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This morning, Alaska Airlines announced that starting January 15, 2014, Mileage Plan members would earn elite-qualifying miles on all its international airline partners. Until then, you can still only earn elite miles on the following partners:

Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 11.20.27 AMBut after that date, the program will add:

British Airways
Cathay Pacific
Fiji Airways
Korean Air

EQM accrual will match current redeemable/award mileage accrual rules by fare class for each airline, which you can learn more about here. As a reminder, Mileage Plan has three elite tiers, which you achieve at the following thresholds:

Screen shot 2013-12-10 at 11.23.48 AM

MVP: 20,000 miles on Alaska or 25,000 miles on Alaska and partners or 30 segments on Alaska and partners
MVP Gold: 40,000 miles on Alaska, or 50,000 miles on Alaska and partners or 60 segments on Alaska and partners
MVP Gold 75K: 75,000 miles on Alaska or 90,000 miles on Alaska and partners or 90 segments on Alaska and partners

Though some Alaska elites might see this as a negative because it makes elite qualification easier, for that same reason I see that as a net positive and another way that Alaska is pushing back against Delta’s encroachment into the Pacific Northwest and Seattle market in particular, making it even more of a viable alternative to Delta’s Medallion elite program – especially for folks based on the West Coast and Delta flyers looking for another program to focus their elite strategy on once Delta’s revenue-based elite requirements come into effect in 2014.

Starting January 15, Alaska flyers can earn elite miles on all airline partners.
Starting January 15, Alaska flyers can earn elite miles on all airline partners.

That’s because if you hit even just low-tier MVP status at 20-25,000 miles you get a 50% mileage bonus on Alaska’s elite-qualifying partners including both Delta and American, and if you hit MVP 75K status, you earn a 100% mileage bonus as well as complimentary upgrades on Delta in the US and a 50% discount on Economy Comfort (25% at MVP and 50% at MVP Gold), not to mention other elite perks on both Delta and American such as free checked bags, priority check in, boarding and more. Not only that, but on some airlines like Korean Air, you’ll be able to earn EQM’s toward Alaska status, while you cannot toward Delta status even though the two are SkyTeam partners.

More and more, I’m seriously considering going for Alaska MVP status in 2014 because it would be nice both to fly all of Alaska’s premium partners and bank award and elite-qualifying miles in one spot, but also to have the flexibility to redeem those miles on all those great airline partners. For example, I just flew from Dubai to JFK in Emirates first class for 90,000 Alaska miles and $90 in taxes and fees (review to come!), which was an amazing value.

Not only that, but MVP status also comes with some very high-value perks including ticket change and cancellation fee waivers on paid tickets for MVP Gold and Gold 75K members, which can be an incredible value. Plus, you’re still on the upgrade list with Delta (even though upgrades are not that likely).

Still, the real point to me would be the ability to redeem Alaska miles with flexibility on the premium Oneworld and SkyTeam partners I’m most likely to fly anyway, and then I would just suck it up and buy coach tickets or cheap domestic first class tickets when I needed to otherwise.

All in all, this is a great move on Alaska’s part and one that makes its MVP elite program that much more attractive for flyers looking for an alternative to Delta Medallion especially.

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