I’ve long heard that Alaska Airlines is the most rewarding airline in the States. I decided to dig in to see exactly how rewarding Alaska can be.
Alaska has 4 membership tiers. They are member (what you are after joining), MVP, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K. To reach their 3 elite tiers, you need to meet the qualifications outlined below.
I’m going to take a look at getting to MVP Gold 75K by purely flying on Alaska Airlines. I decided to take a look at two of Alaska’s longest routes from Seattle (its main hub) because I thought this would give me the cheapest prices. I looked at Boston and Anchorage. Searching for flights between Boston and Anchorage, I found that you can often score flights on Alaska Airlines for under 200 dollars (one way).
Flying this path is 3,944 miles. That means it would take 20 one-way flights from Boston to Anchorage to reach the MVP GOLD 75K Alaska Tier. At $400 roundtrip, that would cost you $4,000.
The beauty of Alaska Airlines is that they still award miles based on distance flown and not on the price of your ticket.
It would take 6 one-way flights before you reached the MVP level. In that time you will be earning 1 mile for every mile flown.
6 x 3,944 x 1 = 23,664 Alaska miles
As an MVP member, you get a 50% bonus on your miles flown. It will take you 5 more one-way flights until you reach MVP Gold.
5 x 3,944 x 1.25 = 29,580 Alaska miles
As an MVP Gold member, you get a 100% bonus on your miles flown. It will take you 9 more one-way flights to reach MVP Gold 75k.
9 x 3,944 x 2 = 70,992 Alaska miles
Then, as a bonus for becoming a newly minted Alaska MVP Gold 75k member, they give you 50,000 bonus Alaska miles.
Grand Total: 174,236 Alaska miles
Earned Credit Card Points
I will be using the AMEX Platinum or Business Platinum Card in this example. These cards offer (or will offer soon) an industry leading 5 points per dollar on airfare purchases. I understand that most people do not have either of these cards. I just want to make an extreme point.
$4,000 x 5 = 20,000 American Express Membership Rewards (MR) Points
I value both Alaska miles and Amex MR points at 2 cents at a minimum. If I use the 2 cent figure, this is the reward I would receive for doing this flying.
(174,236 + 20,000) x $0.02 = $3884.72
That would give you a net cost $115.28 in order to receive Alaska MVP Gold 75k status. That status gives you a 125% bonus on miles you receive on future flights with Alaska or their partner airlines, unlimited complimentary upgrades when flying on Alaska or Delta, free main cabin extra seating on American Airlines, and 4 guaranteed First Class upgrades when flying on Alaska Airlines. These are only a few of the benefits that stand out to me; there are plenty more.
This analysis assumed you are starting from scratch in obtaining Alaska status and that you have all of the time in the world to be taking random flights between Boston and Anchorage. I know that’s unrealistic.
Wow! Alaska Airlines really impressed me after digging in to the requirements to get status with them. If I lived somewhere where travel on Alaska would be convenient, I would not consider another airline. Alaska is the only airline left that still reward customers based on distance flown, and on top of that, their miles are the most valuable of all the US airlines (in my opinion).
In this analysis, you would receive enough Alaska miles to fly roundtrip to Asia in Cathay Pacific First Class (one of the best in the world) or Japan Airlines First Class (my favorite) and then still have a good hunk of miles left over. That’s a pretty incredible return on your money. You would not be able to reach top tier status spending only $4,000 with any other US airline, and even if you could, you wouldn’t receive nearly enough miles to fly roundtrip in First Class to anywhere in the world.
I’d love to hear from someone who lives in an Alaska hub. Is Alaska your airline? Why or why not?