Alaska Airlines new 100K status is officially here. As of January 25, 2022 those who earned 100,000 elite miles and flew a minimum of 24 segments during the 2021 program year accounts now reflect the new status. With the new status comes new benefits. As Alaska Airlines’ 100K status is brand new, it’s a great time to compare Alaska Airlines’ top tier status against other legacy airlines in the United States. Alaska’s closest competition.
Top Elite Status Comparison
First, I will compare each airline’s primary benefits side by side. Of course, there are more benefits than on the table. However, other benefits are fairly standardized across the airlines. Items including priority boarding, luggage and security; free checked luggage, waived changed fees, etc are not on this table.
|Complimentary Business Class Upgrades||120 hours||100 hours||120 hours||96 hours|
|Companion Upgrades||1 companion||1 companion||1 companion||1 companion|
|Premium Class Upgrades||At Ticketing||At Ticketing||At Ticketing||At Ticketing|
|Companion Premium Class Upgrades||1 companion||8 companions||1 companion||8 companions|
|Long haul Upgrades||Two systemwide upgrade on AA||Four Systemwide upgrades||4 Systemwide upgrades||6 systemwide upgrades|
|Partner Airline upgrades||American Airlines||Alaska Airlines||Aeromexico||ANA, Copa and Lufthansa|
|Complimentary Food in Economy||Limited to a snack such as popcorn||Any menu item||N/A||Any menu item|
|Beverage in Economy||1 free alcoholic beverage||1 free alcoholic beverage||Drink Vouchers||1 free alcoholic beverage|
|Mileage requirements||100,000 miles||200,000 loyalty points||125,000 miles||15,000 Points|
|Segment requirements||24 segments on Alaska||30, partner flights included||4 flights on United|
|Expanded Award Seat Availability||Not available||On AA flights only||N/A||On United Flights|
When looking at the table above, you’ll notice many similarities. All airlines offer upgrades within North America. There are some route restrictions on transcontinental premium route on the other airlines. Those routes offer a premium service with lay flat seats. Alaska Airlines does not offer a premium service; therefore, all routes are upgradable.
Overall, Alaska’s elite benefits are in line with their competition. Sadly, Alaska Airlines did not think out of the box and implemented standard benefits. Alaska Airlines’ Elite leading benefits include the upgrade window, 5 full days before departure. Alaska Airlines also offers the best bonus on earning miles for their 100k elites. 30% more than their competition.
Alaska Airlines has a smaller network and is not a global airline like other legacy carriers. Unsurprisingly, they have the worst long haul upgrade benefit. To help incentivize corporate and international elite travelers, Alaska does provider two systemwide upgrades on American Airlines. This is on top of the four highly restrictive MVP Gold Guest upgrades. Gold guest upgrades are only for Alaska Airlines flights. Although Alaska is providing upgrades on a different airline, American and Alaska Airlines are very close partners in the same OneWorld Alliance. This is similar to what United does with Star Alliance partners such as ANA and Lufthansa.
Alaska does fall behind in some elite benefits as well. American Airlines offer their top tier elites any menu item in coach. Alaska is only offering a light snack. Current snack options are LesserEvil® Himalayan Gold Popcorn, SpudLove® Sea Salt Potato Chips or Skinny Dipped® Dark Chocolate Almonds. These are the same snacks that were once free in Virgin America’s premium class. Or similar to the first class snack basket. Both American and United give top elites any menu item in coach. This includes their buy on board salads and sandwiches. Alaska could easily match this benefit, providing 100k elites a cheese platter or sandwich.
Think Beyond the Flight Experience
Alaska needs to think beyond the airport or beyond what they control. Frequent flyers are frequent travelers. People often choose a group they like base on benefits. Alaska Airlines could tie these together to increase benefits for the new elite status. United has a partnership with Marriott, American has one with Hyatt. Offering reciprocal status and bonus earning opportunities. If people are traveling 100,000 miles a year, they often are spending weeks, if not months away from home. Let’s make the entire time away better.
The legacy carriers also offer some unique benefits which Alaska is not offering top elites. Delta includes complimentary lounge access as a choice benefit. Thus making the airport and waiting a better experience. Both United and Delta also offer top elites complimentary Clear memberships too. Although the American Express Platinum covers these costs, it’s nice when your airline of choice does too. Further enhancing the security process beyond the basic priority line.
Alaska Airlines too could enhance the travel experience. There’s other things they could do that would be unique. They could offer free wifi passes to top 100K travelers, lounge membership, car rental elite status, hotel elite status. They could offer enhance award availability at savers rate. Alaska could even go further and make saver fares upgradable or cancellable.
Other airlines offer many of the items I listed above. Yet, Alaska Airlines is not offering any of these items to their top elites. Alaska Airlines is even still charging a partner fare ticketing fee on award tickets. Let’s make 100K better than 75k, I challenge Alaska to think beyond.
At the end of the day, to anyone who has had Alaska 75K status the new 100K status is fairly lackluster. It’s basically 75K status with free popcorn and an American Airlines systemwide upgrade. Alaska Airlines did the other elite groups right by not watering down their elite benefits. 75K elites have a lower upgrade priority now, but retained all their other benefits. Alaska Airlines may not be winning over their top tier elites with the (lack of) new benefits, but they are walking a fine line trying to maintain their loyal customer base, while dangling a little more for their top elites.
What do you make of the new 100K status? How could Alaska Airlines improve it?