I’ve argued that as part of joining oneworld Alaska Airlines almost certainly has to devalue its loyalty program. In fact this was probably the price of getting American Airlines buy-in for a renewed partnership.
In early March I wrote about ideas they’re surveying about potential changes to the program. Now reader Thomas passes along a new survey today on how the airline might change its elite benefits, especially the 4 annual confirmed upgrade certificates given to MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members.
The survey asked about how much members used and valued benefits including,
- Complimentary food and drink when seated in coach
- Elite bonus miles
- Fee-free ticket changes
- Standby priority
Alaska Airlines First Class
The survey then asked about buy up behavior – how often a member spent more for a ticket in order to apply MVP Gold upgrade certificates (fare classes G, R, T, or X can’t be upgraded with these), how often they were able to find upgrade space, and whether they bought the higher fare even when confirmed space wasn’t available in order to improve upgrade chances.
In other words they want to know whether upgrade certificates are valued, and whether they’re driving incremental spend.
MVP Gold 75K members receive discounted lounge membership and four complimentary lounge passes annually. They also receive a drink when seated in economy, though American Airlines top tier elites by contrast receive both a snack and a drink (and Alaska is expected to accelerate its entry into oneworld).
Meals in coach, or a limited number of wifi sessions, seem pretty weak compared to confirmed first class upgrades.
They also surveyed specific alternatives to the confirmed (guest) upgrade benefit: complimentary upgrades confirmed at booking for higher fares (expensive!) and a set amount of credit to be used to buy up to first class.
Based on the survey it seems like the buy up credit might be $250, so roughly a one-way upgrade on one flight that wasn’t very full – but which didn’t require upgrade inventory to be available.
One cost-limited, but not inventory-limited, upgrade replacing four more restrictive upgrades doesn’t seem like a great trade but for people who can’t ever use Guest Upgrades at all it’s something.
Programs conduct survey research all the time, and don’t always go in the direction that the surveys imply. Nonetheless it’s interesting that they’re currently looking at replacing the confirmed upgrade benefit for MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members – though sadly with alternatives that I’d consider to be less valuable than what they offer today.