Alaska Airlines and Virgin America sent out reminders yesterday that the Virgin America Elevate program will be discontinued on December 31, 2017. Alaska already announced mid-year that it would be ending Elevate and folding all the Virgin America frequent flyers into its Mileage Plan program. The two carriers have also tried (with some struggle) to provide reciprocal benefits during the year. Now that Elevate will cease to exist, providing a consistent loyalty experience should be easier.
Elevate Points Will Transfer with a 30% Bonus
The one move you should consider before the year ends is transferring your miles from Elevate to Mileage Plan. You can transfer them yourself up until January 31, 2018. After that, all miles will be transferred automatically on February 8, 2018. You will be unable to access your Elevate points between February 1-7, 2018.
Transferring points to Mileage Plan, whether you do it yourself or Alaska does it for you, will include a 30% bonus. That means 1,000 Elevate points will become 1,300 Alaska miles. However, transferring early also means you accept the rules of the Mileage Plan program. That means a different award chart, fees, etc. I happen to think they’re pretty good, but if you are a big fan of the Elevate redemption structure you might want to hold out as long as possible.
Other Changes to Expect with Mileage Plan
There are still significant differences between the Alaska Airlines and Virgin America on-board experiences, which can make it challenging to provide similar loyalty benefits. For example, I think the whole upgrade situation is still screwy.
But both loyalty programs have won numerous awards. While Virgin America probably had the better experience for non-status members, I think Mileage Plan does a better job of rewarding loyalty with perks like complimentary upgrades, more valuable miles, and more partners. (Although Alaska has been shedding a few lately — including Delta, Air France/KLM, and Aeromexico — which worries me.) Here are the benefits I think Elevate members should look forward to the most:
- A distance-based loyalty program that ensures you can earn status and free travel regardless of how much you spent on your ticket. MVP status starts at only 20,000 miles per year.
- Earn miles with a 50% bonus for MVP members, 100% for MVP Gold members, and 125% for MVP Gold 75K members. These are among the highest bonuses in the industry.
- Complimentary first class upgrades with miles, with vouchers, and with premium fares. There are many ways to upgrade your ticket so you never have to travel in coach.
- Customer-friendly policies that don’t nickel and dime. Check your wine and sports equipment for free. Change your ticket without penalty 60 days before departure. MPV Gold members can even cancel on the day of departure.
I’m still a little fuzzy on all the changes happening between Elevate and Mileage Plan, but if you have a question please let me know. I can either answer right away or hunt down a friend at Alaska Airlines to fill in the gaps.