Virgin America Flight History Won’t Count Towards Alaska Airlines Lifetime Elite Status

A reader asked me how his Virgin America flight history would count towards Alaska Airlines lifetime elite status once the Virgin brand was completely folded in Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines awards lifetime MVP Gold status after 1 million actual miles flown on Alaska (and not counting flights on partner airlines besides, for instance, Horizon).

However Virgin America is becoming Alaska since it was purchased by Alaska, and Virgin’s Elevate points transfer to Alaska’s Mileage Plan miles at a ratio of 1 to 1.3. However Virgin American’s points-earning had nothing to do with distance flown, so he wasn’t sure what to expect.

And somehow I hadn’t asked this question before so I reached out to Alaska to clarify. And the short answer is… Virgin America flight history from before the merger won’t count.

Previously flown travel on Virgin America prior to merger close does not count toward Million Miles status. Any travel on Virgin American since 12/14/16 (when we combined programs) where an Alaska Mileage Plan number was on the reservation does count toward Alaska Million Miler status.

I do understand the difficulty divining the number of miles from out of a Virgin America Elevate account, since points attached to each itinerary were based on dollars flown and not distance. Still I was surprised by this.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. I’m not sure how this is a “screwjob” since Virgin didn’t have lifetime/million miler status in the first place (right?). We aren’t losing anything, only gaining.

  2. Maybe it’s just me.

    I’ve flown some 120+ flights on VX. But since Virgin doesn’t keep a “total lifetime miles” number, it would be impossible (or, at least, highly difficult — not to mention expensive) for Alaska to have to calculate mileage for every single Elevate member.

    I don’t expect AS to do that.

  3. I’m with the previous two posters. VX changed reservation systems twice so going back and retroactively creating a “lifetime miles” number for folks on VX would be nearly impossible.

    I am happy that they are currently counting VX credited to AS. Let’s live with that folks (and the 10k miles they bestowed on us Elevate members back in January).

  4. Alaska just lost my loyalty. If they’re cheapest or most convenient, I will consider them but I’m not going out of my way to fly on them now. This merger was all about acquiring another hub or two and the flyers located there, but decisions like this alienate those customers.

  5. Certainly, Don, you’re entitled to your opinion — I don’t think anyone would think otherwise — but as a Virgin America Elevate Gold member: do I wish Virgin America still existed? Absolutely. Am I going to not fly Alaska as a result? Absolutely not.

    So far the benefits — increased number of partner airlines; larger number of routes; etc. — outweighs the drawbacks, which so far seem pretty restricted to the way to earn future Elite status.

    To each his own, I guess.

  6. Don, I guess I have to ask. You’re dumping Alaska for which program?

    We’ve all watched this movie too many times (Not meaning you personally, but in these blog comments). “OK, Delta, that’s it.” “United, this is too much, and I’m outta here.” “Wow, even AA, forget about them (and the seats…)

    Unless you’re saying you’re going totally free agent….

  7. This surprises me a bit, at least with regard to this year’s flying. My understanding is AS plans to count this year’s VX travel toward’s status, so they presumably are already working on the IT to pull that out for those of us who credited our VX flying to VX this year. Don’t know why they couldn’t just add it to the MM counter while we’re at it (or apply it for previous years, although perhaps they don’t have the data).

  8. It woudl seem to me that Alaska giving credit to Virgin flyers towards a 1 million mile status would be a great marketing idea. For example, giving someone 50,000 miles for each year as Gold, 25,000 miles each year they were Silver and 10,000 miles for everyone else costs Alaska zero and all it does is up the counter towards 1 million. So If I got 10 years of Gold added to my account I would be 500,000 closer to 1 million. But to get to 1 million I would have to fly about 50,000 miles per year on Alaska for 10 years. That seems to me to be a lot of revenue for Alaska to expect and be happy about. And it costs them nothing to put the miles into the 1 million mile bucket.

    Good PR for a very minimal “potential” cost of status years from now.

  9. Ahh. Lifetime status. It’s funny. When AA bought TW, my AA lifetime reflected my totals on both carriers. When HP bought US, my US lifetime reflected the combination of both airlines’ miles. Then when US bought AA, my total now cleared the million mile threshold because of miles on four different carriers.

    And, of course, I got million miler status just in time for it to be useless.

  10. I hope they have a better reason for not doing this other than ‘we don’t have to.’ This type of thing is more likely to happen when it’s a pure takeover as this is and AS has pretty much stated it was a takeover.

    Very little good is coming out of this merger from what I can see as an AS MVP75K (at least for now) and this is just another example..

    This is just another example of all the suckiness this merger brings like loosing most of the meaningful partners.

  11. @Tom — This makes no sense to me. As an Alaska flier who has earned MVP Gold 75k (75,000 miles, or 90 segments in a calendar year), what are you LOSING in the merger? I’d be grateful if you could explain it to me.

    As someone who has earned either Elevate Gold or Elevate Silver most years, I can certainly tell you what I’m losing: status. Silver with VX requires a certain number of Status Points, OR 15 flight segments; Gold is either more points or 30 flight segments. But AS requires 2x the number of flights — 30 for MVP; 60 for MVP Gold. (And 90 flight segments for MVP Gold 75k, a a third level of status not offered by VX.).

    There is NO WAY I will ever be Gold again — not when it requires SIXTY flights/year. Since I rarely fly on business, this is waaaaayyyyyy out of reach for me.

  12. Well that is pretty shit (pardon my french).

    Maybe ask elites audit their own miles if the airline can’t or won’t do the work?

  13. Do you remember the number of flight and the destinations you flew in 2009? And why would AS take your word for it?

  14. The entire mileage scheme ( meaning “plan of arrangement” in the British English sense) has become a waste of time.
    Most of the miles I accrue come from spending, not flying.
    I’ve given up chasing status on any airline or with any hotel program. I refuse to book coach and hope for an upgrade.
    Do the airlines actually believe that causing me the anxiety of worrying about an upgrade is something that would make me want to fly that carrier?

    .I pay for first class, or use miles for international first and business. When origination outside the US, I can often find an inexpensive business or first class fare with a short positioning flight… or use Award Nexus to find a biz/. first flight,
    Loyalty has long been a one way street, so I choose not to play the game.
    Trust me, for most flyers you won’t get mad at program changes when you take this approach.
    As to hotels, I’d rather pay for the room i want than try to get status so I get upgraded in a constantly changing program,
    The recent IHG cash and points purchase/cancel opportunity is something right up my alley: Buy points at .43125, get 10% back with the credit card. Buy Ambassador and get another 10% back plus a contractual set of benefits that often amount to something better than I’d get earning program benefits.

    I’m also sorry to see Virgin go. I so like the atmosphere. But, I am very happy Jet Blue MINT is expanding and will happily pay for it on a 5 hour flight to NYC

  15. @Jason Brandt Lewis I would envision flyers who care about lifetime miles compiling a portfolio (a ledger with ticket stubs, annual statements, printouts, etc.) and submitting to AS/VX for approval. Hopefully the airline has some records (I would assume they didn’t burn everything right?) and can corroborate enough to grant/deny the mileage. If flyers don’t wanna do the work, they don’t get the miles.

    As others mentioned, a simpler (and parallel) system would be to credit based on status. Not familiar with VX’s program (EQMs vs Lifetime vs BIS) but that could approximate the correct value.

    I’m sure there are other solutions out there. But I don’t think it’s fair to throw lifetime VX fliers into the AS pool with such a stark disadvantage! C.f. US/AA

  16. As I said above, “To each his [her] own.” However, if you think I have kept receipts, boarding passes, etc. for every one of the 120+ flights on VX I’ve taken some flight ops began, you must think me either extremely anal retentive or of having a strong case of OCD.

    Since VX does not offer a “million miler” lifetime status, and never has, once the miles and flight credit appears in my account, why would I keep all you suggest? I mean, certain documents are retained for tax purposes, but I don’t need the boarding pass/confirmation number; I don’t need the emailed receipt; and after X number of years, I don’t need the credit card statements.

    I’d imagine the same would go for the airline. Eventually things not worth keeping are purged from the system. And — again — since VX has never offered “lifetime status,” what’s their incentive to keep that stuff (other than for tax/audit purposes)?

    Furthermore, 1) there is substantial expense incurred if AS has to go through all of VX’s old computer backups just to see how many miles each Elevate member has flown over the past 10+ years; and 2) AS lifetime status is valued at $X — it’s a costly benefit to offer, and it goes only to Alaska’s best customers — but they haven’t earned a dime off VX elites, unless they were ALSO an AS customer while being a VX elite. Personally I can’t think of any sound reason AS should offer credit towards lifetime status.

    Clearly this is a case of YMMV. Let’s simply agree to disagree.

  17. @Jason Brandt Lewis I just listed board passes as an example. I don’t keep most of my BPs and I wouldn’t expect most fliers to, but everyone “should” have email receipts, confirmations, etc. I do have my United MP statements (until they stopped issuing those). Now I do a PDF printout of each year’s data. It’s not rocket science. I agree flyers are screwed if they didn’t have the presence of mind do that for VX. Although the cornerstone of this hobby is record-keeping (mileage expiration, credit cards, MS, etc.)…

    I don’t think the cost would be outrageous bc how many people would actually go thru the trouble of submitting a portfolio?

    Anyways, AS doesn’t have to do anything they don’t want to. They could void all the miles and end the program tomorrow. But I think offering lifetime credit to VX people would be a nice carrot to reduce “defectation.”

  18. I have a quick question about this topic:
    Will the miles I fly with VA after their merge (now, before they completely take VA name away) count towards AS’s lifetime status?

  19. I’m a loyal VA gold member & made my first Jet Blue reservation out of JFK today.
    It turns out Alaska hasn’t completed updating 2018 VA elite status.
    They are currently in the process right now.
    This won’t be completed until 1/8/18.
    If I fly Alaska tomorrow, my Alaska member # which showed MVP Gold in 12/17 currently shows only a #.

    This is not the way to start a new relationship, Alaska.
    Especially one I did not choose.
    This merger is a downgrade for VA elite, secondary to Alaska’s visibly nonexistent first class &/or MCS sections & perks.
    Alaska’s FC is less then equal to a glorified VA coach flight.

    It’s an insult & a form of incompetence, to hear excuses blamed on a merger they have been rectifying for over a year.
    Alaska shouldn’t have done away with Elevate until they effectively recognized all VA elite status, especially Gold.

    This is business & this isn’t acceptable.
    I’m taking my loyalty & $ to Jet Blue.

  20. Victoria, I agree. I have been Elevate Gold for some time, but if I lived in NYC, I’d switch my loyalty to jetBlue. Sadly, although jetBlue now flies out of all three San Francisco Bay Area airports, the destinations remain EXTREMELY limited. There are FIVE nonstops out of SFO (JFK, BOS, FLL, LAS, LGB. OAK? There routes (JFK, BOS, LGB). From SJC, three routes, same as OAK. So, I find myself pretty much rooted to either Alaska or, if they don’t shape up, I’ll go back to Southwest for my domestic flights.

    On top of which, I flew from SFO to Mexico City/return (12/21-12/25) on AS. Honestly, the flight to MEX was one of the WORST flights I have ever taken. Even MORE surprising has been Alaska’s response — first a “canned” reply, and then (when I responded to that), no comment. Silence. Even when I tweeted them (and they usually reply to tweets within minutes, not days!).

    Don’t know what to do.

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