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Virgin America’s Elevate is nearing its final month of existence, with the program ending January 1, 2018. Many details of this transition have been well communicated: any Elevate points not converted to Alaska miles before the end of 2017 will be automatically transferred in early 2018 at the same 1:1.3 rate. However, your last chance to redeem Elevate points for flights has already passed.
However, there’s one aspect of the transition that’s not been communicated: if/how Virgin America Elevate activity will convert to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan for the sake of Million Miler status.
For those unaware, Alaska Airlines grants Million Miler status when a member hits 1,000,000 flown miles on Alaska flights. This status grants the member MVP Gold status for life — a status we value at $3,465 per year.
Virgin America’s Elevate program never had a similar lifetime status program, but long-time Elevate elites likely want their flight history to count toward Alaska’s Million Miler status.
The trouble is Elevate and Mileage Plan are two fundamentally different programs. While Mileage Plan considers actual member flight miles to determine elite status, Elevate hasn’t cared about flight miles. Instead, the program granted status based on “status points” based on how much you spent on flights or spend on a Elevate-branded credit card.
This points vs. miles difference means Elevate flight history can’t easily be merged into Mileage Plan flight history. However, Alaska could choose to apply a ratio to Elevate point history as a proxy. Even if a conservative ratio is used, this would at least grant some credit toward Alaska Airlines Million Miler status.
I reached out to Alaska Airlines about how it will handle this transition. I received an immediate response acknowledging that this is a “sensitive topic for our members” and that airline was working on a solution.
Now, we have that solution. Alaska’s Guest Loyalty Director Kevin Scott explains:
We understand Mileage Plan members value tracking their progression toward Million Miler status and the associated benefits unlocked upon reaching it and the question you and others raised prompted us to reevaluate
The solution we have landed on is that in early 2018 we’ll take a retrospective look at Elevate earn activity from the date of the Alaska Airlines – Virgin America deal close (Dec 14, 2016) through the end of the program (Dec 31, 2017) and credit such activity toward Mileage Plan Million Miler progression.
The reason for using the date of deal close is that, as we unlocked reciprocal earn in December 2016, we encouraged members of Elevate and Mileage Plan to continue crediting toward the program that provided the benefits and earning they valued most up through the end of the Elevate program. Given our encouragement to earn in either program, we don’t want members earning in Elevate to miss out on Million Miler credit for that earn activity.
While this solution doesn’t address Virgin America flight history before the airline was acquired by Alaska, at least Alaska Airlines is clearly trying to do the right thing for flights since then.
As Scott explains, the communication from the combined airline has been to work with the mileage program that flyers felt was best. For flyers who chose Elevate, it’s fair for these flights to still count toward Alaska Airlines Million Miler status, considering Virgin America was fully owned by Alaska during this time.
The good news is that some Elevate flight history will be counted toward Mileage Plan Million Miler status. The bad news is that only flights from December 14, 2016 to December 31, 2017 will be counted. While the decision not to include any credit for flights before this time probably isn’t going make all Elevate members happy, it’s an understandable solution for Alaska to implement.
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