Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and Virgin America Elevate are merging as part of the merger between the two West Coast airlines. Alaska Airlines has announced that the last day of Virgin America Elevate will be 12/31/2017. Partnership will terminate between 9/30 and 10/30 with most partners. Virgin America will continue to fly through sometime in 2019, but Alaska Airline’s frequent flyer program will be the only program for the two airlines going forward. Alaska Airlines wants people to transfer points to Alaska Airlines now, but I’m tell you not to! Do not transfer your points unless you absolutely need to!
Keep Your Virgin America Elevate Points At Virgin
Transfers between Virgin America and Alaska Airlines are a one way street. Miles can be transferred from Virgin America to Alaska Airlines, but not from Alaska to Virgin. Virgin America Elevate points earn a 30% bonus when transferring to Alaska Airlines. Elevate points transfer at a ratio of 1.3 miles per Elevate point. The transfer bonus is a fantastic perk. Do note that once the miles are moved to Alaska, they are frozen there.
Virgin Elevate points are very different than Alaska miles. Each Virgin point has a value of approximately 2.2 cents and Virgin America has partnerships and awards that Alaska does not. Before restricting your miles to Alaska’s partners, consider their value at Virgin America.
Virgin Points Are Sometimes More Valuable
Each Virgin Elevate point has a value of 2.2-2.6 cents. The fixed value can be extremely beneficial when purchasing tickets. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan award costs are different dependent on distance and region. Alaska did introduce cheaper awards since the merger with Virgin America, but sometimes using Virgin points make more sense than Alaska miles.
Here is an example of a flight between San Francisco and Los Angeles on April 25. The flight cost is only $69, however someone might want to use points to save money. Virgin America is offering the flight for 2,149 Elevate points.
The same flights with Alaska Airlines miles is 7,500 miles! Even if Virgin America points are transferred to Alaska Airlines at 1.3 miles, 2,149 elevate points is only 2,794 Alaska miles! The same flight costs nearly 2.25 times more with Alaska miles than with Virgin America Elevate points! The same holds true when splurging for a first class ticket! Elevate awards depend on the cost of the ticket.
Here is a another example of a cross country flight to New York. Alaska is charging 12,500 miles for a saver economy ticket. That is the equivalent of 9,615 Virgin America Elevate points.
Virgin is charging 7,033 elevate points or really 9,142 Alaska miles. Once again, by NOT transferring your points to Alaska Airlines, Virgin America Elevate members are saving miles!
There is a large difference in the cost for a premium cabin award between the two. Alaska will save you thousands of miles in First class. The same flight above is only 25,000 Alaska Miles compared to 48,000 Elevate points. Therefore, if a premium experience is what you’re after, transfer 19,230 Elevate points to Alaska in order to save thousands.
Virgin America Partners are Unique With Different Award Options
Virgin America Elevate points are restrictive, even more restrictive then Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan partners. Yet despite being restrictive, Virgin has partners that Alaska does not have. This can open up different awards that are unique to Virgin America. Even with shared partner Emirates, Virgin has different award options.
Virgin America Elevate is partners with Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Australia, and Singapore Airlines, Alaska Airline is not. Hawaiian Airlines serves several West Coast gateways and New York to Honolulu and/or Maui. If a Hawaiian vacation is on the radar, Virgin America Elevate members have an option that Mileage Plans members do not. The same is true for Singapore Airlines and Virgin Australia. Have you ever tried to use Alaska miles to fly from Asia to Australia or Europe to Asia? The only partner award option is with Cathay Pacific. Virgin America Elevate opens up new options such as on Emirates, Singapore, or Virgin Australia.
Mileage Plan awards are very restrictive. Similarly, Virgin America partner awards are all published, if the award is not published, then the routing or award is not possible. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has several award charts, but does not allow for several basic awards. Want to fly between Europe and Asia, the only option is Cathay Pacific. Alaska Airlines partners with Air France, KLM, Emirates, British Airways, JAL, Hainan, Korean, and Qantas. ALL airlines fly between Europe and Asia or the Middle East. Alaska MileagePlan members can earn miles on all routes, but cannot redeem miles for flights between Europe and the Middle East and Asia, except for on Cathay Pacific.
Virgin America Elevate points can be more valuable and the value only increases because more routes are available with Virgin partners than Alaska! Even Virgin America’s partnership with Emirates allows for routing such as between Europe and Asia or the Middle East and Australia. Emirates has several fifth freedom routes which Virgin America Elevate points can be redeemed for. Meanwhile, Alaska miles cannot. Try using Alaska miles to fly from Colombo to Singapore, Bangkok to Hong Kong, or Auckland to Sydney. It’s impossible. Alaska Miles are not for Global Awards. Virgin America Elevate points have more flexibility in this sense.
Hold Out and Do Not Transfer…YET
Alaska Airlines and Virgin America want you to transfer your miles now instead of waiting until the end of the year. Don’t do it! Unless you need the miles for an Alaska Airlines award, your miles are safe where they are. When it’s time to plan a vacation look at both Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and Virgin America Elevate. Then and only then transfer your points if it makes sense.
Alaska Airlines will transfer all miles from Virgin on 1/1/2018. All Virgin America Elevate points will still earn the 30% bonus and transfer at a rate of 1.3. The airlines will push you to transfer your points sooner, but later is better.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my Alaska Airlines miles and find them extremely valuable. I am excited for the new Alaska Airlines as well, but I am not transferring my Virgin America Elevate points until I absolutely must. Virgin America offers unique awards and opportunities not available with Alaska Airlines. Keeping your points with Virgin is a win-win for Elevate members because you truly have the power of two airlines programs and partners at your disposal.