Alaska Airlines Changes How Earning Status Works For 2024, Taking New Approach To Benefits

Alaska Airlines is fresh off of announcing a new award chart that had members breathing a sigh of relief. Many had expected bad news, this wasn’t bad news, and there are even a number of sweet spots.

Now they’ve just announced changes to how Mileage Plan members will qualify for status starting next year, and painted a picture of changes to expect to elite benefits starting in 2025. And again, it’s generally good news. They frequently trumpet themselves as offering the most generous airline loyalty program in the U.S. It’s largely true, and they’ve absorbed that it is a real competitive advantage for them.

Segments No Longer Required To Earn Status

For earning status in 2024, you’ll only need to count your qualifying miles. They’re dropping segments as a status-qualifying metric. The number of qualifying miles to earn each status level remains the same.

  • You won’t earn status on segments, just qualifying miles
  • You don’t need to have a minimum number of Alaska Airlines segments for status, so you can earn status flying on any of their partner airlines that earn qualifying miles, even without ever setting foot on an Alaska Airlines flight.

Currently you can qualify either based on miles flown or flights taken. The option of earning status based on number of flights is going away, but so is the requirement to have a minimum number of flights each year on Alaska flights.

Current Alaska Airlines Status-Earning Requirements

The opportunity here is huge, for instance even if you’re an American Airlines flyer. American is better for earning status through credit card spend and online shopping. But for someone earning their status purely or mostly by flying, Alaska is the better option – even if all of your flights are on American.

That’s especially true if you’d earn a higher status with Alaska Mileage Plan than American AAdvantage, because you’ll be higher on the upgrade list even when flying their partner American. You just forego American’s Loyalty Choice awards but even that will be changing in 2025.

Indeed, I’d rank Alaska as best for earning status if you aren’t a high fare flyer of any major U.S. airline (though Basic Economy fares only earn a fraction of regular fares).

It did seem interesting to me that they’re eliminating the requirement to fly Alaska itself, though.

  • oneworld has always required segments on an airline’s own flights to earn status. American got an exception for their new Loyalty Points-based program, but the rule was still in effect for others. Still, Brett Catlin, Alaska’s Vice President of loyalty, alliances and sales, tells me that the change “wasn’t controversial in oneworld.”

  • Historically Alaska has privileged its own metal flying – in the past even requiring fewer qualifying miles to earn status if flown exclusively on their own flights, and a higher status-earning threshold if including partner flights. So there’s been a real migration away from favoring Alaska flights over time.

Catlin tells me that they wanted “simplicity,” that the methods of qualifying for status were too hard for most to understand. They also didn’t want to disincentivize partner flying. They know that their customers do not just fly on the Alaska Airlines route network, and that they serve those customers through partners wherever they travel. The integration of partnerships, especially within oneworld, demanded this. (I’d add that Delta can serve passengers directly on international, including out of Seattle, while Alaska needs these partnerships to compete.)

Put another way, this change is part of fully “unlocking” the full benefit of the airline’s membership in oneworld.

Credit Card Spend Counts More In ’24

For 2024 only, every $10,000 spend on Alaska Airlines credit cards earns 4,000 elite qualifying miles, up to a total of $50,000 spend and 20,000 qualifying miles.

Fees (including annual fee) and other adjustments don’t count towards the spending total, but spend across multiple cards count towards the same $10,000 thresholds – you can combine spending on a personal (consumer) and small business card to reach the $10,000 level. Unfortunately the 20,000 qualifying mile cap remains in place even if you have more than one card.

While I questioned capping the ability to earn qualifying miles via card spend (since it’s unlimited at both American and Delta), Catlin noted that $50,000 in spending is significant, though there is a “long tail of small businesses that can go beyond” that amount of spending, the offer is still “relevant to the largest share of customers” as well as being “attainable.”

This change is only for 2024 because they’re testing it. I expect that in the future credit card will become a bigger part of elite-earning. They just didn’t want to go there all at once. In Catlin’s words, they didn’t want to “10x” the “100k tier…in one year” and also disappoint those who were already earning it.

MVP Gold 100K Roll Over

MVP Gold 100K members who earn more than 100,000 EQMs in 2023 will have the excess roll over toward their status in 2024. Alaska is clear that this is not a new rollover feature and is one time only.

Milestone Rewards Coming Next Year, Reduced Bonus Miles

Alaska Airlines will be introducing Milestone Rewards in the second half of 2024. Along with these new choice benefits for elite members, which I expect to be conceptually similar to American’s Loyalty Choice awards and to Delta’s choice benefits, will come reduced bonus mileage-earning from flights for elite members below the top 100K tier.

I asked Brett Catlin about Milestone Rewards and he made clear that members aren’t actually losing out on bonus miles if they don’t want to – that one of the choices will be bonus miles that restore members to their previous earning. It’s just that members will be able to choose other things instead.

He noted that there will be benefit choices “between status tiers, before [members] reach MVP,” as well. All of this “comes at a cost” and adjusting the bonus miles guaranteed at each tier is necessary for the “economics of Mileage Plan” but they intend to be “really generous.”

And he offered me a bit about what these awards will look like.

If bonus miles is your most important program attribute, you’ll be whole on bonus miles. If you prefer other things, like guaranteed confirmed upgrades, experiences, or sharing your status with a friend or family member, you might choose to trade off [those miles].

While Alaska has sometimes made changes to their program in the past without notice, Brett understood the importance of trust in giving notice to changes in elite benefits – recognizing that people are about to start flying in 2024 for benefits in 2025, letting them know now about the reduced bonus miles from flying (as a choice) mattered even though they’re not yet prepared to detail Milestone Rewards in full.

No More Changes To Next Year’s Program, But Expect Annual Changes In Future Years

Catlin emphasized that there will be “no other changes for next year” so no surprises on the horizon, benefits will remain the same. However he said to “expect annual changes [announced] each fall” to the program as they learn and work to improve it.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Does the % of EQM earn on partners based on the fare class go away? Regarding your strategy with flying AA: I’ve found it nearly impossible to book economy tickets that earn 100% of the EQM flown without paying thousands for what would normally be a $200 seat.

  2. While this may be great for some people, some of us fly short jaunts frequently (Spokane to Seattle as an example). I have qualified many years just on segments and I guess that will eliminate me from elite status in future years. Sad.

  3. For flying AA, in order to get 100% credit you need to fly Premium Economy or First. Otherwise, you would need to call AA and try to purchase an economy ticket at a higher fare code, but it takes a lot of time and energy.

  4. I don’t understand who thinks the new award charts are better. They are absolutely not, especially if you love Cathay Pacific.

  5. One thing that frequent flyers earning status is that they’re extremely loyal to Alaska Airlines. At least that was once the case. This opens up more opportunities to earn across several other airlines.

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