I've been a loyal Alaska Airlines (AS) flyer for almost 20 years, dating back to when my home airport was SEA. Since leaving the Puget Sound area about 10 years ago, I kept my account active though their various airline partners. Now, with the acquisition of Virgin America, things are getting more a bit tricky for folks living outside Alaska's west coast turf. Two main factors will make it difficult to continue to earn miles and status on AS in places still not served by them like my current home airport CMH. Currently the closest airport served by AS is about a 3-hour drive away (IND).
- In June 2017, the partnership with DL ended (we saw that coming a couple years back). I enjoyed flying with DL, but when that ended, I moved virtually all my flights to AA so I could still earn my AS miles.
- Beginning January 2018, domestic flights on AA will no longer earn miles (unless booked through AS)
- Some code share flights will earn miles (e.g. CMH-LAX)
- Likewise, flights operated by AA that connect to an AS flight will count (CMH-ORD on AA followed by ORD-SEA on AS. Both segments would earn miles). Anything booked directly with AA won't count (like DFW, CLT, ORD, PHX, or any destination that pairs two AA flights). Essentially that restricts me to flying west of SLC and even then it probably means 2 stops (connecting in both ORD and SEA). I haven't found any options to fly to east coast cities served by AS without connecting in PDX or SEA (not that I want to do that from the Midwest).
I still keep an active UA frequent flyer account, and with the RewardsPlus partnership, I've got Silver status thanks to being Marriott Platinum. On AS, I've managed to fly enough miles or segments the last couple years to earn MVP Gold. I'll renew for 2018, but currently don't see any way to continue beyond that.
Moving forward, I'm faced with a few options.
- Try to book as much as possible through the AS website so as to earn miles on AS
- Switch much of my flying over to UA and take advantage of the Silver status (this probably makes sense for destinations in the eastern two-thirds of the country)
- Fly whichever airline is cheapest and not earn miles (AA, DL, and WN all have a decent presence at CMH)
- Join the frequent flyer program for whichever airline I end up flying to earn whatever miles I can, but don't worry about gaining status on any of them
By the time 2017 is done, I'll have flown just shy of 50,000 miles. That's a busy year for me, but not by much. Splitting that among several airlines virtually assures not getting status. Sticking with one airline might put me at their middle tier, depending on what other criteria are needed (miles, segments, dollars). As none of my travel is business, I try to keep costs low (maybe not the cheapest fare) but I do look for the best deal (I can't imagine ever wanting to fly Basic Economy, though). I might fly enough qualifying segments or miles, but probably not reach the qualifying dollar threshold.
So, what can a frequent, relatively bargain-conscious, leisure traveler in my situation do? I'll be flying just as much in 2018, the question is on which airline(s). Any thoughts on which of my 4 options is best? Perhaps there is something else I haven't considered. If so, please chime in. Insiders are bound to have suggestions.