Alaska Airlines changes how you earn elite status with partners

Dec 10, 2020

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As 2021 approaches, airlines and hotels are in the midst of updating their elite-status requirements for next year.

On Thursday, Alaska Airlines became the latest carrier to modify its thresholds for those hoping to earn Mileage Plan status in 2021 for the 2022 program year, per an update to the carrier’s dedicated webpage.

Eagle-eyed readers will notice that Alaska isn’t actually lowering the thresholds to earning status in 2021, despite demand that’s predicted to remain at historic lows. However, the carrier is making changes to how you earn status via partner flying.

Earning one of Alaska’s three elite levels in 2021 for 2022 will require the following number of miles or segments:

MVP MVP Gold MVP Gold 75K
Miles earning on Alaska and partners 20,000 40,000 75,000
Segments flown on Alaska and partners 30 60 90

Alaska’s annual qualification period is between Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, so any flights taken between those dates will help you towards earning Mileage Plan status.

Interestingly, in 2021, earning Alaska status from partner flying will require the same number of miles as if you exclusively flew with Alaska. However, as part of the move, the carrier is adding a new minimum number of segments flown on Alaska to earn to requalify for status, as follows:

MVP MVP Gold MVP Gold 75K
Minimum number of Alaska flights to earn status 2 4 6

Alaska’s new model for earning status from partner flying is quite different than in years past. Previously, you could exclusively fly partners, credit your flights to Alaska and enjoy the perks of elite status — all without ever flying an Alaska flight.

Going forward, that won’t be possible. Even if you hit the qualifications through partner flying, you’ll need to fly two (or more) Alaska flights to earn status.

The carrier is making these changes as it gears up to join the Oneworld alliance on March 31, 2021.

In preparation for the big day, Alaska and American Airlines have already unveiled an even deeper integration of their elite status perks.

Related: Alaska frequent flyers have a lot to look forward to in 2021

Once the partnership launches, Alaska’s top-tier MVP Gold 75K members will have access to international long-haul upgrades on AA – though specific details of how that will work have not yet been revealed. Additionally, MVP Gold 75K and Gold members will enjoy complimentary extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra seats for free at the time of booking. (All Alaska elites will be eligible for complimentary Preferred seats positioned at favorable locations within the cabin.)

On Thursday, Alaska also announced the new Oneworld tier mapping for its three levels: MVP will become Oneworld Ruby, MVP Gold will become Oneworld Sapphire and MVP Gold 75K will become Oneworld Emerald. It also recently announced new earning opportunities with Qatar Airways — with more news likely on the way soon.

On a whole, Alaska is taking a different approach to its elite status tracks for 2021. Both American and United have already announced reduced qualifying thresholds to hit status next year.

While demand for flying will likely remain at reduced levels throughout 2021, Alaska isn’t making it easier to earn status in 2021.

Not yet, at least.

In June, Alaska announced a 50% elite-qualifying mile promotion for the second half of 2020, providing flyers with a fast track to status. Though the promotion is slated to end on Dec. 31, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it extended or reintroduced at some point in 2021.

Featured photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

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