Mileage Erosion: Stagflation for Alaska Airlines’ Frequent Flyers

In Consumer, Uncategorized by scott

Starting Nov. 1, Alaska Airlines will charge more miles to get a free ticket. It’s one of several changes (er…increases) for Alaska’s frequent flyers.

a. Saver tickets in the continental U.S. and Canada, currently available for 20,000 miles, will increase to 25,000 miles. They now will be called “Super Saver” with zero “less” availability. There will be a new “saver” category–for 40,000 miles roundtrip, double the old amount.

b. Peak awards are going up from 40,000 to 55,000 miles. 

c. First class is going up from 40,000 (saver) to 50,000, or 100,000 miles for a peak first class ticket.

There’s a chart on the website that details the higher redemption levels for Hawaii, Mexico and intra-state. 

Wait…there’s more.

Remember the AS50 award, where you could redeem 15,000 miles and get a discount of up to $250? The good news was that you could still get mileage for that trip (but no upgrades). NO MORE!! No miles will be accrued after Nov. 1.

Oh, those pesky partner airlines. Northwest, Delta, Qantas, Continental, American, etc. Now Alaska will charge you $25 to fiddle with you, your miles and the labyrinth of negotiating a seat on these other airlines. The fee will not apply to Alaska or Horizon flights.

My take? Well, I still accrue and redeem miles like a madman with Alaska Airlines. But smart travelers are reviewing their blind loyalty to such plans. The real diamond in the rough with Alaska’s mileage plan is the way they treat their super-frequent flyers. The MVP Golds can get out of most change fees, extra bag fees and cut to the front of the line for phone reservations. Plus the free upgrades.

What’s going on with Alaska’s plan is predictable. The carrier is aggressively giving away miles with their Bank of America credit cards, the florist, the mortgage banker, the hotels, the car rentals, the wine club and partner airlines. Now, we, the travelers, are paying for that twice. It’s called stagflation. That means the number of seats is being reduced through route cuts and flight reductions. And the cost for the remaining seats is going up, up, up (in miles redeemed, fees assessed and fares paid). That’s stagnation (fewer seats) and inflation (higher prices). Sort of a perfect storm.

Batten down the hatches…

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