Rookie

Rookie Wednesday: Is it smart to change to Alaska Air because of #Skymiles2015?

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


RenesPoints Rookie

Welcome to a weekly feature on the Renés Points blog. Each week this series covers in a “rookie” way either a Delta or travel related theme and attempts to break down to a basic level each topic. You can read up on all the previous posts HERE. Now on to this week’s feature.

base atl to lax

Last week, if you were not paying attention, Alaska REALLY smacked Delta in the face by announcing that they are NOT going revenue based next year and will be paying out the same or more points for travel in 2015 and will remain a distance based program (for now). We all know Delta’s program, as far as Skymiles goes, should now be called SkyDollars as the “miles” part of SkyMiles no longer matters after 1JAN2015 – it is all about dollars spent depending on your medallion level (or lack thereof).

So this begs the question, in a rookie way, should we all switch to Alaska and credit our flight “dollars” to Alaska’s program instead since they are a Delta partner? The simple answer, if there is such a thing anymore, is for a leisure traveler with no status with Delta, YES, but it comes with many conditions (I told you nothing is simple now – and this is a lot of info for a rookie post btw). For GM+, talking raw numbers not value, Delta will often still be the best choice most times.

Before I look at some examples, there are reasons why most Delta HUB flyers are going to be stuck choosing Delta metal. The bottom line is that for so many routes Delta has the flights you need or to fly Alaska metal you are talking crazy 2 or 3 leg connections often with an overnight vs a direct Delta flight. Fare class also plays a big factor in earnings as does elite status. Also, if you decide to credit to Alaska for those direct Delta flights you will pay the discounted distance percentage penalty and if you are a Delta elite you will come out ahead with Skymiles. I am valuing 1:1 a Skymile to an Alaska mile and I think just about everyone would agree Alaska miles are worth much more than Skymiles. But that is too much for this rookie post so we will just be going with the 1:1 comparison here.

A quick bit on status matching. If you do find the Alaska network (partnered with AA) does work well for your flying routes then it is VERY simple to get a match. All you have to do is:

1) Send an email to elite.flyer@alaskaair.com and asked for a status match.
2) Provide a screenshot of your elite card from your Fly Delta APP plus a screen shot of your current Delta statement.
3) Scan or photo your drivers license along with your Alaska FF number.

It really is just that simple and you will know just what they are willing to offer you to come over and fly their airline. You can also reach out to them via twitter if you want the same way (via DM clearly so all this is NOT in public). Also keep in mind this will likely be a one shot deal so if you plan to status match later down the road you may want to wait.

So just when is it a good value and choice, even when flying Delta, to credit to Alaska? Take a look at some routes as a NON-Alaska elite:

weekend atl to sea

as atl to sea

In this example with cheap X & V class fare it works out very well to compare (it really does not for most other hub routes). If you wanted to fly a weekend trip to Seattle from Atlanta you would spend $340 BASE with Delta and all in $393. You could find a much cheaper deal just buying Alaska tickets on Alaska air. The math works out this way (note SM = general skymiles member)

Flying Delta
SM – 1700
FO – 2380
GM – 2720
PM – 3060
DM – 3740

Now any of these flyers, if you take the Delta flight, and credit to Alaska, you are earning 2182 miles at this fare class. However, if you pick the Alaska flights over the Delta flights and credit to Alaska you are earning 100% of miles flown so 4364 miles.

This example is the most “perfect” situation and one very skewed and I am freely admitting that. As already talked about, most routes are NOT as good and “all roads going through Seattle” is not going to be the choice most want or an American connection to get a trip done. So let’s look at some others for that same weekend trip in January. For these, I am just talking about flying Delta and crediting the trip to Alaska.

weekend jfk to sea

Another example would be transcon NYC to SEA. Delta has many of these direct flights.Your earnings next year if you credit to Delta will look like this:

Flying Delta
SM – 1480
FO – 2072
GM – 2368
PM – 2664
DM – 3256

And if you choose to credit your trip to Alaska on Delta you are getting 2421 Alaska points. This again is a long haul flight so distance matters. What about a shorter flight. Let’s look at the same weekend from Minneapolis to San Francisco.

weekend msp to sfo

Once again we will compare the Delta earnings vs the crediting to Alaska one.

Flying Delta
SM – 1695
FO – 2373
GM – 2712
PM – 3051
DM – 3729

And finally if we do credit this to Alaska we are simply getting for this low fare class 1589 points.

As you can see, for short trips, and low cost tickets, under many circumstances you are better crediting to Delta even under the new lower Skymiles2015 – that is again taking 1:1 value of points.

Is your head spinning yet? All of this is simply looking at redeemable points value and earnings. We are not talking elite points that do not change next year if we credit to DELTA as a DELTA elite. That, for so many, will be an overriding factor compared to earning a few more spendable points (since you do not spend elite points which just help you get status). If upgrades matters then you will still want to credit to Delta to get those MQMs based on distance.

Another important point for you to consider. As Delta flyers we have to often think CODE SHARE to get full points. Take Korean for example. Book a CODE SHARE you get full points – otherwise not so much. Alaska does not care about CODE SHARE. Fly Delta metal, even if you got the ticket on Alaska.com, you are on the Delta earnings chart.

So is there a way to boil all this down into a simple choices and equation? Yes, mostly. I would choose this way.

  • Choose Delta if you are GM+, care about upgrades and perks & those who spend mid to high numbers on tickets. Also if you can, like me, earn a ton of points from other methods other than flying just credit to Delta and don’t really care how many Skymiles you earn from flying as they are a pittance anyway.
  • Choose Alaska as a Delta flyer if you are a once in a while leisure flyer and are always in coach anyway and pick the cheapest ticket you can find.
  • Choose Alaska if you can fly them as an Alaska elite and their route network works for you. You will just about always earn more points as they are rewarding you for distance and for paying more for a higher fare class.

These are rather simplistic assumptions after looking at the bulk of this post and the real nitty gritty if you want to get the best rewards for you is to look at each and every trip, ticket and route before you buy and choose who you are going to credit your flight to. Lastly we just don’t yet know how simple Delta’s new award page will be. Right now, the Alaska one is very good and works and they have many partners.

I can tell you for myself, I will be looking at each and every flight I book as to what will reward me the most; this is something I would never have done before 2015 as it would always just have been Delta Delta Delta – not anymore kids – René
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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.


Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.

19 Comments

  1. John DELTA Reply

    Rene,

    I think what you’re missing here is what kind of straight up comparison there would be if a person did status match with Alaska Airlines.

    For example what would the benefit be to a Delta Elite medallion who got MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75k with Alaska Airlines?

    I know this is something that we are looking at doing next year; perhaps status matching towards the end of 2015 with Alaska to enjoy the benefits through 2016 for what we have earned on Delta.

    • @John DELTA – This post could have been MUCH longer and I DID touch on the perks IF Alaska can work for you as and Alaska elite. The focus of this was narrow. I do think all of us SHOULD consider and count the cost of switching to Alaska. For some it will be a very good choice! The other big elephant in the room I avoided, but touched on, is that CLEARLY Alaska points have MUCH more value that SkyDollars do. 😉

      • John DELTA Reply

        So, all I am saying is run a couple of examples if a DELTA Gold Medallion got MVP Gold, and maybe another if a Diamond Medallion got MVP Gold 75K.

        There’s where the luggage meets the road!

  2. One thing you forgot is that the Alaska relationship with Delta is probably going to end in the not so distant future. If you fly all Delta, you may have to go back to Delta eventually. You wouldn’t want to get stuck with Alaska for 1-2 years and then have to go back to Delta.

  3. So help me understand something…if I credit my “miles” earned on a Delta flight to Alaska instead of Delta, I would not earn the MQMs with Delta either? I thought miles and MQMs were separate?

    • @Mike – if you credit to Alaska you get ALL the points for Alaska. You can not split. One or the other.

  4. Corbett Kroehler Reply

    I’m not a rookie but still benefitted from this post. Thanx! I will use the status match idea for a flight next month SMF-SEA.

  5. Lets say you live is a satellite city (Indy for me). Does it make sense to look at AA or United and do a status match with them?

  6. Well as a Delta Diamond for 2014 I made the switch to Alaska this year and will only be Delta Gold for 2015 and Alaska MVP Gold for 2015.
    Based in San Diego, Alaska does work well for me and I love the usable companion fare and the wife and I went to Hawaii 2 times last year and each one was a FC upgrade for a lower cost. The Alaska upgrade certs are really easy to use and I plan to continue with Alaska going forward.

    Edward

  7. As 2015 Delta Plat or Diamond, can you wait until the end of 2015 to status match and then get 2016 MVP Gold 75 for the entire year even if you would no re-qualify on Delta for 2016?

    I thought it had to concurrent status, but perhaps it can be consecutive?

  8. I have hundreds of thousands of miles built-up on Alaska, and I agree they are on the surface more valuable than Delta miles (because it takes quite a few less to book the same trip, even if flying Delta). However, to book travel with miles on their website, or even trying to do so through their agents on the phone, is a God-awful nightmare using an antiquated search system. You can only search by the EXACT dates you want to fly. If there are mileage plan seats available, you can get them (there rarely are on partner airlines) , but it will never tell you if other dates near those searched have seats available. It takes HOURS to locate a possible flight. Alaska would be great if you could just look at the seats available through a range of dates, but you can’t do it on their website and neither can their agents. They must check day by day by day to see if they can find a seat, just like you do on their website, and again, they never seem to be available on the flights that I want (normally partner airline flights since, as was pointed out, all of their flights go through Seattle which is very inconvenient from Phoenix).

  9. John DELTA Reply

    @EL,

    Yes, you CAN wait until the end of 2015 to status match and then get 2016 MVP Gold 75 (or MVP Gold, based on Alaska’s Status Match Coordinator’s decision) for the entire year even if you would not re-qualify on Delta for 2016.

    We are looking at this an option. We worked hard to get all we got from Delta, but 2015 will be ridiculous to attempt re-qualification with their revenue scheme, so Alaska is probably waiting in the wings for similar actions.

    I flew alongside an Ops Exec at AS a few weeks ago. They have several concerns.

    #1 Alaska is trying to match Delta’s huge growth of Elites in the Pacific Northwest (Battle in Seattle) and SLC. This creates a glut of Alaska Elites where Alaska has no seats to put them in upgrades (they are simply smaller than Delta).

    #2 Alaska is also wary of Delta mutineers after 2015, for the obvious reasons, so their status matches may get closer scrutiny as a result.

    #3 Alaska cannot continue to reward all the Elites from Delta, who have grown [sort of artificially] in the PNW with upgrades; again they just don’t have that many First Class seats to match all the fliers from both programs.

    #4 Alaska is eyeing an alliance with one of the big three (Star Alliance, SkyTeam and oneworld) just to seek some protection under the wings of a larger team of partners. My guess is that it will not be SkyTeam, knowing that Delta wants 30 gates at SEA in five years.

    My 2 cents.

    Also, I wish I had the time to do a comparison (I am currently on a 48K Delta MQM mileage run) but consider this on Alaska’s 2015 Elite Member program:

    – Beginning next year Alaska Mileage Plan will offer its top-tier MVP Gold 75K members a lofty 125 percent bonus on miles flown (butts in the seat) for travel on Alaska and ALL ITS PARTNERS, up from the current 100 percent bonus.

    MVP Gold 75K members will continue to earn an additional 50,000 miles added to their accounts for each year they re-qualify. Factoring both of these bonuses, an MVP Gold 75K member who flies 75,000 miles on Alaska Airlines will earn at least 218,750 award miles!

    Big things my friend, and big differences between Delta’s “rob from the poor and give to the rich” 2015 revenue scheme.

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