Virgin America & Alaska Airlines Merging Loyalty Programs – The Right Way

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Virgin America & Alaska Airlines Merging Loyalty Programs – The Right Way

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A few days ago Virgin America and Alaska Airlines completed their long awaited and much delayed merger. As we’ve seen with airline mergers, the first thing the companies focus on is allowing customers to book (revenue) flights on each others websites. From there, they move onto other priorities such as integrating the fleet, the crew and then, the loyalty programs.

Alaska and Virgin seem to be putting their loyalty programs at the forefront, already having announced some exciting and unexpected changes.

Let’s highlight some of the most important changes:

  1. Virgin America to Alaska Airlines transfer ratio;
  2. Updated award redemptions
  3. Updated mileage accrual
  4. Delta and Alaska partnership coming to an end

Virgin American & Alaska Airlines – Transfer Ratio

#differentworks

#differentworks

Changes related to the transfer will go into affect January 9, 2017. (That’s a few weeks from now). Virgin Elevate members will be able to transfer their points at a 1:1.3 ratio to Alaska Airlines.

While that’s not the 1:3 of Starwood and Marriott, to me to seems pretty fair.

The Virgin Elevate program is a revenue based program while Alaska’s mileage plan is a distance based award chart (region and partner depending).

Also, Elevate Silver and Gold members will be matched to Alaska’s varying tiers of elite MVP status.

Updated Award Redemptions

Though seemingly separate from the merger, Alaska has made some positive changes to their award redemption options (they already have many). As with transfers, beginning Monday, January 9, you’ll be able to redeem Alaska Mileage Plans miles for Virgin America flights.

Furthermore, Alaska has lowered the redemption costs of several short-haul routes. Now with an increased West Coast presence, short-haul redemptions will begin at 5,000 miles one-way, all the way up to 12,500 (the standard domestic price).

The Alaska MileagePlan updated short-haul redemption chart.

The Alaska MileagePlan updated short-haul redemption chart.

Some of these are real bargains if you live on the West Coast, considering the cost of some of these flights.

Updated Mileage Accrual Rates

Mileage accrual?! But this site is about flying for free, not revenue flights and earning butt-in-seat miles!

True, but these changes are pretty positive so I thought I’d briefly highlight them!

Starting now it’s possible to earn MileagePlan miles for Virgin America flights.

Here’s some of the updated accrual rates and a really good breakdown over at One Mile At A Time of how you can work this to your advantage.

Screen Shot 2016-12-20 at 7.38.54 AM

Delta & Alaska Partnership to End

Image Courtesy of Seattle Business Magazine

Image Courtesy of Seattle Business Magazine

Delta and Alaska have had a interesting partnership over the past few years, slowly and slowly chipping away at the benefits as they slug it out for Seattle.

Now that the dust has settled, it’s not too surprising, but Delta and Alaska will be formally cutting ties on April 30, 2017. After that date, you’ll be unable to earn reciprocal miles (Delta SkyMiles on Alaska flights or vice versa) or redeem reciprocally.

(Note: you’ll be unable to make changes to Delta flights booked on Alaska after May 1, 2017 – though travel will still be honored after this date).

It’s always disappointing to lose a partner, but Alaska is not only gaining a larger footprint because of the merger, MileagePlan is always at the forefront of adding new and exciting accrual and redemption partners.

Bottom Line

While there’s a lot of information available, I’ve tried to drill down to some of the most important aspects that will impact readers. Feel free to read the entire FAQ here.

Mergers tend to be tumultuous times for frequent flyers, but if Alaska and Virgin’s moves are any indication, it seems like this one will run pretty smoothly…

-The Miner

Cover photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines


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