There’s A Mileage Run Renaissance Thanks To Alaska Mileage Plan!

Going back almost a decade I would have argued that mileage running (getting on the plane for the sole purpose of earning miles) could make sense. However, as we’ve seen a countless number of award chart devaluations, elite benefit cuts, mileage earning rate cuts, etc., it has become considerably more difficult to justify.

Earlier I wrote about the changes that Alaska is making to mileage earning rates, and I can’t get over just how generous the program has become become. With these changes, Alaska is awarding up to 80% more redeemable miles than they did before. The new Alaska Mileage Plan is just like the “good old days,” and arguably even better. Let me explain.

Alaska MVP Gold 75K benefits

Alaska’s top tier status is MVP Gold 75K, and earning that status requires flying either 75,000 miles on Alaska, or 90,000 miles on a combination of Alaska and any of their partners. There’s no requirement to even log a single mile on Alaska “metal.”

alaska-status

Alaska MVP Gold 75K members earn a 125% bonus on redeemable miles. On top of that, they earn 50,000 bonus miles when they requalify.

alaska-elite-benefits-1

So let’s say you fly 90,000 miles per year on partner airlines. That’s the equivalent of an additional ~55% mileage bonus. All-in-all, you’re earning about a 180% bonus on flown miles.

The reason I’m breaking down the numbers that way is because you want to be able to account for that 50,000 mile bonus when calculating the cost of a mileage run that you’re crediting to Alaska.

Alaska status matches to MVP Gold 75K

As I wrote about a couple of months ago, Alaska offers status matches to MVP Gold 75K, assuming you have top tier status with another carrier, like American, Delta, United, etc. So even if you’re not MVP Gold 75K, it’s quite easy to make the switch.

With that in mind, let’s start crunching some numbers.

Just how generous is Mileage Plan becoming?

I write all the time about cheap first & business class fares. More than ever before we’re seeing a trend where airlines discount premium cabin tickets to the point that they’re often only marginally more expensive than economy.

This is a great way to earn miles with an airline in general, though it’s especially lucrative with Alaska Mileage Plan. Why?

  • They award more bonus miles for premium cabin travel than most programs
  • They let you earn status exclusively through travel on partner airlines
  • Elite mileage bonuses apply even to travel on partner airlines, which isn’t the case with many other airlines

I’ve written in the past about some of the amazing fares available out of Cairo, so let me give a couple of examples. Take this roundtrip flight from Cairo to Dubai to Los Angeles in Emirates business class, which costs ~$1,730, and covers a distance of 20,000 flown miles:

emirates

For travel in “O” class you’d earn 125% elite qualifying and 225% redeemable miles before any elite bonuses. That means you’d earn 25,000 elite qualifying miles and 45,000 redeemable miles. That doesn’t include the 180% bonus on base miles you earn through being an MVP Gold 75K, which gets you another 36,000 bonus miles, for a total of 81,000 redeemable miles.

I’d note that the above isn’t even a “good” fare, it’s just the first thing I was able to pull up right now. A bit over a week ago the same ticket was available for $400 less.

Emirates-Business-Class

Okay, admittedly not everyone wants to position to Cairo, so let’s assume you want something out of the U.S. We see ~$1,200 roundtrip business class tickets on British Airways from the West Coast to Europe with some frequency, which is about 12,000 flown miles. You’ll earn 150% elite qualifying miles for those tickets, plus 250% redeemable miles. Then you’ll earn a 180% bonus if you’re MVP Gold 75K, for a total of 430% redeemable miles. Suddenly that cheap roundtrip business class ticket to Europe earns you over 50,000 redeemable miles. Crazy!

british-airways-a380-club-world-20

Similar increased mileage earning rates are available on Cathay Pacific, Fiji Airways, Hainan, Icelandair, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, LAN, and Qantas. I could go through a lot of examples, but the point is that collectively those airlines publish a lot of discounted business class tickets.

Fiji-Airways-Business-Class-A330 - 3

Alaska Mileage Plan has long been an attractive program, but now it’s even more attractive than before.

Anyone else seeing incredible opportunities with Mileage Plan, in particular for discounted premium cabin tickets on their partner airlines?

Comments

  1. I status massed UA 1K to Alaska in 2014 and only got MVP God, NOT 75K. I specifically asked for 75K but Alaska only gave me the match to Gold…

  2. If a cheap BA First ticket could be found West Coast – Europe you could get 50,000 elite qualifying miles (enough for MVP Gold) in one trip.

  3. This is a very interesting development. Let’s hope AS/VX doesn’t mess it up. The loyalty program has got to be one of their greatest strengths.

  4. @ Ralf — Hmmm, as far as I know Alaska only started status matching to 75K in late 2014. Maybe that’s why?

  5. @Lucky – Alaska is very specific on the partner airlines that earn elite bonuses and Emirates is not one of them. Only very few airlines get the Elite bonus.

  6. Ben,
    Do you really think it’s necessary to dramatically hype these change? Especially using terms like “overly generous” and “mileage run renaissance.” I can see Alaska adjusting downward after the consummation glow has waned, saying “well, everyone knew it was unsustainable…even the bloggers.”

    I know your goal here is to attract eyeballs, but some restraint seems advisable.

  7. One should be careful that Alaska has rules for partner accrual. For example, BA marketed and AA operated (which is a common AARP outcome) doesn’t count per the rules. It also has to be within a range of flight numbers. At least this was my experience this year. But would love to know if others had other experiences…

  8. I agree, I am sure there must be some new gems out there and that truly is exciting news.

    One thing I would like you to clarify, The MVP Gold 75K gives 125% bonus. How are you calculating the 180% bonus for being MVP 75K. I am sure you are right, but could you clarify.

  9. Benjamin: you’ve really become very, very ill. Look at what you’re writing. My family is deeply concerned for you. Please reach out to mental health professionals.

  10. @lucky
    would you have any advice for someone who has no status in either one world or alaska flying PE in Cathay?
    I keep going back and forth deciding whether or not to credit to AA or Alaska, OR if I should dump both and do better with BA since then it would open the door to family earning (traveling with my husband.)

    it seems from this post i could leverage my etihad gold status to get a status match with alaska and make the argument moot. thoughts?

  11. @Bobbie Dooley If you don’t appreciate how hard lucky works to provide people with so many great articles every day, please leave. If Ben did make a mistake with his calculations in this article, let it be. Everyone makes mistakes so do everyone a favor and stop spreading negative vibes. Have a good day.

  12. @Gred I do not know where Lucky got the calculations from but I can confirm the following. MVP members and General Members earn the SAME earnings on most partners. The only partners that earn elite bonuses are the following:
    Alaska Airlines
    Virgin America
    American Airlines
    British Airways
    Delta
    Hainan Airlines
    Icelandair

  13. @ Ryan — That is not correct. The page you are looking at is a list of partners which offer various other elite benefits, not the bonus miles for status.

  14. I had already purchased my ticket even before this change. It is now even better. Will take BA to CAI and VX to NYC. You have confirmed what a great deal it is. Also, I am really looking forward to the trip.

  15. I got confused by the 180% bonus as well so I have to read the post twice. I believe it comes from the 125% MVP Gold 75k bonus, plus the 50,000 bonus miles earned upon qualification.

    Lucky took the 50,000 bonus miles and divide it with the 90k elite miles to qualify for MVP Gold 75k to get 55% (125 + 55 = 180%). That said, you only get the 50k bonus once when you qualify..

  16. This is so awesome! I’m super excited too.

    This was clearly written and easy enough to comprehend. While I have been MVPG for 8 years now, I appreciate the breaking this down.

    It’s clearly stated in the 5th paragraph where the 180% calculation comes from.

    @Bongo AS still clearly states that miles are earned on LAN flights. LAN and TAM continue to work as separate companies, under a common executive management — AS and VX at the moment.

    @Lucky I look forward to some First and Business deals to credit to AS. Please keep us posted — even if it’s boring ole BA J!

  17. One problem with flying AA/BA/DL etc but crediting to their non-alliance partner AS would be that I’d get no elite benefits for your travel: No AS benefits as I am not flying them; no partner benefits because I am not crediting within their alliance.

    Now, the standard come back to this would be that if you fly premium cabin, then it doesn’t matter all that much. I suppose. At least there will be lounge access.

    However, I can still imagine the irony of being an elite of AA as well as AS, plus of course OW emerald, but not getting any of these benefits when flying economy with respect to seat selection , op ups, help with irregular ops, etc.

    Still, I find the concept intriguing and might try it when I see a great long-haul J fare from ORD to Asia, South Africa, ANZ and like. 🙂

  18. @Lucky / all
    I asked this question a couple of weeks ago, in one of your Mileage Plan articles, about the list of carriers that receive the 125% MVP 75K bonus. Or is the case all partner airlines receive the 125% MVP 75K bonus?

    As a MVP 75K travelling business on EK would you receive:

    100% + 25% + 100% + 125% MVP 75K bonus = 350% total
    -or-
    100% + 25% + 100% = 225% total

    I think your article suggests it does but there seems to be some confusion amongst those commenting so it would be great to clarify.

  19. Would you mind writing a follow up blog on elite qualifying miles and redeemable miles? I don’t fly a lot, but follow your blog and a few others daily. From your hints, I go to fun places with my wife and family, but don’t fly enough to get status. With such a great program like you are describing above, I might be open to a few mileage runs, but the terms above are not clear.

  20. On the Cairo to LAX Emirates business class flight for $1727.36 The flight is 19640 miles

    You would earn
    19640 flight miles (100%) Counts as EQM
    4920 miles class of service bonus (25%) Counts as EQM too!
    19640 *NEW* Announce Dec 19 BONUS (100%)

    As well if you are MVP 75K
    24560 miles
    ===============
    68,760 miles @ $1727.36 = 2.51 CPM

    The one time MVP 75 bonus for hitting 90K is 50,000 miles. The 24,560 is about a quarter of that. So if we divide evenly and you manage to hit that exactly at 90 I see how you could argue that it could be worth the fraction of the 50K miles for the one time hit at 90K, or in other words it could be worth 16,340 miles. So using that flight and calculating

    68,760 miles + 16,340 fraction of 50K one time bonus = 85,100 @ $1727.36 = 2.02 CPM

    I now see how you get the 180% MVPG number.

  21. As someone who recently status matched to MVP gold 75k (EXP plat on AA).
    I can confirm the 50k bonus is not applicable to those that have status matched in the current year.

    Regards
    John

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