Alaska Airlines announced this morning a great new policy to extend elite status for an additional year if you’re a new parent. It’s hard enough caring for a little one. You shouldn’t have to worry about maintaining your favorite airline status, too. (But I promise once he’s ready to join me in the air, Scott Jr. will be the youngest person ever to get MVP Gold!)
The benefit is unusually generous. Eligible members will get to keep their elite status for the time being, and it will be extended for an additional year. In other words, you won’t have to forego status now in order to get it back later. Fathers and adoptive parents are also eligible.
…[M]embers who have taken or will take a parental leave that ends this year can extend their status through the end of 2018. In future years, status will be extended through the calendar year following the end of leave.
Still a little unsure how long your status will last? Here’s how the terms and conditions describe it:
As an example, a current (2017) MVP® member who takes parental leave which ends in 2018 will receive MVP® status through 2019.
So basically, you keep the status for this year (which you already earned), and Alaska will assume you earned your status for next year (the year in which your leave finishes). Status normally extends into the calendar year after you earned it and ends each year on December 31. The only people not eligible for this offer are those who received complimentary, gifted, or matched status.
New parents can take advantage of the offer by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org and including their full name, date of birth, Mileage Plan number, and proof of parental leave (such as a note from a doctor or employer). A full description of the new program is available on Alaska’s blog and the airline website.
Similar policies were announced this year by Hilton and British Airways, and I can’t help but feel maybe this is a trend we’ll see spread to the rest of the loyalty sphere. Putting status on hold is not a terribly expensive benefit and lets a company do right by its best customers. Alaska’s benefit is exclusive to parents, but as the first U.S. airline to do this it is still leading the pack.
Ultimately, loyalty programs are about keeping your best customers happy and discouraging them from leaving for a competitor. Many airlines already do checks at the end of the year for those who have fallen short, whether that includes a complimentary boost or a paid offer. Some fast track offers are specifically targeted to those who used to have status. Rather than make a customer jump through hoops to get it back, it seems much more sensible to promise them it will still be available once their temporary lapse in activity is over.