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5 reasons I love having entry-level elite status with Alaska

April 1 2021
8 min read
SAN JOSE, UNITED STATES - 2020/02/25: Alaska Airlines Airbus A320-200 aircraft seen at Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.
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Lower rungs of airline elite status typically aren't all that valuable. This is because many of their benefits — such as checked bag fee waivers, priority check-in and early boarding — often overlap with cobranded airline credit cards. Some cobranded cards even offer airport lounge access, while low-tier statuses usually don't.

Nevertheless, low levels of status aren't worthless, and there's one entry-level status I chase each year: Alaska Airlines MVP status.

On paper, TPG values MVP status less than American AAdvantage Gold and United Premier Silver. However, I'm going to share why I believe Alaska MVP is the best entry-level elite status. In some aspects, it's much more generous than comparable status tiers on other airlines. Thanks to Alaska's entrance into Oneworld and enhanced partnership with American Airlines, you no longer need to live on the West Coast to benefit from Alaska status.

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MVP status is easy to earn

First things first, Alaska MVP status is easier to achieve than comparable status tiers on other airlines. MVP status is earned after just 20,000 elite-qualifying miles (EQMs) with Alaska or its partners or 30 eligible segments — and no spending requirement. And that's before factoring in the 50% bonus EQMs you'll earn on Alaska flights through June 30, 2021.

By comparison, American and Delta normally require 25,000 elite-qualifying miles, plus $3,000 in elite-qualifying spending for entry-level status. Meanwhile, United has done away with distance requirements altogether and now requires at least $4,000 in spending (before taxes and fees). Note, these airlines did announce changes to make it easier to qualify for status this year due to the pandemic, but overall, Alaska status is still more attainable.

Related: Complete Guide to Alaska Airlines elite status

(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Upgrades are real

One of the most coveted perks of elite status is the chance of scoring complimentary upgrades.

On most airlines, scoring a complimentary first-class upgrade as an entry-level elite is like finding a diamond in the rough. American, Delta and United don't start clearing upgrades until 24 hours before departure (or the day of departure for some flights) and award tickets aren't always upgradeable. There are also some other restrictions to be aware of, such as American Airlines requiring 500-mile certificates for some upgrades.

On the other hand, Alaska Airlines starts clearing upgrades 48 hours before departure (Y, S or Z fares are eligible to clear at the time of booking), including on award tickets. While MVPs fall behind MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members, they're prioritized over paid upgrades.

Related: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on Alaska Airlines

Based on my experiences, Alaska's first-class upgrade lists are shorter and clear more frequently. Even before the pandemic, I frequently get upgrades to first class on popular short- and long-haul routes between cities like Los Angeles (LAX) to New York-JFK, Boston (BOS) and Seattle (SEA). In practice, they often clear around 24 hours before departure for me, so not right when the upgrade window opens, though well before low-tier upgrades usually clear on other airlines. And sure, Alaska might not offer lie-flat seats on transcontinental routes like the other players, but a free upgrade is better than no upgrade.

Hopefully, upgrades don't become harder to get now that American Executive Platinum members get reciprocal upgrade benefits as top-tier Alaska MVP Gold 75K members.

 

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Extra-legroom seating at time of booking

As with first-class upgrades, MVPs are eligible for Premium Class (Alaska's extra-legroom economy section) upgrades starting 48 hours before departure. Again, this is more generous than the other airlines, which don't clear extra-legroom economy upgrades until 24 hours before departure.

However, MVPs don't need to wait until departure to guarantee an extra-legroom seat. Like other airlines, Alaska offers all elites access to "preferred" seats at the time of booking. But, unlike on other airlines, Alaska classifies exit-row seats as preferred seats. As such, entry-level MVPs can snag more spacious seats right away.

Related: How to snag an exit-row seat when flying U.S. carriers

More generous perks

Upgrades aren't the only department Alaska is more generous in. While entry-level elites typically only get one free checked bag, Alaska allows MVPs to check two free bags. While American, Delta and United give entry-level elites a 40% mileage bonus on flights, Alaska gives MVPs a 50% bonus. Keep in mind that Alaska is also the only carrier in the U.S. to still award miles based on distance flown rather than spending.

Alaska Premium Class seating. (Photo by Chris Dong/The Points Guy)

New Oneworld and AA benefits

Now that Alaska is a part of Oneworld, MVP elites have Oneworld Ruby status. As a part of this, MVPs get the following benefits when flying partners:

  • Access to Priority check-in
  • Access to preferred or pre-reserved seating
  • Priority on waitlists and when on standby
  • Priority boarding

Related: Everything you need to know about Alaska’s partnership with Oneworld

(Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines)

In addition, Alaska and American Airlines have already unveiled an even deeper integration of their elite status perks. For MVP members, that means access to American's Main Cabin Extra seats within 24 hours of travel. This is the same benefit available for entry-level American Gold elites, except remember that MVP status is easier to earn.

Bottom line

Despite some overlap with cobranded airline credit cards, low levels of elite status can still make a difference in how enjoyable and rewarding your travel experiences are. As you've seen, not all levels of status are equal. The best elite status for you will depend on where you live and which airline you fly the most. But with Alaska's entrance into Oneworld and strengthened partnership with American Airlines, MVP status should be on a lot more travelers' radar.

If you currently have status with another airline and are looking to switch your loyalty, you may be eligible to match your status to Alaska.

Featured photo by (Photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

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  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
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