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At the very beginning of this year, Alaska Airlines announced that it would be creating a new top-tier elite status level for the 2022 qualification year but the airline wasn’t forthcoming with any details of what the new status tier would offer or what the qualification requirements would be like. Now, with a little over three months to go before the 2022 qualification year begins, a lot has been revealed.
Alaska Mileage Plan New Top Tier MVP Status
Earning MVP Gold 100K Status
In a move that is very clearly being made to more closely align Alaska Mileage Plan’s elite status levels with the status levels offered by the American Airlines AAdvantage program (now that Alaska Airlines and American Airlines are the best of friends again), the new top-tier elite status level that has just been created will require flyers to earn 100,000 elite qualifying miles in a calendar year (hence the name MVP Gold 100K).
*Qualifying Alaska Airlines flights include AS001-1999, AS2000-2999 (operated by Horizon Air), and AS3300-3499 (operated by SkyWest).
**Minimum Alaska flight segment requirement will change to 6 for MVP Gold and 12 for MVP Gold 75k in 2022.
This news will come as no surprise to anyone who has been paying even the slightest bit of attention to what’s been going on in the time since American Airlines and Alaska Airlines rediscovered their long-lost friendship (and dislike of Delta).
What is more than a little surprising is that while Mileage Plan continues to be the only major US airline loyalty program that doesn’t include a revenue component, it now requires flyers to credit at least 24 segments taken on Alaska Airlines marketed and operated flights to the program before they can earn top-tier MVP Gold 100K status.
Benefits of MVP Gold 100K Status
This is how Alaska Airlines compares the status benefits offered by Mileage Plans’s four elite status levels with the new top-tier benefits listed on the right:
The key differences between MVP Gold 100K and MVP Gold 75K appear to be that the new top-tier offers more bonus points on all bookings, that the new top-tier offers two one-way international upgrade certificates on American Airlines rather than one, and that the new top-tier gives flyers higher upgrade priority on Alaska Airlines flights (and probably American Airlines flights too).
In just about every other aspect, there’s little to separate the two tiers and that may be why Alaska Airlines has said that flyers should “[l]ook for additional MVP Gold 100K perks to be introduced later in 2022, for the 2023 program year“.
It’s great to see Mileage Plan continuing to shun the idea of introducing a revenue component into the program but there are a few things here that will cause some eyebrows to be raised.
Firstly, while no one should be surprised that the new top-tier status requires flyers to earn 100,000 elite qualifying miles in a calendar year, it’s a little surprising to see the airline insisting on flyers earning at least 24 segments on Alaska Airlines marketed and operated flights before they can earn top-tier MVP Gold 100K status. That’s a lot of segments for an airline with a niche catchment area and no long-haul network.
I can only assume that the airline has included this requirement to prevent flyers from earning MVP 100K status without actually sending much revenue into Alaska Airline’s coffers.
Secondly, it’s quite surprising to see that there is so little differentiation between the benefits offered by MVP Gold 75K and MVP Gold 100K.
Both status levels give flyers oneworld Emerald status (a status that I value highly), both can be upgraded from the same fare classes, both can be upgraded from 120 hours before departure (although 100K has a higher waitlist priority), both get 3 free checked bags and both get 4 Alaska Lounge day passes per year.
What this means is that Alaska Airlines is asking flyers to earn an extra 25,000 elite qualifying miles and to fly an extra 12 segments on fares booked with and flown on Alaska Airlines, in order to earn the following:
- 20% more bonus points on flights credited to Mileage Plan
- Higher upgrade priority
- 1 more one-way international upgrade certificate on American Airlines
- A free snack item when sitting in Economy Class
I’m not sure that a lot of people will find these added earnings/benefits tempting enough to make the effort to earn MVP Gold 100K rather than just settling for MVP Gold 75K status.
Compared to the incremental benefits that American Airlines flyers get for earning AAdvantage top-tier status over status one level down (the closest comparison we have to Mileage Plan’s top two tiers), the incremental benefits on offer to those reaching MVP Gold 100K look a little weak.
Yes, admittedly anyone aspiring to earn American’s top-tier elite status will have to earn 6,000 more elite qualifying dollars than someone settling for elite status one level down, but at least there’s clear daylight between American’s top two elite status levels while I don’t think that’s the case with Mileage Plan.
I have to confess that I’m approaching this as someone looking in from the outside – I don’t aim to earn elite status with either Alaska or American and I don’t really care about domestic complimentary upgrades – so that may be causing me to view things differently to someone who’s always flying with Alaska Airlines (I’m happy to hear alternative opinions), but I’m genuinely not very impressed with Alaska’s new MVP Gold 100K elite status as things stand right now.
To me, MVP Gold 75K status looks a lot more inviting – even though the compulsory segment requirement is increasing next year – and I suspect that whatever other benefits Alaska Airlines plans to add to its top-tier elite status in 2022 will have to be pretty good before more people are tempted to aim for anything higher.
Alaska Airlines has now published the qualification criteria for its new (from 2022) top-tier MVP Gold 100K elite status as well as a list of benefits that come with the new status tier and as things stand right now, I’m a little underwhelmed. 100,000 elite qualifying miles and a minimum of 24 segments flown on flights marketed by and operated by Alaska Airlines isn’t a particularly low target for flyers to have to achieve and with MVP Gold 75K already offering some very good benefits indeed, Mileage Plan has some work to do before its new top-tier status looks like a status worth making a serious effort to earn.
What do you think of Alaska’s new MVP Gold 100K elite status?