How to Calculate and Earn Elite Miles on Alaska Airlines

It’s April, and for all the travel enthusiasts among us, it’s the most depressing time of the year. It’s the time when all your loyalty programs reset their mileage earning clocks to zero last quarter and you’re starting from scratch. You’re sitting down with a calculator, trying to figure out when you’re going to earn your qualifying miles, which trips will count, and if you might need a mileage run in the future.

Because you’ve got a fresh start in the new year, it’s important to know how to earn Elite Qualifying miles on Alaska Airlines and how they’re calculated, lest you have a nasty surprise at year’s end and you’re stuck a few miles short of your goal. Learning the best way to calculate how many miles you’re earning is the best way to figure out how many miles you need to take stellar rock star vacations like the one we took to the Maldives last year.

Alaska SkyWest First Class E75

Alaska Airlines Mileage Earning Decrypted

Trying to understand the difference between miles flown and elite miles and bonus miles and qualifying miles can be just as confusing for a Gold 75k Elite as a base mileage plan member, so let’s run through the meanings of each of those categories and give some examples to help make things clear.

Flown Miles on Alaska Planes

On Alaska, you’ll earn one mile per actual mile flown. If your flight is shorter than 500 miles, you’ll earn a 500 miles minimum for those legs.

Any economy fare, even the cheap saver fares, will earn 100% mileage credit.

The same does NOT apply to their partners however, and we’ll get into that shortly.

Class of Service Bonus Miles

If you book yourself into a higher class of economy (more expensive fare) or a PAID first class flight, you’ll earn a bonus on top of those 100% miles.

Alaska Elite Earning Alaska Metal

Alaska Elite Earning Alaska Metal

For Alaska Flights, both the base miles AND the bonus miles count toward elite status. If you book into an M or B class economy fare, you’ll earn a 25% bonus.  Get stuck in a super high Y or S economy fare and you’ll earn a 50% bonus.

If you book into a paid first class fair in F or P class you’ll earn those 100% miles AND another 75% bonus on top of that.

Let’s use a sample route from Seattle to Phoenix. The route covers 1,106 miles. No matter what economy fare you book, you’re going to earn at a minimum 1,106 miles.

Book into those M or B fares, and you’ll earn 1,383 miles toward elite status. Y or S fares earn 1,659 miles and paid First Class fares earn 1,936 miles toward elite status.

Alaska First Class Sale

Elite Bonus Miles

Depending on your Elite Status (MVP, MVP Gold, or MVP Gold 75k) you’ll also earn a bonus on your miles flown.

IMPORTANT NOTE. THESE BONUS MILES DO NOT COUNT TOWARD ELITE STATUS.

The miles will add to your overall mileage balance to redeem for awards, but those elite miles do NOT and will NOT count toward your elite qualification.

Using our example from above, a coach flight would earn 1,106 for a base member flying in coach. MVP members (earning 50% bonus) would tack on another 553 miles to their account balance. MVP Gold members (earning 100% bonus) would get an additional 1,106 miles to their account for redemption, and top tier MVP Gold 75k members (earning 125% bonus) would earn another 1,383 miles in their Mileage Plan accounts.

Reduced Earning on Partners

Alaska Airlines has one of the most versatile and expansive partner networks in the industry. It spans across all the three major alliances (SkyTeam, OneWorld, and Star Alliance) and includes independent partners as well such as Emirates and Fiji Airways.

It is very important to note however that the “one mile flown is one mile earned” doesn’t necessarily ring true for partners. Depending on the class of service flown, you might wake up the next day only to realize that you’ve earned a fraction of your flight miles. Here’s a few stark examples.

Lan Alaska Earning

Condor Alaska Flight Earning

Earning on Alaska with American

HUGE Partner Bonus opportunities

Just as you can be punished for flying in cheap coach fares on partners, you can be richly rewarded by flying in paid premium class seating on their partners as well. Depending on the airline, your elite status and class of service, you could earn up to 625% of those flown miles for each flight you take.

This is, it should be noted, one of the easiest ways that we re-qualify as Alaska MVP Gold 75k each year. British Airways often sells their First and Business class tickets at really cheap rates (read here, and here, and here, and here, and here for examples). If you’re earning between 500-600% mileage on each of those flights, you’re coming out ahead.

British Alaska Earning

It should also be noted that those 500-625% are not all elite qualifying miles. For example, on a paid business class fare, you’re earning your 100% base miles plus the 150% class of service bonus for elite status. The highest First Class ticket earns those 100% base miles plus a 200% class of service bonus.

One round trip between Seattle and London (at a distance of 4760 miles) would earn between 23,800 and 28,560 miles toward your elite status, just from one round trip!

Companion Pass Earning

Lastly, I wanted to touch briefly on the Alaska Airlines Companion pass. Every year on account anniversary, if you hold the Bank of America Alaska credit card you’ll earn a companion pass good for a buy-one-get-one free ticket.

Alaska Airlines Companion Fare

Alaska Airlines Companion Fare

Wanna know the extra cool part about that ticket? Even though your companion is paying a drastically reduced cost, you’re both booked into the same fare class, meaning that your companion will earn the same 100% miles that you would! What an awesome way to earn miles and save money at the same time.

Last Word

Making sure that you re-qualify is crucial to your success in achieving your tier next year. It doesn’t have to be rocket science to decode the ins and outs of elite programs, but it can be confusing. Just make sure that you calculate your distance beforehand (using an estimator like the webflyer mileage calculator) so you’re not caught off guard.

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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9 Comments

  1. I guess I’m just being thick here, but I’ve been wondering whether to credit an upcoming trip to Alaska and I was hoping you could help me figure what my elite miles earned would be. My round trip is with BA and is about 11,500 miles total. It was stupid cheap, so it would doubtless be the lowest fare bucket. I currently hold no elite status with Alaska. I’m trying to figure whether I would get 11,500 elite miles or 25% of that since it was the cheapest fare. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

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    • You would earn only ~2,875 miles (25%) if you are correct about your fare class. This applies to both elite-qualifying and redemption miles.

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      • Not good news but I appreciate the response.

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  2. So does that mean the partner “additional bonus” count toward elite status or is it like elite “bonus miles?”

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    • Additional Bonus is just redeemable miles, not elite miles.

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  3. Alaska seems really picky with how they credit the miles. I’ve had a flight on British Airways get credited for flying from the US to London, but then the return on the same ticket was somehow not eligible to be credited. Then I’ve had a flight on American to China count on the way there but then the return wasn’t counted because I was rebooked to avoid a 8+ hour delay due to American’s maintenance issues. I opened a missing credit inquiry and didn’t get anywhere each time.

    So yes there are great redemption and earning opportunities if the stars align correctly, but completely unpredictable in my opinion.

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    • Well, that’s just not the way it is supposed to be. So long as the fare class was valid, you’re good to go. I’d escalate that quickly. There’s no reason for it not to credit.

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    • You should ask for “original routing credit” because you were rebooked by the airline, not because you decided to change flights.

      For the author: the companion ticket is usually Buy One Get One for $99 + taxes I believe. It’s BOGO only the first year.

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      • You’re correct about the first year promo… but if you sign up for a new card every year, you get a new companion pass and the bonus every year 🙂

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