Losing the ability to redeem miles on Delta flights is a small hit. Delta’s transatlantic award availability can be pretty decent especially during low season and on really lightly booked flights. Getting Delta domestic flights to pair up is tough, and of course you couldn’t book one-way awards on Delta for half the miles.
The real hit is no longer being able to credit Delta flights — especially cheap Delta domestic first class flights — to a Mileage Plan account. It was possible to fly a decent reliable domestic airline in Delta while still earning valuable miles instead of earning SkyMiles. That’s going away.
Alaska members can earn miles on Virgin America flights and vice versa. In addition, Alaska and Virgin elite members receive priority check-in and boarding on each others’ flights.
Reciprocal redemptions will launch January 9, and Virgin America elites will be status matched to Mileage Plan. Hopefully we’ll see Virgin America fully recognizing Alaska elite status at that point, as it makes no sense for Virgin America customers to be well-treated on Alaska flights but not to treat Alaska elites well on Virgin America flights.
Meanwhile, softening the blow further of losing Delta as a partner Alaska is promoting reduced pricing for domestic short haul redemptions.
They’re also promoting increased earning on partner airlines. And SkyTeam members other than Delta remain partners of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.
Alaska’s Mileage Plan program remains the only major US frequent flyer program which awards miles for flights based on distance traveled.
Alaska believes their loyalty program, and their co-brand credit card deal, are key to making the Virgin America acquisition profitable. It’s notable then that the airline says they aren’t planning to go revenue-based with its frequent flyer program.
I’m always skeptical of such claims, but there’s a good chance that this merger will forestall any move to go revenue-based that would otherwise have been on the table. It’s unlikely we’d see a major upending of the program before 2019.
Alaska Airlines explained that the majority of frequent flyers would do worse under such a system. And airlines don’t usually like to gut their members’ benefits during a merger, preferring instead to portray only upside.
The only unique thing here is that Virgin America’s program is already revenue-based. There are many outstanding questions, such as the rate at which Elevate points will eventually be converted to Mileage Plan. Over the next year much of interest will develop.