The integration between Alaska Airlines and Virgin America has been going on since December of last year. That was when the Department of Justice approved the deal and the purchase of Virgin America closed. Alaska started the combining process with surprising swiftness, offering customers on both airlines cross benefits days after the announcement. On December 19th, 2016 members of both Virgin America Elevate and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan started receiving reciprocal benefits such as earning mileage credit and priority check-in and boarding on each other’s flights.
Alaska Airlines continued to offer generous benefits after the first of the year and on into the spring. Virgin America Elevate members with silver and gold standing were automatically granted equivalent status on Alaska Airlines. Alaska Airlines was quick to offer Virgin America Elevate members benefits into Alaska’s Mileage Plan because Alaska wanted to keep those loyal customers that they had paid so dearly for. In the end, they (Alaska Airlines) would also be dissolving the Virgin America brand, and so showering the newly acquired Elevate elite members with extra benefits was the adopted strategy.
One problem with this approach has been the slow adoption of elite benefits for Alaska Airline Mileage Plan members when flying on Virgin America. The slow adoption has irritated loyal Mileage Plan members, and often their gripes would be posted and discussed on Flyertalk and other customer outlets. In March Virgin America, did offer Alaska Airline elites free bags on their flights. This was one gripe addressed, but Alaska Mileage Plan members still haven’t been able to upgrade to Main Cabin Select or buy close in upgrades to Virgin America First Class like their Elevate counterparts. This issue has finally been addressed, and on August 30th of last week Alaska Airlines announced the following changes.
From Alaska Airlines Blog Site
From the Alaska Airlines blog page:
“Alaska Mileage Plan MVP, MVP Gold and Gold 75K members now receive enhanced elite benefits on Virgin America flights, putting Alaska flyers on par with its Elevate elite-level flyers.
New benefits include complimentary access to preferred main cabin seating, complimentary Main Cabin Select upgrades and access to advance purchase First Class upgrades. Mileage Plan Gold and Gold 75K members also receive waived changed fees when traveling on Virgin America flights.”
The new Mileage Plan elite benefits with Virgin America:
1. Alaska Airline Mileage Plan MVP, MVP Gold, and Gold 75K’s are grated access to preferred main cabin seats on Virgin America at the time of booking. This mirrors Elevate Silver and Gold benefits.
2. Alaska Airline Mileage Plan MVP members now receive free upgrades to Main Cabin Select seats 12 hours before departure, and MVP Gold and Gold 75K’s 24 hours before departure. Inventory dependent. Again, all this mirrors Elevate elite benefits.
3. Alaska Airline Mileage Plan MVP members can purchase discounted first class upgrades at 12 hours before departure. MVP Gold and Gold 75K’s at 24 hours before departure. The same benefit has always been in place for Elevate elite members.
4. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan MVP Gold and Gold 75K’s are eligible for waved change fees for flights booked with Virgin America. This now matches the Virgin America Elevate elite benefits.
Alaska Airlines has announced and promised these benefits since last spring, and taken most of the summer to put them in place. Why did it take Alaska Airlines more time to put these benefits in place for their own Mileage Plan members? There are probably a couple reasons. First it wasn’t as easy as instituting the other benefits, like priority boarding which can be dictated through a company communication. These new benefits require modifications across both frequent flyer computer systems so that customer data can be shared and correctly processed. Second, it wasn’t as important as keeping those expensive new Virgin America customers happy.
Regardless, the changes are now in place, and Alaska Mileage Plan elite members finally have equal treatment with Virgin America.