Alaska

Did You Get 10,000 Free Alaska Miles?

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As of later today (January 9, 2017), it will be possible for Virgin America Elevate members to link their accounts and match their status to Alaska Mileage Plan. This follows Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America closing a few weeks ago. While we don’t yet know all the details of what the future combined loyalty program will look like (or the future combined airline, for that matter), this is certainly a step in the right direction.

However, leading up to this new linking opportunity, many Alaska Mileage Plan members are reporting 10,000 bonus miles appearing in their account with the description “SPECIAL SERVICES ELEVATE MEMBER OTO 10K BONUS.”

Unfortunately it’s not entirely clear what’s triggering this. It’s obviously somehow related to Virgin America Elevate based on the description, though beyond that it’s anyone’s guess.

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Alaska Airlines Introduces Free Inflight Messaging

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Alaska has just announced a very cool new permanent feature for customers (at least as of now it’s available through December 31, 2017). Effective immediately, Alaska will offer unlimited inflight messaging through Gogo wifi for all passengers. While you can continue to pay to use Gogo wifi, all customers can message for free through iMessage, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

You’ll be able to send messages and emojis, though can’t send pictures or videos. Obviously this only works in regions where Gogo wifi works, which excludes portion of flights to Mexico, Hawaii, Latin America, etc.

Per Alaska’s website, here’s how this new feature works:

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Last Chance To Buy Two Great Points Currencies At A Discount

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Buying points when they’re on sale can be one of the best ways to get a luxury vacation at a discount. I try to write about these opportunities when they’re available, and should point out that there are two great points sales ending this Saturday, December 31, 2016. So if you’ve been considering buying either of these points currencies, you’ll want to decide ASAP.

Here are the details:

At the moment Alaska is selling miles with up to a 40% bonus, which is an opportunity to buy miles for as little as ~2.11 cents each.

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Rationalizing How Many Starpoints To Transfer To Virgin America

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As I posted about yesterday, Starwood and Virgin America are cutting ties as of January 6, 2017. This has to do with Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America, and perhaps more specifically, with the fact that Virgin America Elevate points will convert into Alaska Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1.3 ratio.

As it stands, Starpoints transfer to Alaska Mileage Plan and Virgin America Elevate at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred. This presents a pretty cool arbitrage opportunity. Since Virgin America points will convert into Alaska miles at a 1:1.3 ratio, it means you can temporarily transfer Starpoints to Virgin America and then to Alaska, and get a 62.5% bonus in the end. In other words, 20,000 Starpoints will convert into 32,500 Alaska miles (when you account for the 5,000 point bonus, and then the 30% bonus on top of that).

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is trying to decide how many Starpoints I want to convert into Virgin America points in the next week, before this opportunity ends.

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America’s Best AvGeek Flights: The United Island Hopper And Alaska Milk Run

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There are many reasons I like to get on planes, including that I love to visit new places, I love to try new airlines, and I’m also just an aviation geek who loves being on planes. Regardless of where I’m going or what airplane I’m on, the wonder of flight is never lost on me. Aviation is an amazing thing.

As far as flights within the U.S. go, I think there are two routes in particular that only an aviation geek would ever voluntarily take from start to finish. I’m specifically talking about United’s island hopper and Alaska’s milk run. My goal is to fly on both of these in 2017. For those of you not familiar with either of them, I figured I’d cover the basics.

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SPG & Virgin America Are Cutting Ties As Of January 6, 2017

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This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. A couple of weeks ago Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America closed, which has quite a few implications for frequent flyers on both airlines.

Last week we learned that Virgin America Elevate points will convert into Alaska Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1.3 ratio, which seems pretty fair to me. This has opened up a pretty cool opportunity for those with Starwood Preferred Guest points:

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Alaska Mileage Plan Cuts Elite “Thank You” Gifts For 2016

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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.

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Starwood Axes Virgin America As A Points Transfer Partner Without Notice

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Update: Starwood is claiming this was a glitch, and that it should be updated soon. I guess we’ll see — clearly something is up, though.

This has been a big week for Alaska Mileage Plan. On Monday we learned that their partnership with Delta is ending, that they’re making some great changes to the program, and at what rate Virgin America points will convert into Alaska miles.

That last part has opened up a pretty cool opportunity, as I wrote about yesterday:

— Starpoints convert into Alaska Mileage Plan and Virgin America points at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred
— Virgin America points will convert into Alaska miles at a 1:1.3 ratio
— This means you can convert 20,000 Starpoints into 25,000 Virgin America Elevate points, and then convert those into 32,500 Alaska miles, which is a 62.5% bonus when converting Starpoints into Alaska miles

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How Much Money Will Alaska Lose Due To Cutting Ties With Delta?

Alaska-Seattle

On Monday we learned that Alaska and Delta are cutting ties as of May 1, 2017. The two airlines have been frenemies for years, as Delta’s presence in Seattle has continued to grow. Even so, they seemed better off together than separate.

However, Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America finally caused Alaska and Delta to cut ties, likely due to the increased number of routes on which the airlines overlap (Virgin America competes in many of the same transcon markets as Delta).

While this is bad news for frequent flyers, I have to commend Alaska for announcing several positive changes to help offset losing Delta as a partner. I’m feeling pretty great about Alaska Mileage Plan at the moment.

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Redeem 5,000 Miles For A One-Way Ticket With A Stopover!

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Yesterday Alaska announced some major changes to their Mileage Plan program, many of which were positive. Generally my preference is to redeem miles for premium cabin awards, though Alaska Mileage Plan has just made many domestic redemptions extremely lucrative with their recent changes.

Alaska’s new discounted shorthaul awards

One of the changes Alaska has made is that they’ve discounted shorthaul award ticket costs. Specifically:

— Tickets covering a distance of under 700 miles cost 5,000 miles
— Tickets covering a distance of 701-1,400 miles cost 7,500 miles
— Tickets covering a distance of 1,401-2,100 miles cost 10,000 miles

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Should You Transfer Starpoints To Alaska With A 62.5% Bonus?

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Yesterday was a big day for Alaska Mileage Plan — we learned that their partnership with Delta is ending, that they’re making some great changes to the program, and at what rate Virgin America points will convert into Alaska miles.

Since yesterday the question I’ve been asked most is whether it makes sense to transfer Starpoints to Virgin America, given the arbitrage opportunity available for now:

— Starpoints convert into Alaska Mileage Plan and Virgin America points at a 1:1 ratio, with a 5,000 point bonus for every 20,000 points transferred
— Virgin America points will convert into Alaska miles at a 1:1.3 ratio
— This means you can convert 20,000 Starpoints into 25,000 Virgin America Elevate points, and then convert those into 32,500 Alaska miles, which is a 62.5% bonus when converting Starpoints into Alaska miles

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

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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. 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’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.”

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Here’s The Rate At Which Virgin America Points Will Convert Into Alaska Miles

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With Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America now complete, frequent flyers with both airlines have a lot of questions. While we don’t yet know at what point the Alaska and Virgin America frequent flyer programs will be merged, I think a lot of us are wondering at what rate Virgin America points will convert into Alaska miles.

A few days ago I wrote a post about this, and suggested that one Virgin America point should convert into somewhere between one and two Alaska miles. I suggested a 1:1.5 ratio, simply because that seemed well rounded. Well, the transfer ratio has now been confirmed.

Virgin America Elevate points will convert into Alaska Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1.3 ratio. Per Alaska’s website:

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Alaska Mileage Plan Makes Earning & Redeeming Miles Easier With Latest Changes

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Earlier I wrote about Alaska and Delta cutting ties as of May 1, 2017, which will leave a lot of people very unhappy. On one hand I’m surprised to see them cut their relationship, since presumably this will cost Alaska a lot in revenue. At the same time, it seemed to be inevitable, given the number of routes on which Delta and the “new Alaska” overlap, which doesn’t make the partnership all that mutually beneficial anymore.

However, those are only some of the Mileage Plan changes that have been announced today. There’s some other stuff happening, and it’s mostly great news. Specifically:

As of today it’s possible to earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles (both elite qualifying and redeemable) for travel on Virgin America. What makes this especially interesting is that Alaska has a distance based frequent flyer program, while Virgin America’s program is revenue based. However, as you’d expect, Alaska Mileage Plan will award miles based on distance flown rather than dollars spent.

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