Alaska Airlines just shared on its company blog that it will be extending elite status and companion certificates until 2021. This announcement quickly follows many other airlines after the first domino fell on Sunday. American Airlines, Southwest, and JetBlue are the only major non-discount carriers in the U.S. that have yet to make similar announcements.
Mileage Plan Elite Status Extended
Any existing status with Mileage Plan for the 2020 program year will be automatically extended until December 31, 2021. Remember that Mileage Plan runs on a strict calendar year schedule unlike some other airlines that go until January or February of the following year. So this is equivalent to other carriers that might extend their status until, say, January 2022.
The one exception is the 50,000 bonus miles earned for achieving MVP Gold 75K status. Those bonus miles will only be awarded for 2021 if you earn it the hard way, by flying. All other benefits including upgrades and lounge passes will be provided.
Requirements for earning or increasing your Mileage Plan status have not been adjusted yet, though that might change in the future. Right now the announcement is limited to extending the existing status of elite members. But in an email to members (not shared in the blog post), the company said that any elite qualifying miles already earned by April 30, 2020, will be rolled over to the 2021 qualification year. This will give you a head start in earning status for 2022.
If you applied for a status match or trial before March 31 and currently have temporary status, that status will also be extended through December 31, 2021.
Alaska Lounge Access
Members of the Alaska Lounge, who were active as of April 1, will have their membership period extended by 6 months. All of the lounge locations remain open except the original flagship in the Sea-Tac D Concourse (which I’m guessing is under renovation).
However, the airline is temporarily removing some high density seating, reducing capacity by 50% and suspending use of the fingerprint check-in option.
Companion Certificates Extended
Alaska’s $99 companion fare, which provides a second ticket at just $99 plus taxes and fees when you purchase another main cabin fare at regular price, will also be extended. Any current companion certificates will have their expiration date extended to December 31, 2020. Since you can normally book travel 330 days into the future, this means you can book by December 31 for travel through November 26, 2021.
If you already booked travel with a companion certificate and cancelled your reservation, the certificate will be reinstated with either the original expiration date or a new date of June 30, 2020, whichever is later. Remember, under normal circumstances you cannot get your companion certificate back after canceling a trip with a companion certificate; best practice is to change the reservation to a new flight in order to keep the companion discount intact.
Award Travel Refunds and Changes
If you booked award travel using your Alaska Mileage Plan miles for departure on or before May 31, 2020, you can either change your reservation or cancel the reservation and have the miles redeposited in your account. Cancelled reservations will have the miles redeposited into the original account with no redeposit fee, and all taxes will also be refunded.
Remember that Mileage Plan charges a $12.50 per person partner booking fee. I would not expect this fee to be refunded. Even MVP Gold members who get all other fees waived still have to pay this one.
Overall this is good news, and about what I expected after similar announcements made by other carriers, particularly Alaska’s competitive nemesis, Delta. (Also see United and Air Canada.) I expect we will hear more in the coming weeks about how to continue to earn miles at home and increase our status with adjustments to the normal qualification criteria.