mileage Plan program.
The great part about Alaska Airlines, despite NOT being part of any alliance, is that it has a great number of partners all over the world especially with miles earning potential.
Among the more notable Asian airline partners you could fly with Mileage Plan include Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Hainan Airlines, Japan Airlines, Korean Air and Singapore Airlines. Each airline has its own miles earning chart with Alaska Airlines, so double-check the booking class with the respective airline. The partnerships also work the other way around, so you can fly on Alaska Airlines to credit miles to Emirates, for example.
Also by booking directly with hotels, you can earn miles at varying rates like:
- Hilton: 1 mile per $1
- Intercontinental Hotel Group: 500 miles per stay
- Marriott International: 1-2 points per $1
- Hyatt: 500 points per stay
- Starwood Hotels: 2 points per $1
- Best Western: 250 miles per stay
- Fairmont Hotels & Resorts: 500 miles per stay
Alaska Airlines is mainly a regional airline based in the United States, and so credit card links are only available for residents of North America. Unfortunately, there are no ways for Asian residents to earn miles from ordinary spending.
One way of getting miles is from Starwood Preferred Guest points. Buy 1,000 SPG points for cost $35 for up to 30,000 SPG points in a year. You earn a bonus 5,000 miles for every 20,000 SPG points converted. Transfers take a few days however, and do NOT count towards status eligibility. SPG also throws discounted point sales every year which you should not miss.
But again, anyone can buy Mileage Plan miles outright. Alaska sells 1000 miles for $27.50, plus tax. This results in 2.75 US cents per mile (cpm). In the course of a year, however, they run promotions that give bonus miles depending on the number bought. For example, during the 2017 holidays there’s one awarding up to 40% extra miles; purchasing 10,000 miles and get 12,000 miles in total for $275 + tax:
So if you bought 60,000 miles during the promotion you’d get 84,000 in total for just US$1,650 + tax, approximately 1.96 cpm! That’s more than enough for a one-way First Class ticket to North America on Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines based on their award chart. You may buy up to up to 60,000 pre-bonus miles per transaction, but there is no limit to the number of transactions you can do.
Again, you can’t earn status using this method either. Still, this is the greatest (if not the only) way Asian residents can maximize Mileage Plan.
Asian Miler says…
We’ve covered the Mileage Plan program, but how can it be useful to your potential travel strategy?
Power of Networks
Though it may not be obvious, the most convincing point Mileage Plan can offer to the frequent flyer is the number of its partner airlines and the number of smooth connections it offers.
Around the continent, Asians can take advantage of Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Hainan Airlines, Japan Airlines, Korean Air and Singapore Airlines. You can argue Fiji Airways and Qantas to add to the list, even. These will bring you around Asia and far to the far-flung regions of the world and the other partners will help you the rest of the way.
Similar to the LifeMiles program, much of the value Asian residents can earn with Mileage Plan is through buying. Members can take the opportunity to buy miles and get the bonuses during promotions, or simply purchase miles to get just the right amount you need for a reservation at any time.
This would be a great alternative when fares get incredibly expensive (e.g. last-minute booking). What you could do, then, is check for award availability online and then buy any remaining miles required. And there’s no stopping you from buying as much as you need.
Perhaps one difference Mileage Plan has from other Asian frequent flyer programs is how the earned miles in an account expire. Technically any miles in the program do not expire as long as there is some activity within the last 24 months. Otherwise your account is deactivated and all miles are lost.
So if you have no immediate plans to travel, that’s fine. Just remember to come log in to your account before the two years are up and buy a token 1000 miles for $27.50 + tax so you get to keep all your miles for another 24 months. Simple.
One delightful feature of the program is how you can book a stopover even for one-way awards. This means you can spend some time in your intermediate city before flying onward to your final destination. Not many loyalty programs allow this.
Points to Note
You can go online to make a Mileage Plan award redemption anytime, but there are a few kinks to their system. As of this writing, you can only phone in to Cathay Pacific call centers to make a booking. Also, there are some phantom Emirates availability appearing on the Alaska Airlines search engine, meaning you cannot find but not confirm and finalize some bookings.
Also, being a non-alliance airline, you can only book a ticket with just one carrier for all legs in one-way itinerary; you cannot mix partners on a booking. This could narrow down your travel options a bit.
With Mileage Plan, travelers from Asia get to unlock various award travel options to different destinations around the world. This is in spite of Alaska Airlines being mainly a regional airline based in North America.
Mileage Plan has many international partner airlines that provide these destination choices, including a handful of key Asian carriers. They provide mutual earning and redeeming opportunities, which helps compensate for the lack of spending credit partners in Asia.
But the more accessible way of gaining miles is through the promotions they offer in a year. You can buy many miles how many times you need at any time you like. With these miles you can then use their online portal to redeem some available premium cabins on partner airlines you’d otherwise have trouble earning for.
So has this loyalty program helped expand your miles earning and spending strategy? Do you find their system appealing, for an airline based far from Asia? Let us know through the comments section.