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A Reminder About the Most Underrated Frequent Flyer Program: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

This isn’t new news, but I wanted to call out one of the most (if not the most) underrated frequent flyer programs out there — Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. If you’re not familiar with Alaska’s program (and if you don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, you may not be), the biggest benefit of their program is that they have a wide range of partners across alliances.

In fact, their partner airlines are so vast that by crediting points to Mileage Plan you are essentially getting the best of SkyTeam (if there is such a thing) and the best of OneWorld in one program. Alaska partners with Delta, KLM, Air France and Korean from SkyTeam and with American, LAN, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas from OneWorld. They also have partnerships with independents Icelandair and Air Pacific.

How is this useful? I think most frequent flyers try to consolidate their travel within one alliance, but sometimes that’s simply not possible, either because of the destination or corporate travel-related restrictions. If you’re a Onepass person (like me) you may still find yourself on Delta or American once in a while (as I do). Crediting those miles to Alaska will allow you to build up points within one program faster than if you sometimes credit to Delta and sometimes credit to American.

Alaska will give you Elite status on Alaska even if you earn miles on partner airlines. Sure, they offer Elite status at 20,000 miles if you only fly on Alaska, but if you fly on partner airlines you’ll still be able to earn Elite status at 25,000 miles even if you earn the miles on partner airlines. Elite status (MVP – their lower level) gets you unlimited upgrades not only on Alaska, but also on Delta (upgrades at 48 hours out on cheap tickets on Alaska and day-of on Delta). MVP Gold (40k miles flown on Alaska and 50k miles on partner airlines) gets you instant upgrades on a wider range of fares and a 72-hour upgrade window on other fares.

So yes, you can get Delta upgrades by flying on American.

When redeeming on American Airlines, you can take advantage of American’s off-peak award tickets to Central & South America as well as Europe, which offer roundtrip coach tickets to Europe for just 40,000 miles.

That’s a lot of flexibility both on the earning side (where you can earn on their partners – though some, KLM for example, do have restrictions on earning on the cheapest fares) and on the redemption side. For those who have to fly non-Star Alliance airlines, it’s a great place to earn your miles.

The biggest knock is that you can only use one partner on redemptions. So you cannot create a reward trip using both Delta and KLM (though you can use Alaska and 1 partner). That does knock out some of the more complex itineraries, but still – it’s not a huge drawback for most people.

Alaska does have a credit card (see here), though right now they’re only offering 25,000 bonus miles. From time-to-time they offer 40,000 bonus miles and the card is reportedly churnable every 4 months or so, which is helpful.

See the latest Amex promo codes to earn 75,000 bonus Membership Rewards Points.

Credit miles easily and save big on your flights with an Alaska Airlines credit card.

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  1. Which bank issues the Alaska Airlines credit card? Thanks!

  2. Bank of America is really the best Bank if you need financial assistance. We also invest credit cards to all our members with that bank.

  3. Just a note that only Air France, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, KLM, and LAN miles are elite-qualifying.

    So while you can earn and redeem on a bunch more airlines (like Cathay, British and Quantas), they won’t earn you status.

  4. Your comment on the award redemption “it’s not a huge drawback for most people” should be amended to say “not a huge drawback for most people that live at a hub served by Alaska or its partners.” My airport is not served by any of the partners except AA, BA, and DL. AS flies from here on vacation routes (with no onward connections) and back to SEA and PDX. So yeah, it’s great if you live in SEA and can hop and Alaska flight to SFO or LAX to connect with CX or QF but not if you live somewhere like MCO (fly back to SEA on AS to connect to onward Air France flight to CDG???)

  5. I have been an Alaska Airlines passenger for decades. Without my knowledge (they say they sent me an email to warn me but it never arrived), they canceled my account with more than 20,000 FF miles in it because I hadn’t flown with them in 2 years. Ridiculous.

    To get them back, I would either have to pay them $75 or sign up for one of their credit cards (I do not like credit cards and pay with cash whenever possible).

    This company used to have character and stood out from the crowd with its customer service. Today, it’s a shadow of its former self. Disappointing customer service, antiquated policies (expiring miles? charging for checked baggage?) and an unwillingness to help a long-standing customer.

    I recommend you use another airline. Or at least, use another FF program. Delta, in which I’ve had points for years, has not canceled my account. Others clearly appreciate their passengers more than Alaska Airlines. And that is unfortunate.

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