This almost never happens, but with a week until Christmas, I shall count my blessings. If you have a bank of Alaska or Virgin miles, both became more valuable overnight, depending on how you plan to redeem them.
Back-tracking for a second, Alaska Airlines is acquiring and merging with San Francisco based Virgin America. This means that you will have added reciprocity in the coming months. Most recently announced is the transfer ratio of Virgin miles to Alaska. Starting January 9th, 2017, one Virgin “Elevate” mile will convert to 1.3 Alaska Air “Mileage Plan” miles. So 1,000 Elevate mile nets you 1,300 Mileage Plan miles.
Why is this is a big deal?
While your 1:1.3 transfer rate from Virgin to Alaska was announced, Alaska Air simultaneously published an IMPROVED domestic award chart. You can now fly one-way for just 5,000 Mileage Plan miles on flights under 700 miles. This means travel between The Bay Area and Seattle will run you just 5,000 miles. (Previously 12,500) For travel between Orange County, CA and San Jose, CA, you’d previously need 7,500 miles one-way, but now it will run you only 5,000 miles.
Let’s say you have a bunch of Virgin Elevate miles sitting around, this merger increases both the value of your miles and opens up new routing. You’ll need only 7,700 Virgin Elevate miles (transferred to Alaska at 1:1.3) for a round-trip from San Jose to Seattle or Portland. The cheapest non-stop round-trip flight from San Jose to Seattle in January is showing $177. If you redeem 7,700 Virgin Elevate Miles for that $177 ticket, you’d be redeeming at 2.3 cents per point. That is pretty good for domestic travel in economy.
More good news for Virgin Elevate flyers who now hold status. Starting January 9th, 2017 you’ll automatically matched to the corresponding Alaska Air status! The Alaska and Virgin merger is pushing them up the rank to become the 5th largest airline in the country. You can read about the perks and benefits of MVP, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75k status, here.
In other news
This is a major deal, or deal-breaker, Alaska and Delta will be ending their partnership on April 30th, 2017. This means no more codeshare flights, which was a huge benefit when redeeming your Delta SkyMiles. Thanks to my Delta SkyMiles, I am taking a Korean Air flight from ICN > SEA > PHX next Spring. My last leg home from SEA to PHX is on an AS, which just so happens to be a new 737-900. Sadly, this code sharing won’t be continuing after April 30th. My only options on Delta metal between SEA and PHX moving forward will be; 717, E175, CRJ-700. All these planes are smaller regional jets and not super comfortable for the 2:45hr flight.
Perhaps you have status or miles with Virgin, this announcement is great news for you. If you have miles with Alaska and you plan to use them for short-haul West Coast flights, their new award chart now very beneficial for you. Now, if you have Delta SkyMiles and benefit from their current partnership with Alaska Air, the news of the ending partnership is not good for you.