American Airlines and Alaska Airlines Slash Reciprocal Earning and Elite Benefits

Jul 6, 2017

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Once close friends, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines are taking a step back from each other in less than six months. Effective January 1, 2018, American and Alaska are cutting back their partnership, removing elite benefits and earnings on each other’s flights.

AAdvantage Elite Benefits on Alaska Flights

For flights on and after January 1, AAdvantage elite benefits will no longer apply for travel on Alaska Airlines. Currently, AAdvantage elites get priority check-in and boarding, priority security (except Gold elites), preferred seating (except Gold elites) and two free checked bags:

AA AS benefits

Mileage Plan Elite Benefits on American Flights

Likewise, Mileage Plan elites will no longer get benefits on American Airlines flights. Current benefits include priority check-in, priority boarding, priority security, preferred seating and checked bag allowance as follows:

AS AA benefits

One interesting note about these changes: Alaska notes that you’ll still be able to select Preferred and Main Cabin Extra seats for travel after January 1, 2018 as long as you select these seats by December 31. It’ll be interesting to see if the same is true for AAdvantage elites on Alaska-operated flights.

AAdvantage Award and Elite Earnings

Until December 31, 2017, you’ll continue to earn AAdvantage miles, Elite Qualifying Miles (EQM), Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQD) and Elite Qualifying Segments (EQS) on Alaska Airlines-marketed flights (any flight with an Alaska Air flight number) based on the following chart:

AA AS earning

For flights on and after January 1, 2018, all of these numbers drop to zero. You won’t earn any AAdvantage miles, EQM, EQD or EQS on Alaska-marketed flights.

That said, you can still earn AAdvantage award and elite-qualifying credit on Alaska flights; you just have to book flights with American Airlines flight numbers. These flights will then be treated like any other AA flight, earning AAdvantage miles in accordance with AA’s revenue-based system and EQDs based on the price paid for the flights (less taxes).

Mileage Plan Award and Elite Earnings

Mirroring the AAdvanatge changes, you’ll only earn Mileage Plan miles and elite-qualifying activity for American Airlines-marketed flights now through December 31:

AS AA earning

After January 1, 2018, you’ll have to book flights with AS flight numbers to earn Mileage Plan award and elite status.

What’s Not Changing

Award redemption and lounge benefits will stay intact after January 1. You’ll still be able to redeem AAdvantage miles for flights on Alaska Airlines and Mileage Plan miles for flights on American Airlines. However a rather unsettling phrase is posted on the Alaska Air website about the changes: “Some award levels will be changing for travel booked in 2018.”

award changes

Lounges: Admirals Club members will continue to have access to all Alaska Lounges in Anchorage (ANC), Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX) and Los Angeles (LAX). Meanwhile, Alaska Lounge members will still be able to access Admirals Club lounges when traveling on Alaska or American.

Our Take

After the Virgin America and Alaska Airlines merger, I think many of us American Airlines elites were looking forward to enjoying benefits on the much-larger network. It’s a huge bummer to have these elite benefits dropped completely. Similarly, Virgin America elites were probably looking forward to enjoying their benefits on American Airlines as well on Alaska post-merger.

While it’s disappointing to lose an award and elite-qualifying option, thankfully booking Alaska flights with AA flight numbers — or American flights with AS flight numbers — still remains an option for earning miles and status.

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images.

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