Home > Airlines, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta > Trying to find value out of Silver elite status? Look north …

Trying to find value out of Silver elite status? Look north …

A friend of mine recently asked me to explain airline status, and how easy or hard it is to obtain and keep it. He flies mostly domestic on paid tickets, about 30,000 to 35,000 miles per year, and uses miles for international awards. Since most of his trips are for leisure, he’s price sensitive, and will choose whatever the cheapest option is within reason. Since we live in Los Angeles, no airline has a big monopoly on our major airport — on one trip, Delta could be the cheapest ticket, while on another, United could give the best value.

I’ve already gotten him on track for Star Alliance Gold Status with Aegean Airlines. With only 19,000 miles over a period as long as 2 years, it’s fairly simple to achieve. He flew 3 cross-country trips on US Airways in the past year as well as some regional intra-California trips on United, and will reach Star Gold status on his next paid transcontinental in a couple of weeks, meaning that he should have Star Gold status until the end of 2015 (3 years!).

However, his question this past week was if there was anything similar for American and Delta. While there are some random backdoors to Skyteam status (see: 15,000 miles on Vietnam Airlines for Skyteam Elite and 40,000 miles on Middle East Airlines for Skyteam Elite+), they’re not as easy or lucrative as Aegean’s 19,000 for Star Gold.

I told him to check out Alaska Airlines, which is a free-agent when it comes to partners. They’re not part of an alliance, but they partner with Skyteam members like Delta, Air France, KLM, and Korean, as well as OneWorld members like American, British Airways, LAN, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas. They’re not a part of either alliance, but they independently partner with these airlines.

Alaska’s lowest elite level, MVP status, takes 20,000 miles on Alaska metal or 25,000 miles including partner airlines. This is in line with Delta’s Silver Medallion and American’s Gold elite level (actually easier if you fly just Alaska). However, there are some neat benefits, including:

– Complimentary upgrades on Delta Air Lines within the U.S. (excluding Hawaii), Canada, Mexico, and select Caribbean destinations — Seeing as how Alaska members would be below Delta’s Silver Medallion members for upgrades, I wouldn’t count on an upgrade, but it’s still possible.
-Checked Baggage Fee Waiver for first two bags on Alaska Airlines and American Airlines, and for the first checked bag on Delta Air Lines.
– Priority AAccess Check-In and Security Lines at select airports when traveling on American Airlines.
– Preferred Seating on Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines (though no Economy Comfort for free).
50% Bonus Flight Miles on Alaska Airlines, Air France, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, KLM, or LAN — this is actually pretty good, considering that a Delta Silver Medallion or American Gold member would get only 25% on the same flights. At 25,000 miles per year, that’s an extra 6,250 earned redeemable miles.

If you can get to 50,000 miles on Alaska, you get all the above plus:
– 2 bags + Sky Priority check-in/boarding on Delta flights
– Express security lines at certain airports (including our local LAX)
– 100% bonus on flown miles, on par with Delta’s Gold Medallion and American’s Platinum status.
– Benefits on Alaska Airlines, such as free same day standby, and one free premium drink in the main cabin.
Waived cancellation fees: if you book a ticket on Alaska ticket stock, you can cancel for a full credit to your Alaska.com account. Most airlines deduct $100 to $150 off the value of a non-refundable ticket if you cancel … this is pretty huge.

MVP status can be attained with 25,000 miles with partner airlines, or 20,000 miles just on Alaska Airlines. That means that flying 5,000 on Alaska Airlines, 10,000 on Delta, and 10,000 on American would be enough for low-tier benefits. If you credited those amounts to American AAdvantage or Delta Skymiles, it wouldn’t be enough for any status. Double these numbers and you get MVP Gold, which has some decent benefits if you actually fly on Alaska Airlines.

What’s important to note is what this status doesn’t include international lounge access, since Alaska isn’t a part of an alliance. However, the Amex Platinum ($450/year, though you do get $200 in airline credits per calendar year, which can come out to only $50/year out of pocket if you time your membership right) allows lounge access at Delta Sky Clubs and American AAdmirals Clubs, and the Priority Pass that comes with it gives you access to Alaska Board Rooms. Boom! Lounge access!

I still think that chasing Silver status isn’t really worth it, considering that most of the benefits can be attained by carrying that airline’s branded credit card. However, I think Alaska’s MVP status is still worth something, considering it’s flexibility and ease of attaining if you’re someone who flies both Delta and American, but not enough for status on either of those airlines.

As for redemptions, Alaska’s program allows you to book only one partner + Alaska Airlines metal for a trip. Even though American Airlines and Cathay Pacific are OneWorld partners, you can’t book them together on an Alaska Airlines award. However, you could Alaska Airlines to the gateway city and then connect to Cathay Pacific. Being in Los Angeles, this is a non-factor, since many airlines already serve LAX, and Alaska Airlines has decent service out of LA to reach other gateway cities if necessary.

Alaska is only a partner of Starwood Preferred Guest, which gives a 5,000 mile bonus for every 20,000 transferred, though like many others, I believe SPG points are more valuable used for hotels. There are ways to build up mileage balances with Bank of America cards (25,000 on first purchase + 15,000 bonus with $7500 spend over 6 months right now) and I’m very interested in seeing what their Emirates chart will look like at the end of the year.

  1. Ananth
    August 20, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    Haha I wish this still a secret. Damn bloggers ruin everything 😛 The program was even better when they had the 1000 mile booking bonus which combined with the fact that R/T was the same as two one ways was incredible. You could do A3 status + Alaska MVP status + Amex Plat and have “elite-lite” status + lounge access across all 4 major US legacies.

    • Amol
      August 20, 2012 at 8:17 pm

      Hah, if it was a secret, it was poorly kept secret at that, but I’m sure the 12 people who read this post will go out and ruin it for the rest of us 😛

  1. November 26, 2012 at 12:01 pm

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