Last-minute strategies for Alaska Mileage Plan MVP elite status
There’s just over a month left in 2019, so time is running out on the elite-status clock. Now is the time to check your frequent flyer mileage balances, calculate your travel earning for the rest of the year and pinpoint where exactly you will end up in terms of qualification requirements by Dec. 31.
If you think you might not hit your goal, the good news is that there’s still time to do some major mileage earning before the end of 2019. Today, we will focus on last-minute strategies to qualify for Alaska Airlines MVP status. But check out our past posts with strategies for American, Delta and United.
In the meantime, here is what you need to know about Alaska’s MVP elite program, including qualification requirements, tier benefits and ideas for earning the status you want for another year.
Before we dive in, take a look at these helpful posts for information you should have on hand as we enter the final countdown.
- What is Alaska elite status worth?
- The best airline elite status programs in the U.S.
- 5 things you need to know about Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
- Airline elite status match and challenge options
- How to get airline elite status quickly
- 7 points and miles tasks to complete by the end of the year
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card review
Now it’s time to put your plan together for the end of the year.
Alaska MVP tier qualification and benefits
Let’s begin with the basics of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan MVP elite status. You can find information on the MVP program and its membership tiers here.
Unlike the programs of the other major U.S. legacy carriers, the MVP elite program is relatively simple and only has three tiers. The Mileage Plan program is also a bit of a throwback at this point since flyers continue to earn miles (both redeemable and elite-qualifying) based on distance flown and fare class purchased rather than earning award miles based on the dollar amount of the airfare. Unlike American, Delta and United, there are also no minimum spending requirements to achieve elite status.
With that out of the way, here are the three levels of MVP status, the qualification requirements for each and the benefits you can expect upon leveling up.
The first level of elite status with Alaska Mileage Plan is simply called MVP. To get there, you must earn 25,000 elite-qualifying miles on Alaska and its airline partners (20,000 if flown entirely on Alaska) or complete 30 elite-qualifying segments.
Here are the benefits:
- 50% mileage bonus on base miles from flights on Alaska and elite-qualifying partners
- First-class and Premium Class upgrades starting 48 hours prior to departure
- Instant upgrades from full-fare tickets (Y, S or Z)
- Premium Class upgrades on some fares (Y, S, Z or B)
- Preferred seating
- Priority check-in and boarding on Alaska
- Priority phone line
- Alaska Lounge membership discount ($50)
- Dedicated phone line for reservations and customer service
Alaska’s mid-tier status requires you to earn 50,000 elite-qualifying miles on Alaska and its airline partners (40,000 if flown entirely on Alaska) or complete 60 elite-qualifying segments during the calendar year.
Here are the additional benefits at this tier:
- 100% mileage bonus on base miles from flights on Alaska and elite-qualifying partners
- Complimentary first-class and Premium Class upgrades for member and a companion starting 72 hours before departure for you and a companion
- Four first-class Gold Guest upgrades per year
- Instant upgrades from full-fare tickets (Y, S, B, M or Z class)
- Instant Premium Class upgrades on some fares (Y, S, B, M, H, Q, L, N, K or Z)
- Express security lines at select airports
- Complimentary same-day standby and flight changes
- Complimentary premium beverage on most Alaska flights when traveling in the main cabin (except on Saver X fares)
- Waivers for Mileage Plan service charges and ticket change fees
- Alaska Lounge membership discount ($100)
- Partner lounge access with British Airways, Hainan Airlines, Icelandair and Qantas under certain conditions
MVP Gold 75K
Alaska’s top-tier status requires flyers to earn just 90,000 elite-qualifying miles on Alaska and its partners (75,000 if flown entirely on Alaska) or 90 elite-qualifying segments.
The additional benefits at this level include:
- 125% mileage bonus for flights on Alaska and elite-qualifying partners
- 50,000 bonus miles when you attain status (not through status matches)
- Complimentary first-class and Premium Class upgrades for you and a companion starting 120 hours prior to departure
- Instant first-class upgrades from more fare codes (Y, S, B, M, H or Z class)
- Instant Premium Class upgrades on all fares except Saver (X)
- Complimentary in-flight entertainment player on coast-to-coast and Hawaii flights
- Complimentary premium beverage in the Main Cabin (Boeing aircraft)
- Alaska Lounge membership discount ($150)
- Nominate a friend or family member to MVP status
- 4 complimentary Alaska Lounge day passes annually
Now that you have the information on Alaska’s MVP elite tiers and the relatively phenomenal benefits they offer, even at the lower end, let’s look at how you can achieve your desired status before the end of the year.
Last-minute earning strategies
Time is running out, but there is still a month left to rack up some premier-qualifying activity if you need it. Here are some ideas to help put you over the top.
Maximize your routing
If you already have MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75K status, you’re in luck. Unlike other airlines, Alaska has actually improved its same-day flight change policies for its mid- and top-tier elites. Now, they can change their flights within 24 hours of departure and the fees are waived, though there are some other restrictions that you can find here.
This is useful because it can allow you to earn extra elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) or segments (EQSs) by changing up your routing and adding a few connections, if (of course) you have a few hours to spare.
For example, instead of flying nonstop from Washington-Reagan (DCA) to Los Angeles (LAX) and earning 2,311 EQMs, you could fly from DCA to Seattle (SEA) and from there to Los Angeles for 3,282 EQMs. Or even pop in an extra segment from Seattle to San Francisco (SFO) and end up with 3,507 EQMs total (or three EQSs instead of one if you’re thinking about segments).
If you don’t already have elite status with Alaska but do have elite status with another airline, this might be your best option for attaining elite status quickly. Alaska updated its policy this year to add a challenge element, instead of just offering a simple match like it used to.
In order to keep your new Alaska status after the promotional three month period, you’ll need to fly the following number of miles on flights marketed by Alaska Airlines and operated by Alaska Airlines, Horizon or SkyWest depending on what tier you’re matching to:
- MVP: 5,000 miles
- MVP Gold: 10,000 miles
- MVP Gold 75K: 20,000 miles
Alaska makes this process very easy, with a page of publicly available information where you can select your specific status with a competitor from a list of eligible programs and upload your credentials directly. If you’re approved and complete the challenge, your new status will go into effect and should remain active through 2020.
Buy elite miles
In the past, Alaska has offered flyers the opportunity either to purchase elite miles or status outright or to buy back up to their status level. The offers seem to vary by individual, and there’s no guarantee that this will be the case this year, but you can check out threads like this one on FlyerTalk to see how you might be able to get in touch with a Mileage Plan agent and what you can expect when you do.
While prices in the past have been expensive, if you’re within striking distance of MVP Gold 75K and the 50,000-mile bonus you get upon achieving that level, this could be worth it.
Elite leave for new parents
Are you running behind on elite status because of a new bundle of joy that’s curtailed your travel lately? Alaska Airlines has a unique “elite leave” for new parents that allows flyers to suspend their current elite status temporarily.
Here’s the information page on the topic, but the gist of it is as follows: Alaska Airlines will let you keep your current elite status for another year during pregnancy or parental leave. To take advantage of this benefit, you’ve got to email the airline with your full name, date of birth, Mileage Plan number and a proof of pregnancy or parental leave such as a note from your doctor or employer. If successful, the airline will presume you will have qualified for elite status in the year in which your parental leave ends and will extend it through the following year.
That actually makes January a good time to apply, assuming your dates work with this time frame. That’s because if you qualified for elite status in 2018 but did not fly enough this year to requalify — and yes, had a baby — then you could apply for parental leave that ends in 2020 and get status in 2020 and 2021! Gifted and matched status are not eligible. Maternity, paternity and adoption leave are all eligible, however.
Though time is running short, you might still be able to maximize your mileage earning during what’s left of 2019 to achieve elite status with Alaska. That’s because, unlike American, Delta and United, you just need to hit EQM or EQS thresholds without worrying about a spending requirement.
Here are a couple ideas to help you along the way.
1,000 miles short: You shouldn’t miss out on elite status by such a small number of miles, but believe it or not, it does happen. Here’s how to prevent it from befalling you. Alaska is generous in that, whether you have elite status or not, you earn a minimum of 500 EQMs on flights. That means you can take two short hops and hit the mark.
Spend just $72 and a few hours on a Saturday flying between Seattle and Portland:
Or $111 to fly between Portland and San Francisco:
5,000 miles short: Need to get a few more miles in? The easiest way to do so quickly is probably to take a transcontinental with a possible stop in either direction. Though it’s unlikely to come back, Alaska was recently posting fares as low as $196 from coast to coast. Barring that, here are two other options.
You could do a one-day round-trip from Los Angeles to Newark (EWR) for just $191 and earn 4,908 EQMS:
Fly to Washington, D.C. (IAD) instead for $242 and earn 4,575 EQMs:
This quick round-trip between Newark and San Francisco (SFO) would earn 5,130 PQMs for just $197:
10,000 miles short: If you’re well short of your goal — and this is probably most applicable to those shooting for MVP Gold 75K status and those bonus 50,000 miles — you still might be able to earn 10,000 or even 20,000 EQMs this year.
The simplest way would be to book two back-to-back transcons (like in the above examples), since you could complete each in a day and end up with right around 10,000 EQMs.
If you need to do so in one fell swoop, there are two specific strategies I might suggest, which involve flying one of Alaska’s many airline partners on cheap long-hauls. However, you need to pay special attention to the earning rates on airline partners since discounted economy fares (the kind mileage runners love) often only earn a fraction of the miles flown as EQMs.
The first strategy would be to book a cheap long-haul fare on a partner that earns full mileage even on the lowest economy fares, such as Qantas (note that Alaska is slashing its earning rates on Qantas economy flights effective Jan. 1, 2020). This itinerary from Los Angeles to Melbourne (MEL) via Sydney (SYD) in each direction would earn 15,853 EQMs and cost $982, and you’d be done in one (grueling) shot.
If you have a slightly higher budget and some time to look at the Premium Fare Deals forum on FlyerTalk, consider booking a premium economy or business-class fare on a partner, which should earn between 125-150% EQMs based on mileage flown.
For instance, this $1,350 fare from Los Angeles to Bangkok (BKK) via Hong Kong (HKG) in Cathay Pacific premium economy would earn 18,279 EQMs.
Given Alaska’s extensive short-haul route network in the Pacific Northwest, if you’re based in a hub like Seattle or Portland or even a "focus" city like the Bay Area, you might have some luck just piecing together a bunch of quick itineraries on the fly.
Here’s a sample trip I put together with San Jose (SJC) as the starting point and San Francisco as the end point, including two loops through Portland (PDX) and Seattle (SEA) for $286 and a total of five segments on a single day. Even better deals are out there, though, if you have time to play around.
Even though the year is drawing to a close, there's still time to lock in your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan MVP elite status for 2020. The first step is to sit down and tally up your current standing, as well as any travel you have planned before the end of the year. From there, you can decide whether a mileage run or some other strategy will help get you closer to your goal.
Additional reporting by Ethan Steinberg.
Featured photo by Edward Russell/The Points Guy.