Alaska Airlines Loyalty: Is It Worth It?

by Shelli Stein

It’sHave you ever wondered what it would be like, and if it was worth it, to be loyal to one airline year after year after year? To have blinders on when it comes to other airline options. And to be loyal to a regional airline that may or may not one day become part of an alliance. I’ve been super curious, not just about the travel patterns of a friend of mine, but also about his deeply obsessive loyalty to one airline: Alaska Airlines.

Now I’ve been an intermittent fan of Alaska Airlines. It occurred to me, though, that I’ve never really talked with him about HIS continued loyalty to Alaska Airlines. Recently we sat down and I drilled deep in our conversation about all things status and loyalty to Alaska Airlines. I thought it would be interesting, as I uncovered his WHY, to share what I found out.

I hope you find this illuminating and perhaps, though loyalty to one airline might not be your style, you’ve gleaned a few tidbits that help you better use your Alaska Airlines miles!

Let’s dig in as I share our conversation with you. I started with the basics.

1. How many years have you been an AS elite and at what levels?

I’ve put in over 20 years on their Alaska Airlines plan and I’ve come and gone from as high as MVP Gold. I’ve maintained Gold over the last 7 or so years. I’m based in the Pacific Northwest so flying Alaska Airlines always made sense to me.

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2. Were you glad AS joined an alliance? From talking with other AS elites do you get the sense that most are glad about Alaska Airlines joining the oneworld Alliance?

I wasn’t so sure about all of AS’s growth as there were certainly bumps along the way after the merger with Virgin. However, now there are many more international travel incentives for me than before and, as long as I travel abroad, I am happy with their decision to join the alliance.

For example, I can use the lounges when waiting in large hubs and I have more options for miles + money when traveling abroad.

As well, I can now see partner airlines when seeking to travel outside of the US and even purchase tickets directly through AS. The more seamless they become with the OW alliance, the better my experience has been.

It was a rocky beginning though, mainly on the partner airline end!

For example, I had a very serious problem when flying to Australia when a partner airline became delayed 3x and on into the next day. They did not communicate that with Alaska Airlines. Alaska told me to contact Qantas and Qantas told me it was on the Alaska end of things. They would not communicate with one another. The Pacific Northwest Alaska Airlines folks were as helpful as they could be in person, but a few things did not get resolved. Nobody bothered to check back with me as a customer to see how that horrible experience went.

Granted, the international scene for flying was in a very bad place at that same time, I think due to lack of personnel to make the flights happen, ensure airplanes were safe and ready to go and so on.

Mostly, though, I saw Alaska agents and personnel working very hard. Some of the partners were drowning in a sea of problems and negativity from customers. So, rocky roads, yeah, for sure!

Are they better and smoother now, yes indeed! During that worst travel period, I just kept writing in my journal short stories of the people who acted as beacons of hope that I could move about the planet and so very safely and in a timely manner. Many folks filled in the gap to help, especially from Alaska. They were amazing!

In the end, I do believe this is a good alliance choice. From my perspective I can get most anywhere I am hoping to go (Australia, NZ, Europe, Iceland). I have not spoken with many other folks who are elite members, mainly because of the pandemic times and where I have traveled so I am more of a 1-off opinion on a partner airline choice. Once I begin to travel more regionally and nationally again, I will be seated next to other elite members and I am sure to find out more about their ideas of the alliance.

3. How did/does now being oneworld influence your travel choices/options?

I can find many more options and pay for flights directly inside of the AS app and website, so that helps a lot. It is nice to see the various directions I can take to go someplace and I am experiencing partner airlines and diverse airports as a result.

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For example, I will fly on Fiji Airways soon and have now been thinking about a trip to Fiji, whereas prior I had not considered a stay in Fiji. Same for Iceland Air. I’m very curious to go and experience Iceland now that I’ve flown through that airport. I think it is psychological in that I now feel comfortable going to that place in the world having flown through it. So, perhaps I could stop and visit!

Alaska and oneworld are developing a spirit for adventure with their partnerships!

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4. What’s the one or two or three things you wish AS would change or add to their elite program? Any benefits they’ve taken away you’re upset about?

I’ve not seen benefits taken away and that feels good to me.

One of Alaska’s Gold benefits is 4 free upgrade passes. In days gone by, I found them easier to use. As of last year, I was unable to use any of them and so far, I am not finding any available uses for them all the way up through my fall travels.

I can gift the passes, but they have the same process. If you can find a flight that is just being released where nobody else has used an upgrade, they can work. It feels both tedious to make these passes work, but worth it if I finally find the upgrade that allows me to use a pass. It’s a game, if you will. Sometimes I will play along and other times I just don’t have enough stamina for the required digging around.

Perhaps perks that are more realistic or attainable are necessary? I would love to see more partner sharing with upgrades as well.  It’s understandable that giving upgrades to one’s own member is preferred for each airline. I just wonder if they can see their way to release a space or two at business and premium economy class as potential upgrades for loyalists of the oneworld?

5. What you favorite feature of the elite status program?

Bumps in class to a better seat and experience.

6. Have you seen AS miles being devalued in terms of either booking AS flights or partner flights?

No, this feels quite the opposite to me in terms of value of the miles when using them to upgrade or to purchase a ticket. I feel satisfied in this regard both when booking on Alaska and on most partner airlines.

7. When you’re paying cash for flights and on your own dime (meaning not a work trip) do you always go with AS or would you choose another airline if either the routing or cost is better? In other words………just how loyal are you 🙂

I am just that loyal! I always fly Alaska because I am a creature of habit who loves to know the process I will use for travel. Alaska Air is very adept at keeping the experience and process the same everywhere I go. Also, I do love the perks, the planes, the attendants, the ease of use, and all of that. I’ve been known to pay a bit more or hop around a little to stay on Alaska. They have me hooked like the salmon fish I am!!!

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8. Do you buy Alaska Miles?

No, never. I’ve not needed to.

It really depends on your home base and travel patterns. And the the companion fare that comes with the Alaska Airlines credit card is GREAT! We have used that 2x per year forever on AS flights (usually to Hawaii). I’ve even been bumped to first class with my traveling companion in my wake. Can you believe that? Both bumped to first on a companion flight.

Final Thoughts On Alaska Airlines Loyalty

All this talk about status and loyalty has me thinking. I just earned Alaska Airlines status, so I’m super curious to see how this works for me. I haven’t had Alaska or oneworld Alliance status in many years. And clearly my friend is exactly the kind of customer Alaska, or any airline, really, is seeking. His honesty in acknowledging being hooked on Alaska Airlines like a salmon was very Pacific Northwest, right?

What’s your loyalty monitor registering these days? Have you become more of a free agent or more loyal to certain airlines and alliances over others?

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1 comment

Ghostrider5408 May 6, 2023 - 4:29 pm

Reads like a Larry King interview loaded with “softballs”


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