Alaska Airlines and Delta are reducing the reciprocal benefit that elite passengers receive from each airline. The news came out via email today, but has been on both Alaska Air and Delta’s webpages for a couple of days. The changes affect elite perks such as free baggage allowance, discounts on Delta economy comfort seats, boarding privileges and other benefits. As the battle for Seattle heats up and Delta and Alaska duke it out to be Seattle’s #1 “hub” airline, the airlines are trying to lure elite fliers more and more to their own metal before their relationship completely dissolves.
Starting May 1, 2014, the following changes will take affect.
For Alaska Air MVP Gold and Gold 75K Elites, starting May 1, they will lose their check baggage for their first 2 bags, lose priority baggage handling, no longer be able to use SkyPriority Check-in and boarding zone, lose access to Delta dedicated express security lines (who uses these now thanks to TSA precheck?), and lose discounts on international economy comfort seats.
For Alaska MVP Elites (those who only fly 20,000 miles a year on Alaska) the following changes will take place:
Alaska MVP lower Elite passengers will not lose as many elite benefits as they do not have access to as many benefits as the mid-level and top-tier elites. This elite level group will only lose access to their first check bag fee waiver, priority baggage handling and 25% discount to long haul international economy seats.
Changes are also evident for Delta Elite fliers who fly Alaska, as Delta has noted the following changes on their web page:
All Delta elites will be affected by the changes, as free check baggage will be discontinued along with priority security line access.
Again, Delta is flexing its muscles in Seattle and trying to drive Alaska Airline Elite fliers to their metal by offering them better elite benefits as a Delta Elite verses an Alaska Elite frequent flier flying their airline. More benefits are being pulled from Alaska frequent fliers that fly Delta than Delta Frequent fliers who fly Alaska, as Alaska is playing nice and will still offer Delta Elite fliers priority baggage and priority boarding. Yet then again, Alaska does not have multiple levels of “priority services” like Delta does (SkyPriority vs Silver Elite Priority). As far as priority screening goes, both airlines elite will lose this perk, but really with TSA Precheck, there is no reason why an Elite should really care about this benefit. Instead if you’re flying enough to be an Elite Frequent flier, you should sign up for either Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
All hope is not lost for Alaska Elites though, despite the changes in elite benefits, Alaska Air MVP Gold and 75K elites who fly Delta will still find themselves being treated with some elite perks, but will see their elite perks lowered to the same level as Delta’s lowest elite fliers–Silver Medallion—or treated to the same level of Elite treatment as their fellow Alaska MVP fliers. After all, Delta Silver elites have dedicated priority check in at some airport, board the aircraft during Zone 1, and do not receive priority baggage handling. So really any level of Alaska Elite will be treated more like a Delta Silver after April 30th.
I would expect that as the Delta & Alaska partnership continues to dwindle over the next several months, leading up to their current contract expiration (Sometime in 2015 per inside sources), more and more benefits for Elite customers will diminish. Alaska has been playing much nicer in this battle, and I believe this is the way they will win over more Delta Elites once the partnership ends. After all, who would you rather be loyal to, an airline that treated you well when the relationship was on the rocks, or an airline that stripped you from your perks and basically chewed you up and spat you out, like they’ve done to their own Skymiles program?