Alaska Airlines Making Huge Improvements To Lifetime Elite Status

Alaska Airlines awards lifetime MVP Gold at 1 million miles, and lifetime MVP Gold 75K at 2 million miles. These members will receive additional benefits:

  • One million milers will get a head start on that year’s status with 20,000 elite qualifying miles, and two million milers will receive 40,000 elite qualifying miles. This helps encourage lifetime members to continue to go for higher status each year, combating one of the concerns loyalty programs have with offering lifetime status in the first place – that once you guarantee status there’s no longer a reason to strive for it.

  • Lifetime elites will be able to share their status with a member of their household like United does – the household member gets the same status level as the lifetime elite (whether that is their lifetime level or an earned higher level).

  • Lifetime elites are prioritized over other elites in their tier for upgrades which is the opposite of American where lifetime elites are effectively last on the upgrade list unless re-earning their status each year, since American prioritizes upgrades based on rolling 12 month total loyalty points earned.

  • Personal recognition on board and on the phone, employees will be trained to recognize and thank lifetime elites. This is something that United has been doing really well.

These are all improvements to the lifetime program, and really thoughtful and strategic. It doesn’t give Alaska the best lifetime program. I believe among U.S. airlines that belongs to United. But it’s a huge improvement.

  • United Airlines has the most generous lifetime elite program, with partner elite benefits for lifetime members and even allowing lifetime Global Services status after 4 million miles (not topping out at Platinum or 1K).

  • In contrast, Delta offers just its Platinum-equivalent status after 4 million miles, Diamond at six million, and doesn’t offer their Global Services-equivalent 360 status as a lifetime benefit.

American Airlines has the weakest lifetime elite program, topping out at lifetime Platinum (2nd from the bottom of 5 elite tiers) and prioritizing everyone earning current status over lifetime elites for upgrades. It’s only possible to earn lifetime oneworld sapphire status, which gets business class lounge access on international itineraries in coach.

In contrast Alaska Airlines allows earning lifetime oneworld emerald (which comes with first class lounge access on international itineraries). And they allow that status to extend to a household member. As a oneworld emerald member I can only guest one person into a lounge, so my wife daughter and I cannot all use first class lounges when flying business class. In Alaska’s program my wife and I would both be oneworld emerald and could bring in a family of four.

Before the pandemic American was considering how to fix their lifetime status program. Other things got prioritized in the meantime. However hopefully Alaska’s improvements, combined with American falling clearly behind to the bottom of the pack in lifetime loyalty, will light a fire under AAdvantage. Then again, US Airways had the weakest lifetime recognition as well.

(HT: One Mile at a Time)

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. @ Gary — I think it’s a safe bet that American doesn’t make any improvents to its MM program. I do think, however, that they may do something to improve their now worst-in-class redemption rates. I suspect they will copy Delta’s credit card discount.

  2. As a lifetime Platinum with AA I was extremely disappointed when they watered down the program by adding another level (platinum pro). The benefits are weak for AA lifetime platinum. I wish I had invested in United instead of getting screwed by American.

  3. I like the changes. Makes me wish I had switched to AS earlier, but I’m more than half way now to 1M. AA LT Plat, which I already have, is weak sauce in comparison.

  4. United is hard earned with BIS.
    That’s why it’s good
    You gotta fly 1MM. Not just have OPM buy you status.

  5. I can’t for the life of me see why a lifetime elite who has stopped flying regularly should receive priority for upgrades over the current elite who is still flying and earning regularly.

    – signed an AA EXP.

  6. UA and AA Lifetime miles are apples and oranges. A flyer could reach million miler status in AA with maybe just a fraction of them BIS miles. So a AA 2MM might have less than 0.5M if flying UA.

    UA’s lifetime program is a huge attraction for flyers sticking with UA for years or decades, and paying cash instead of miles. If they fly less when retired, the cost for UA is less. 4MM GS is a tiny group with most members at advanced age, the less they fly the less the additional cost to UA. UA rips tremendous revenue over the long term because the huge incentives for people pursuing MM goals

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