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Yesterday, I looked at how you can earn a huge amount of Alaska Mileage Plan Miles by crediting your BA flights to Mileage Plan, rather than sticking with BA Executive Club (BAEC). Alaska Miles are worth substantially more than BA Avios too, so Mileage Plan seems like a great option, but there’s an additional element we need to consider – elite status.
Many frequent flyers manage to simultaneously hate BA and love BAEC elite status (it’s an interesting psychological phenomenon…), so wouldn’t be at all keen on giving up their shiny BA cards just to earn a few more Miles. Before we get onto the relative pros and cons though, let’s compare how to qualify as an Alaska elite vs qualifying as a BAEC elite.
Note that in all the examples here I’m focusing on actual British Airways flights – it could be perfectly sensible to credit Qatar Airways flights (for example) to BAEC, at the same time as crediting BA flights to Alaska – but that’s a separate matter.
Getting elite status
- Bronze = 300 Tier Points
- Silver = 600 Tier Points
- Gold = 1,500 Tier Points
Oddly enough, the most efficient way to get status with BAEC is usually to fly with partner airlines like Qatar Airways that require a stopover (unless you’re actually flying to Doha itself of course!), because of the way BAEC calculates Tier Points based on the number of flights, as well as the distance and class of travel.
We’re concentrating on British Airways flights here though, so let’s use the example from yesterday of Inverness to San Francisco in First Class (currently available in the BA sale for £1,840 return).
If you took a return trip from Inverness to San Francisco (via Heathrow), you would earn a total of 500 TPs – way more than enough for Bronze status and well on the way to Silver.
Complete two of the above returns (or similar) and you’ll get 1,000, easily enough for Silver.
Complete 3 of these return trips and you’ll be on 1,500 – just enough for Gold.
- MVP = 25,000 miles
- MVP Gold = 50,000 miles
- MVP Gold 75k = 90,000 miles
When you credit BA flights to Alaska, the number of elite qualifying miles (as distinct from redeemable Miles) you earn is made up of the base miles (actual distance flown) and the class of service bonus, as shown below:
For the Inverness – San Francisco (via Heathrow) example above then (in discounted First Class – fare bucket ‘A), you would earn just over 29,000 elite miles for each roundtrip (GCMap is useful to roughly calculate flight distances), netting you MVP status (25,000 miles) after 1 return.
Two return trips would therefore get you ~58,000 elite miles, easily enough for Alaska’s MVP Gold status (50,000 miles).
Three returns would get you 87,000, very nearly enough for MVP Gold 75k.
In other words, earning each status level (in this example at least) requires a pretty similar amount of flying.
There is an important caveat to be made here though – if you tend to fly ‘long’ long haul flights direct on BA, then status with Alaska Mileage Plan might work out a little easier than with BAEC; but if you tend to fly ex-EU for your BA long hauls (or connect from the regions), or fly relatively ‘short’ long haul flights, BAEC status will likely be easier for you to achieve.
Alaska Mileage Plan has a very generous status matching policy, if you happen to have elite status with a North American carrier. Unfortunately, BAEC isn’t listed as an eligible option to match from, but there’s certainly no harm in firing off a quick email to ask: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you were lucky enough to receive free American AAdvantage elite status this week, matching to Alaska could be a great idea.
Everyone’s circumstances are different, so what you personally value most from elite status might well vary, but I would suggest that, in broad terms, the most valuable perks are Lounge access and bonus Avios/Miles.
Alaska isn’t part of oneworld and therefore doesn’t offer anything like the same Lounge access globally that BAEC elites are used to. That might not be such a big issue though for two reasons:
- When flying BA (apart from domestic), MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75k members can access the BA Galleries Lounges at Heathrow Terminals 3 + 5. You can also bring a guest. There are similar arrangements in place (but with more options) when flying Hainan, Qantas or Icelandair; and you can, of course, access Alaska lounges (and AA ones too).
- Most BA outstation lounges aren’t much to write home about anyway, so could be swapped for a Priority Pass lounge or just buying a drink/snack at the airport bars/restaurants (or arriving at the airport later!). Yes, there’s a cost involved there – but how many times a year do you actually want a drink/snack before flying BA Economy from outside Heathrow? If it’s a lot, consider spending ~£250 on an unlimited Priority Pass (or even better, get the Amex Platinum card), but if it’s not that often, just buy lounge access when you need it, or pay for a coffee somewhere (probably) nicer instead. The point is, Lounge access is nice, but most people will not realistically lose huge value here.
BA Bronze gets you 25% more Avios on BA and a limited range of partners (Iberia, AA and JAL). Alaska MVP status gets you a 50% bonus on almost all of its broad range of partner airlines, including BA.
BA Silver status gets you a 50% bonus, whilst MVP Gold offers 100%.
BA Gold status gets you a 100% bonus, but Alaska MVP Gold 75K gets you a 125% bonus. Not only that, Alaska hands out 50,000 miles for free, every time you qualify for MVP Gold 75K!
Given that Alaska offers substantially better earning rates than BAEC for BA flights regardless of status too, a MVP Gold 75K member would earn a, frankly ludicrous, 575% of flown Miles on BA’s cheapest First Class fares. A BA Gold member would earn ‘just’ 350%.
Alaska Miles are (conservatively) worth at least 50% more than Avios too.
For every mile a BA Gold flies in discount FIrst Class, they earn 3.5 Avios if they credit the flight to BAEC – worth about 3.5p. A MVP Gold 75k on exactly the same flight, crediting to Alaska, would earn 5.75 Miles per mile flown – worth about 9p.
In value terms, the Alaska member is getting back almost 3 times as much as the BAEC member on these sort of tickets. If you’re flying enough to earn either BAEC Gold or MVP Gold 75k, that’s a value difference that cannot be ignored.
Take a look at the numbers:
If you credited the flights (INV-LHR-SFO/ SFO-LHR-INV) to British Airways Executive Club, a BAEC Gold member would earn about 40,700 Avios. I generally value Avios as being worth 1p each, so that’s ~£470 back.
If a MVP Gold 75k credited the flights to Alaska Mileage Plan instead, they would earn about 66,800 Alaska Miles. I value Alaska Miles at roughly 1.5p-1.8p each, so would suggest that 66,800 are worth ~ £1,100.
(Remember, you only need 42,500 Alaska Miles to fly Business Class on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong one-way with no ‘surcharges’. There are lots of other amazing redemption options too, some of which I covered here.)
Arguably, you could add on another ~16,000 bonus redeemable Miles from the flight too. Why? Because these discount First fares earn 250% of flown miles as elite qualifying miles – which in this example means 29,000 elite qualifying miles. Requalifying for MVP Gold 75k status requires 90,000 elite qualifying miles, so this flight would get you almost a third of the way there.
When you qualify or re-qualify for MVP Gold 75k, you get 50,000 bonus redeemable Miles to spend. If this flight gets you (roughly) a third of the way towards re-qualifying (and you do intend to re-qualify), then it’s reasonable to include the relevant share of the 50,000 bonus Miles into the redeemable earnings from that flight.
Putting it all together (assuming you were an MVP Gold 75k who was going to use the flight to help re-qualify), you could view the flights described above as earning you ~82,800 redeemable Miles, worth ~£1,360. Compare and contrast that with the BA Gold who would get ~£470 back in value from the same flights.
The difference in the value of the Avios/Miles earned is enormous – and I think you do have to take that into account when comparing the value of earning elite status via BA flights with either programme.
I should point out that there are other benefits to Silver and Gold status with BAEC that I haven’t mentioned here. The value you get from those benefits will depend on your own personal travel pattern, of course, but it could well be worth doing some quick sums to check whether you might be better off crediting BA flights to Alaska.
Crediting your BA flights to BAEC rather than Alaska Mileage Plan could be costing you thousands in ‘value’ in terms of Miles earned each year. You’d have to use a lot of free seat selections and extra checked bags to get similar value out of BAEC status…