Alaska very much feels like a “hometown airline.” Despite their growth, they have a ridiculously loyal following from those in the Pacific Northwest, which I could never fully wrap my head around. However, their Mileage Plan program is fantastic, in terms of earning miles, redeeming miles, and elite benefits.
For several years Alaska has been sending out “thank you” gifts to MVP Gold members towards the end of the year. They did this in 2015, 2014, and 2013, where they had the choice between two Gold Guest Upgrades, two Board Room day passes, and two Gogo wifi passes.
In years prior to that, Alaska would send out cookies to elite members, so the above were gifts were the very nice replacement for that.
It’s certainly a nice touch, though the gift as such isn’t a published benefit. At the same time, members came to expect it.
It’s my understanding that this year Alaska won’t be offering Mileage Plan MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members “thank you” gifts. That’s an interesting move, given that at the moment it’s a pretty uncertain time for elite members.
While I have no inside knowledge into their logic, I’d speculate that:
- First class cabins are shrinking on Alaska 737-800s, from 16 seats to 12 seats, so the last thing they want to do is put even more upgrade certificates into circulation
- While mergers are generally uncertain times and bad for elite members, in this case I don’t think there’s much immediate downside for Alaska frequent flyers, so I think they don’t feel the need to over compensate
- Mileage Plan has recently added several new program benefits, including elite upgrades on award tickets, additional bonus miles, etc.
Ultimately Alaska’s elite “thank you” gift was never a published benefit, though at the same time members became accustomed to it. The Mileage Plan program has been nicely improved this year, so personally I think they’re not being unreasonable, especially as they’re shrinking the size of their first class cabins as well. However, some will no doubt view this as a devaluation.
What do you guys think — does a consistent annual gift at some point become expected, or are the people who are disappointed being unfair?