Alaska Announces Changes to its Elite Program for 2004

Alaska Airlines announced changes to elite benefits for 2004. There’s also a brochure (Adobe Acrobate file) comparing year-over-year benefits.

  • MVP (first tier elite) will require 20,000 miles rather than 15,000 miles of flying on Alaska/Horizon (no change to requirement for partner airline flying)
  • MVP Gold (second/top tier elite) will require 40,000 miles rather than 35,000 miles of flying on Alaska/Horizon (no change to requirement for partner airline flying)
  • MVP Gold unlimited upgrades at booking will be limited to Q fares and above. Lower fares will only permit upgrades to be confirmed 3 days in advance of flight.
  • Mileage upgrades will double in price from 5,000 miles each way to 10,000 miles each way.
  • The “AS50” award — 15,000 miles for a 50% discount — will now have a discount value capped at $250, and will not allow MVP Gold upgrades.
  • First Class Peak Awards will increase in price by 1/3 (60,000 miles to 80,000 miles)

This ends Alaska’s status as the most generous (by far) elite program. It more or less aligns their program with the rest of the industry.

Now that they’re flying transcontinental flights, higher priced upgrades make sense. DC or Boston to Seattle, confirmed from any fare, for 5000 miles was out of synch when American and United would charge 15000 miles for the same upgrade. The increased “peak” first class award price (coach and saver award prices remain the same) aligns their price with other majors. And increased mileage requirements to qualify make sense in the context of a larger and longer route network.

I don’t like the changes. But I do understand them.

It’s worth noting that 2003 elites can book travel in 2003 for flights in 2004 and use their 2003 benefits… book early, book often!

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, 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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