Alaska Airlines revamps status match with challenge

Alaska Airlines has long had one of the most generous status match programs, awarding automatic elite status matches even to their top tier MVP Gold 75K.  All you had to do was furnish proof of your existing elite status with another airline, and Alaska would match you without question.  But effective today, Alaska is revamping their status match program into a status challenge, meaning that you'll not only need to provide evidence of elite status with another airline, but also fly a defined number of miles with Alaska within 3 months of being matched, which is a similar methodology to what United and Delta offer for their status challenges.

Status challenge requirements

Alaska Airlines has 3 elite benefit tiers:

Bottom-tier elites from other airlines, such as AAdvantage Gold, United Premier Silver, and Delta Silver Medallion, are matched to MVP, mid-tier elites (AAdvantage Platinum, Premier Gold, Delta Gold, etc.) to MVP Gold, and upper-tier elites (AAdvantage Platinum Pro, Premier Platinum, Delta Platinum, etc.) to MVP Gold 75K.  With the new challenge, the following requirements will come into play:

  • You will be awarded the status match automatically for 3 months
  • In order to maintain the status beyond that you need to earn the following elite miles exclusively through travel on Alaska within that 3 months (travel on partner airlines doesn’t qualify):
    • You  need to earn 5,000 elite miles to maintain MVP status
    • You need to earn 10,000 elite miles to maintain MVP Gold status
    • You need to earn 20,000 elite miles to maintain MVP Gold 75K status
  • If your status is matched between October 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020 and the flight requirement is met during the initial three-month period, you will keep your status through the end of 2020
  • If your status is matched between July 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020 and the flight requirement is met during the initial three-month period, you will keep your status through the end of 2021
So if you were to apply for a status match today and met the requirements, you'd retain Alaska MVP through the end of 2020 for just over a year of elite status.  But if you waited until July 1, 2020, you could retain Alaska MVP through the end of 2021 for almost a year and a half of elite status.  It should also be noted that a member may only receive one status match for the lifetime of their account, so you won't be eligible for this status challenge if you've applied for a status match in the past with Alaska.

How to request an Alaska Airlines status challenge

Alaska has a dedicated website for their new status challenge program, where you can request a status challenge.  The terms and conditions state to allow up to four weeks for verification of your status match challenge request and approval, and the challenge is now only available to legal residents of the U.S. and Canada.

Benefits of Alaska MVP elite status

Alaska is one of the only carriers that still issues award miles based on actual traveled distance, and they have an excellent elite status program with the following notable benefits:

The waived ticket change fees for MVP Gold and 75K is an industry exclusive, along with 2 free checked bag for bottom-tier MVPs.  But perhaps what's best about their program is their generous partner award charts, which include the likes of Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Hainan to Asia:

50k Alaska miles in business class to pretty much anywhere in Asia that Hainan and Cathay Pacific flies to is hands down one of the best redemption values in the industry, and 70k for Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines first class is an absolute steal.  Alaska also has a really intuitive award chart tool for their partner awards.

Redeem 70k Alaska miles for first class to anywhere Cathay Pacific flies between the U.S. and Asia

Bottom line

It is sad to see Alaska Airlines deal away with their once legendary "no strings attached" status match program.  Their new status challenge program puts them in line with the programs offered by the likes of United and Delta, and may have been their method of "normalizing" status matching.  Still, Alaska Mileage Plan remains one of the best airline programs out there with excellent benefits and redemption rates, so applying for a status challenge is a good opportunity if you can meet the retention thresholds.



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