If you travel often, you probably have an airline you’ve pledged allegiance to. It makes sense because most carriers have frequent flyer programs with elite status perks to make your travel less stressful and more rewarding. But is your favorite airline meeting your travel needs?
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In this guide, we’ll discuss exactly how much value you can get from each status tier of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program. So you can make an informed decision on whether or not being loyal to Alaska Airlines is worth your while.
Alaska Airlines Elite Status Overview
If you frequently fly with Alaska Airlines, or you travel often with one of its partners, you’ll easily qualify for Mileage Plan elite status: MVP, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K. To achieve status, you’ll need to earn enough miles or fly enough segments in one calendar year:
|MVP||MVP GOLD||MVP GOLD 75K|
With each status level, you’ll unlock even more benefits:
|BENEFITS||MVP||MVP GOLD||MVP GOLD 75K|
|Welcome bonus miles||50,000|
|Premium Class upgrades||x||x||x|
|First Class upgrades||x||x||x|
|First Class guest upgrades||4||4|
|Premium beverage in Main Cabin||x||x|
|Priority check-in & boarding||x||x||x|
|Express security line||x||x|
|2 checked bags||x||x||x|
|Partner lounge access||x||x|
|Alaska Lounge day passes||4|
|Waived ticket change fees||x||x|
|Nominate someone for MVP status||x|
Alaska Airlines Elite Status Value
The lowest elite tier in the Mileage Plan program is MVP status, which requires 20,000 miles on Alaska flights, 25,000 miles on Alaska and partner flights, or 30 segments on Alaska and partner flights. To calculate the value of MVP status, we used 24,000 miles at a cost of $0.125 per mile. So the total spend is $3,000.
Below is a list of MVP perks along with their estimated values:
50% mileage bonus ($216). With 24,000 miles flown, the mileage bonus will get you an additional 12,000 Alaska miles, worth $216. Note: Not all fare classes on partner carriers will earn full miles, especially economy class.
Preferred seating ($50). You can select your preferred seat on Alaska flights, like an aisle seat or one closer to the front of the plane. Note: This perk is not available on Alaska’s Saver fares, and they do not include Premium Class or First Class seats.
Upgrades to Premium Class ($100). These seats give you four extra inches of legroom, as well as complimentary snacks and drinks. You’re eligible for immediate upgrades to Premium Class at the time of booking for fare classes Y, S, Z or B. All other fare classes won’t be upgraded until 48 hours prior to departure. This perk does not apply to companions on the same itinerary.
Upgrades to First Class ($150). You’re eligible for complimentary upgrades to First Class on Alaska-operated flights, when available. Y, S, and Z fares are eligible to clear immediately, while all other fare classes will start clearing 48 hours before departure. Companions cannot get free upgrades to First Class on your MVP status.
Priority airport services ($75). Enjoy priority check-in and boarding when you fly with Alaska Airlines. While it’s not the most valuable benefit, having access to priority airport services will save you some precious time on hectic travel days.
Two free checked bags ($100). You and your travel companions can check two bags for free when you travel on Alaska flights. It’s important to note that most other loyalty programs only offer one free checked bag to low-tier elites. This benefit can offer huge savings if you check multiple bags regularly when you fly, but we’re assuming most people travel more lightly.
Priority phone line ($50). Although most people won’t use this perk, accessing the priority phone line is a great option should you run into weather issues or other problems.
The middle elite tier in the Mileage Plan program is MVP Gold status, which requires 40,000 miles on Alaska flights, 50,000 miles on Alaska and partner flights, or 60 segments on Alaska and partner flights. To calculate the value of MVP Gold status, we used 48,000 miles at a cost of $0.125 per mile. So the total spend is $6,000.
Below is a list of MVP Gold perks along with their estimated values:
100% mileage bonus ($864). With 48,000 miles flown, the mileage bonus will get you an additional 48,000 Alaska miles, worth $864.
Preferred seating ($100). Same perk as MVP status, but we calculated more frequent utilization.
Upgrades to Premium Class ($250). Similar benefit as MVP status, but you’re now eligible for immediate upgrades (Y, Z, S, B, M, H, Q, L, V, N and K). If you booked in a lower class, you’ll start clearing into available seats 72 hours ahead of your flight. And lastly, you can upgrade a companion on the same itinerary.
Upgrades to First Class ($550). Like upgrades to Premium Class, this perk has additional fare classes eligible for immediate upgrades (B and M). All lower fare class will start clearing up to 72 hours before departure. You’ll also be able to upgrade a companion traveling with you.
Four First Class guest upgrades ($400). You’ll get four First Class guest upgrades every year you qualify for MVP Gold. These certificates are fully transferable to friends and family, even when they’re not traveling with you. They’re valid on flights booked using the companion fare benefit from the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card, but this perk don’t apply to deeply-discounted and award tickets (G, R, T and X classes).
Premium beverage in Main Cabin ($25). If you can’t snag an upgrade, you can at least enjoy a complimentary beverage in economy. At $6 to $7 a pop, the value of this benefit depends on how frequently or not you get upgraded to Premium or First Class.
Priority airport services ($175). You’ll enjoy the same priority airport services as MVP members plus express security lines when flying Alaska, where available.
Two free checked bags ($200). Same perk as MVP status, but we calculated more frequent utilization.
Partner lounge access ($50). Get complimentary lounge access when you travel with certain partners, including the Galleries Lounge in London-Heathrow (LHR) with British Airways and the Saga Lounge in Reykjavik (KEF) with Icelandair. You’re allowed one guest with you.
Fee waivers ($300). Not having to pay a few additional fees can add up to a nominal amount. Waived fees include phone ticketing ($15), same-day confirmed changes ($25) and ticket change or cancellation fees ($125). That means you can essentially change or cancel any ticket – paid or award – without any penalties. Note: Only MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members are able to change or cancel their flight more than 60 days before departure.
Priority phone line ($100). Same perk as MVP status, but we calculated more frequent utilization.
The top elite tier in the Mileage Plan program is MVP Gold 75K, which requires 75,000 miles on Alaska flights, 90,000 miles on Alaska and partner flights, or 90 segments on Alaska and partner flights. To calculate the value of MVP Gold status, we used 90,000 miles at a cost of $0.125 per mile. So the total spend is $11,250.
Below is a list of MVP Gold 75K perks along with their estimated values:
125% mileage bonus ($2,025). With 90,000 miles flown, the mileage bonus will get you an additional 112,500 Alaska miles, worth $2,025.
50,000 bonus miles ($900). Receive a welcome bonus of 50,000 miles when you reach MVP Gold 75K status. Note: This does not apply to status match memberships.
Preferred seating ($175). Same perk as MVP Gold status, but we calculated more frequent utilization.
Upgrades to Premium Class ($500). Similar benefit as MVP Gold status, but you’re now eligible for immediate upgrades to Premium Class on all tickets (except Saver fare).
Upgrades to First Class ($1,100). An additional fare class (H) is eligible for immediate upgrades. All other tickets start clearing into First Class 120 hours before departure. This upgrade priority also applies to your companion traveler.
Four First Class guest upgrades ($400). Same perk as MVP Gold status.
Premium beverage in Main Cabin ($25). Same perk as MVP Gold status.
Priority airport services ($325). Same perk as MVP Gold status, but we calculated more frequent utilization.
Two free checked bags ($325). Same perk as MVP Gold status, but we calculated more frequent utilization.
Partner lounge access ($50). Same perk as MVP Gold status.
Four Alaska Lounge day passes ($100). These passes get you access to Alaska Lounges in Seattle, New York-JFK, Portland, Los Angeles or Anchorage. Most of these lounges are part of the Priority Pass program, so they’re accessible to several premium credit cardholders including The Platinum Card® from American Express and Chase Sapphire Reserve®. They’re also often subject to overcrowding. Because of this, we’ve valued this benefit lower than its retail price ($45 each).
Fee waivers ($450). Same perk as MVP Gold status, but we calculated more frequent utilization.
Nominate a friend for MVP status ($250). Gift MVP status to a friend or family member. The true value of this benefit depends on how frequently the lucky person flies with Alaska or its partner airlines. We estimated the value at a third of our valuation for MVP status.
Priority phone line ($200). Same perk as MVP Gold status, but we calculated more frequent utilization.
Is Alaska Airlines Elite Status Worth It?
Given the numbers we’ve come up with above, is Mileage Plan elite status worth pursuing? In short, there’s no easy answer because it depends on you and your unique situation. That said, below are four questions you should ask yourself to help make your decision:
- Does Alaska (or its partners) fly to where you want to go? Elite status isn’t worth pursuing if you don’t fly with the carrier (or its partners) regularly. Check Alaska’s service from your home airport and see how easily you can get to your choice destinations.
- Do the perks matter to you? There’s no sense in working towards the next status tier unless the benefits are worth pushing for.
- How often will you travel? If you don’t travel much, then pushing hard for a higher status tier won’t be worth it. Status benefits only apply when you actually fly. So if you don’t use your perks, the value of your status plummets.
- Do you prioritize price and convenience? The frequent flyer world is all about give-and-take. Will you use your preferred airline even when it’s not the cheapest or the most convenient? Would you book an Alaska flight with one stop over a cheaper, nonstop flight with United? If you’re not willing to give up price and convenience for loyalty perks, then Alaska Airlines elite status probably isn’t worth it for you.
Our estimates are values based on achieving the status level one year and qualifying for that tier each year thereafter. Those that are just starting out with a blank slate won’t get any benefits out of the first 20,000 or 25,000 miles they fly.
In order to calculate the value for status benefits, we have to assume a certain amount of flying with a certain amount of spending. For all frequent flyer programs, we base our estimates on the following two premises:
- You earn 20% more elite-qualifying miles than the minimum required for that status level.
- You spend an average of $0.125 per elite-qualifying mile.
That said, you’ll want to adjust our numbers based on your average travel behavior. If you only fly domestically, you’re probably spending less than $0.125 per mile. Others who pay for business class on international flights likely spend much more.
For this particular analysis, we value Alaska miles based on our most recent valuations, which is $0.018 apiece.
The actual value of a perk varies from person to person. The person that only travels within the United States has no need for free lounge access internationally. Likewise, the person who pays for business class doesn’t have a need for free upgrades. Because of these nuances, you’ll want to adjust the value estimates we made to fit your travel style and needs.
Alternative Access to Alaska Lounges
We mentioned a couple of credit cards in this post that you should consider having while you’re traveling. For those attracted to Alaska Airlines Elite Status for the passes into Alaska Lounges in Seattle, New York-JFK, Portland, Los Angeles or Anchorage, these two cards are among the premium cards offering the Priority Pass program. With this pass, you will have also have access to the Alaska Lounges.
After reading our in-depth analysis of the Alaska Airlines elite status program, we hope you have a clearer understanding of whether or not MVP status is worth it for you.
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