Important updates to Alaska’s partnership with American Airlines

Alaska Airlines is growing. Over the past five years alone, Alaska has added over 110 new markets, and with the acquisition of Virgin America late last year, now has more than 1,200 daily flights to 118 destinations across the United States, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and Cuba, plus an extensive portfolio of global partners.

As a result of this growth, Alaska and American Airlines have agreed to make some changes to their partnership beginning Jan. 1, 2018.  American Airlines has been and continues to be a valued partner, and many of the benefits guests have come to enjoy will continue to be available.

What’s not changing

Earn on domestic travel:  You’ll continue to earn Mileage Plan miles on American Airlines flights that are booked thru alaskaair.com that have a flight number starting with airline code “AS”  (In airline lingo, these are called “codeshare” flights).  There are over 1,100 daily American-operated flights sold under Alaska “AS” flight numbers, including a broad range of connections beyond American hubs such as Chicago O’Hare and Dallas/Fort Worth.  All American Airlines flights with an Alaska “AS” flight number earn miles at the Alaska Airlines earn rates, so you’ll never earn less than 1 mile per actual mile flown.  And elite members will continue to earn elite-qualifying miles and elite bonus miles on these flights.

Earn on international travel:  You’ll continue to earn Mileage Plan miles on all American Airlines flights internationally, including flights from the U.S. to Canada and Mexico, at the same rates that you earn on these flights today.  Again, Mileage Plan elite members will continue to earn elite-qualifying miles and elite bonus miles on these flights. International flights will not have an Alaska Airlines flight number – they will all start with airline code “AA” and can be booked at aa.com.

Redemption:  Mileage Plan members will still be able to redeem miles on American Airlines flights both domestically and internationally, to over 300 cities in over 50 countries worldwide.

Lounge access:  Alaska Lounge members will still have access to over 50 Admirals Club lounges when flying on an Alaska or American flight.

So what is changing?

For domestic travel: Starting Jan. 1, 2018, you’ll no longer earn Mileage Plan miles on domestic American Airlines flights that are not marketed by Alaska, which includes all flights numbers beginning with airline code “AA”.  In other words, you will no longer earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles for any domestic flights booked directly with American Airlines. The good news is that Alaska and Virgin America serve 80 percent of the top routes that Mileage Plan members have historically flown and earned miles on with American. What this means for you as a Mileage Plan member depends a bit on the location of your hometown airport:

If you’re in the Pacific Northwest, with a few exceptions, you’ll no longer earn miles on American Airlines flights out of the region.  On alaskaair.com, you’ll be able to find flight options that include a combination of Alaska and eligible American-operated flights to get you where you need to go while earning your Mileage Plan miles.

If you’re in California, Virgin America is an excellent alternative for you to continue earning Mileage Plan miles to key destinations like New York, Boston and Dallas, where American flights will no longer earn Mileage Plan miles.  You can book Virgin America flights at alaskaair.com.

If you’re in other parts of the U.S., you’ll still have lots of eligible American flights with an Alaska “AS” flight number to choose from in and out of Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles and Phoenix.  As always, you can find eligible flights on alaskaair.com.

For elite members:  Starting Jan. 1, you’ll no longer receive priority boarding, free bags, or preferred seating on any flights operated by American Airlines. Remember that you can now receive priority check-in, boarding, and free bags on Virgin America on many of the same routes flown by American, with access to preferred seating and Main Cabin Select upgrades coming later this summer.

Redemption: Some award levels for redemption on American Airlines international flights will be increasing, and off-peak pricing for Central and South America, and Asia will be eliminated.   On the other hand, some premium cabin award levels to Hawaii and within the U.S. will be reduced, providing better-than-ever value to members.  For example, a Business/First class award from the 48 states to Hawaii will go from 47,500 miles one-way to 40,000 miles one-way for flights booked on American Airlines after Jan. 1, 2018.

Despite these changes, the combination of Alaska Airlines’ larger network, portfolio of international partners, and the on-going value that American Airlines provides, remains a fantastic proposition for Mileage Plan members.   For additional details on earn and redemption rates for American Airlines flights now and after Jan. 1, 2018, please visit our American Airlines partnership page.

40 Comments on “Important updates to Alaska’s partnership with American Airlines

  1. I totally understand; with Alaska now the 5th largest airline in the USA, you need to do some of this stuff. Doesn’t mean part of it doesn’t suck, though. Not being able to early board, or get priority seating on AA? Ugh…

    If I might suggest, glad you’re keeping the gates at DAL Maybe you could push an expansion from there like more of the Caribbean and Latin American markets? We always fly AA when we go to the Caribbean (which is almost yearly), but would be glad to fly AS to SJU, SJO, and beyond.

  2. Sad.

    Once upon a time, Mileage Plan was the best in the business. It counted as partners Continental, Northwest, Delta, and American, meaning all of the major carriers except United and Southwest. One could fly almost anywhere on a partner airline.

    Then NW and Delta merged. We still had Delta. Then United and Continental merged, and we lost Continental. Then Alaska invaded Minneapolis, Detroit, Salt Lake and Atlanta (Delta hubs) and Delta responded by invading Seattle from the US, Europe, and Asia. We lost Delta. Now we are losing half of American.

    The loss of American, however, is tempered by the fact that American has been earning only partial mileage for a couple of years now. I was surprised when an HNL/LAX flight earned me only 548 miles last year. I made MVP Gold by a margin of only 200 miles…rather than the 2,000 mile margin I’d anticipated.

    Yes, we have gained lots of new routes out of Seattle. But for my business triangle routes, Alaska and Virgin are pretty useless on Minneapolis to LAX, or Burlington to DCA segments. Mileage Plan is becoming a shadow of it’s former self.

    • Mileage plan still blows every other frequent flyer program out of the water for any us carrier! I am also MVP gold and I travel a lot internationally. I just got 5000 miles for a Condor flight from Frankfurt! They are part of Lufthansa Group and I don’t even qualify for mileage on my SAS Euro Bonus Plan, but I do on Alaska!!! I will be adjusting accordingly. If I’m not benefitting from flying on the “Big 3” cartel, then I will be using Southwest much more because they have reasonably good service and they don’t charge for bags. Also they have a great frequent flyer program as well. I got over 17,000 miles for a return trip to Sydney on QANTAS, but admittedly was a little disappointed with only getting 4800 miles for a trip to South Africa on Emirates.
      And Alaska don’t exactly “invade” these hubs with the addition of 1 or 2 flights each. Delta had its eye on Alaska’s gates in Seattle. Delta turned hostile, and would’ve attempted a hostile takeover of Alaska if they thought they’d have been able to get it past congress.
      Alaska almost always upgrades me to first class and has gone above and beyond to accommodate my travel needs. Alaska is my airline of choice with or without American, and will continue to be. If you really think about it…they’re yours too.

      • I’d agree… Alaska still best choice, with or without American. With the Delta divorce nearly done, I thought I’d be turning to American more often, but with the Alaska expansion, I have not had to… like the update says, 80% of where Alaska peep travel on American is now covered within our own AS system! Internationally, you just play the game… I travel to Europe frequently and bounce now between Icelandic and British Air mostly… keep calm and carry on!

  3. Very disappointing news. Many places I have to fly are ones I can’t get to on AS without connecting in Seattle, which is simply not an acceptable connecting city.

  4. What about those with pre-booked travel for next year on AA? You did a nice job with the DL divorce by honoring miles for stuff booked before the announcement. What about AA? Will our preferred seats hold, and can we submit those for mileage credit?

    • Hi Chris – if you’ve booked an American marketed and operated flight prior to July 6, 2017 for travel in 2018, you’ll still be able to earn miles. Just submit a mileage credit request after your flight. As an elite member, if you book on American this year and select a preferred seat for a flight in 2018, it will still hold.

  5. Agreed it is sad – I do have a question – I read somewhere if you are elite status with Alaska you get 50% off priority seat charges on American – is that true and will that too disappear in January?

  6. What about flights that are already booked on AA and paid for prior to this July notification. Will you still honor these bookings for mileage accrual?

  7. It is sad but they are a for profit business and with all the mergers taking place, what business wouldn’t want to encourage customers to fly their airlines when those cities have either AK or Virgin available. I still think AK Air is the best airlines to fly mostly because of their mileage plan and their customer service.

  8. So, we have plans to Fly American to Sydney in October 2018. Is it true that I won’t be able to get miles for that long flight? I am very sad!!!!

    • Hi Marjorie – there are no changes to earning on international travel. You’ll continue to earn Mileage Plan miles on all American international flights at the same rates you earn on these flights today.

      • Caitlin,

        I quick question regarding earning miles while flying international. We fly to the Caribbean a fair bit on AA, the flights are Seattle to Mia and Mia to wherever… in this situation, where Alaska does not fly into Mia would we only get credit for the Mia to Caribbean leg or do we get credit for the whole trip?

      • Hi Shawn – after January 1, the domestic segment within international itineraries are not eligible for mileage accrual. With your example, the Seattle-Miami segment would not be eligible, but Miami to the Caribbean would be eligible.

  9. What happens to flights already booked and paid for on aa.com?

      • Thank you for your response. Another example of why Alaska is great and all the others are so bad.

  10. Very sad to hear this. American consistently offers great service and schedules.

  11. I am a loyal Alaska Airlines customer who lives on the East Coast. AS or Virginia don’t have North/South flights or short hauls from the east to connect with Alaskan flights in the Midwest. Still my favorite airlines but this change will hurt.

  12. Alaska Airlines, thanks for being upfront as always with changes. I’m excited for all the new travel options with Virgin Air! I ❤️ Alaska Airlines!!!

  13. Makes perfect business sense from both airlines’ perspectives as they continue to become more competitive through Alaska’s growth. Will probably end altogether at some point as with others that have been mentioned. Have flown American numerous times throughout the years and have never had a particularly good experience so I generally avoid it anyway.

  14. What about AA domestic segments that are part of an international trip? Say for example you book AA for SEA-DFW-SCL? Would you only earn Alaska miles for the Dallas-Santiago flight, or would you earn miles for the entire trip since the Seattle-Dallas segment is part of an international itinerary, and not strictly a “domestic” trip?

    • Hi Jim – after January 1, the domestic segments within international itineraries are not eligible for mileage accrual. To use your example, Seattle-Dallas/Forth Worth would not be eligible and Dallas/Fort Worth-Santiago would be eligible.

      • Caitlin, forgive me if I am misunderstanding you, but some of the things you’re saying seem to be contrary to what is posted in the blog above. You have said that domestic flights on AA will no longer accrue MP miles on AS, but that international flight on AA *will* continue as before. But what about the first paragraph above under the heading, “What’s Not Changing” —

        /\/\/\/\/\
        Earn on domestic travel: You’ll continue to earn Mileage Plan miles on American Airlines flights that are booked thru alaskaair.com that have a flight number starting with airline code “AS” (In airline lingo, these are called “codeshare” flights).
        /\/\/\/\/\

        If I book a flight through the Alaska website but it happened to be on AA metal but with an AS flight number, do I or do I not get credit? And if that codeshare flight is the first leg of an international itinerary, would I not receive credit for the entire flight, not just the international leg?

      • Hi Jason – flights booked on alaskaair.com with an Alaska flight number, operated by American, are eligible to earn Mileage Plan miles after January 1, 2018. If you book such a flight that you combine with an American Airlines marketed and operated international flight, you will earn miles for the whole thing. However, you can’t book American Airlines international flights on alaskaair.com unless for award redemption, so you’d need to book these as two separate flights, either partially on alaskaair.com and partially on aa.com, or potentially via an online travel site like Expedia or Orbitz.

  15. Another question, what about International itineraries. It’s clear that the Int’l leg gets miles, but what about the domestic leg as part of an int’l itin? E.g., SFO-ORD-LHR, will only ORD-LHR get AS miles, or will the whole ticket SFO-ORD-LHR get miles?

    Could get messy if we have to split credit — SFO-ORD to AA and ORD-LHR to AS.

    • After January 1, the domestic segments within international itineraries are not eligible for mileage accrual. In your example, San Francisco-Chicago would not be eligible and Chicago-London Heathrow would be eligible.

  16. Just flew RDU-LAX-PDX and had to go on American for the RDU-LAX segment. I prefer Alaska Airlines over any other carrier. Mileage Plan is awesome.

  17. Alaska has continually outperformed AA on every flight I’ve taken. In the past, I noted the significant difference in flight crews, ticketing agents and even baggage handlers between the two airlines. Fortunately, commuting out of Alaska, most flights originating from Alaska or returning to Alaska are via Alaska Airlines. For me with the addition of Virgin, it may be possible to eliminate AA altogether. Thanks for the update and helping loyal AkAL passengers be prepared.

  18. Before this announcement we booked a trip to , May 2018. The first leg is a Portland to Charlotte flight. Will I need to submit a mileage request form or will the entire trip be considered international? I tried to book this on Alaska. I was sent me to award travel only. There were not good flight options available. I then went directly to AA to book. I hope there will be better options for travel to the East Coast from Portland. Thank you Jana

    • Hi Jana – we will honor this itinerary since it was booked before July 6, 2017. After your trip, please fill out a mileage credit request for your Portland-Charlotte segment. Mileage for the international segments will automatically post to your account. For future bookings, the domestic segments within international itineraries are not eligible for mileage accrual.

  19. So, if “Starting Jan. 1, you’ll no longer receive priority boarding, free bags, or preferred seating on any flights operated by American Airlines.” Will that work the other way around? As in, American Airlines status customers will no longer receive priority boarding on Alaska Airlines flights?

  20. While this change is a setback, Mileage Plan is by far the best airline loyalty program in the US. I’d much rather lose benefits on AA, than have Mileage Plan switch to a revenue-based model for accrual. Keep up the great work and you’ll continue to have a loyal following.

  21. Question 1:

    “Starting Jan. 1, you’ll no longer receive priority boarding, free bags, or preferred seating on any flights operated by American Airlines.” So Alaska Airlines will not honor its baggage policies for Club 49 members or Visa Signature cardholders for flights purchased from AlaskaAir.com and operated by American Airlines? Is that correct?

    Question 2:

    Last summer, I purchased a ticket through AlaskaAir.com for a flight operated between SEA-LAX. The flight was operated by American Airlines. I did not receive mileage plan credit for this flight. When I contacted customer service for mileage credit, I was told it was correct that mileage was not awarded for flights purchased through AlaskaAir.com and operated by American. The above article leads me to believe I should have been given mileage credit for that flight? I was close to MVP last year, so the credit would have helped; I made MVP in April this year. So, should I have received mileage plan credit for this flight?

    Thank you for your efforts to communicate mileage plan changes in a timely manner. And thank you in advance for answering my questions.

  22. This update is wonderfully written – clear, direct and understandable. Kudos for your customer communications.

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