Five Things to Know About Alaska and Virgin America Becoming One

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Alaska Airlines has now officially acquired Virgin America to become the country’s 5th largest airline and we are now starting to learn a bit more about how their new “Different Works” pairing will work.

1. Earn Miles on Both Alaska and Virgin America Flights Starting Monday

Starting Monday, December 19th, Mileage Plan members will be able to earn miles on Virgin America flights, and Virgin America Elevate members will be able to earn points on Alaska Airlines flights.

2. Enjoy Some Reciprocal Elite Benefits Beginning Monday

Also starting on Monday, both airlines’ elite members will receive priority check-in and priority boarding on each other’s flights. Additionally, starting December 19th, customers will be able to purchase Virgin America tickets at alaskaair.com. Tickets will continue to be available for sale at virginamerica.com for the immediate future.

They are said to be “working quickly” on a broader range of reciprocal elite benefits to both Elevate and Mileage Plan members across Virgin America and Alaska flights.

Perhaps reciprocal upgrades will come soon.

Perhaps reciprocal upgrades will come soon.

3. Virgin America Members Encouraged to Activate New Mileage Plan Accounts on January 9th

Beginning January 9, Virgin America Elevate members will be invited by Alaska Airlines to activate new Mileage Plan accounts. This will allow them to also earn Mileage Plan miles when flying with Alaska and any of Alaska’s partners.

At that time more info is also expected regarding how Virgin America Elevate points can eventually be used to book award travel on Alaska and its partners and how Alaska Mileage Plan members can redeem Mileage Plan miles for Virgin America flights.

4. Decision Regarding Virgin America Brand Expected in Early 2017

No decisions regarding the Virgin America brand have been made as of yet. Alaska plans to continue to operate the Virgin America fleet with its current name and product for at least a period of time with a decision likely to come in early 2017.

5. No Word on Mileage Transfers Between Programs

For all the things we do know, some big questions are not yet answered on Day 1. Namely, what will the transfer ratio be between Virgin America and Alaska, assuming they enable that action. I highly doubt it would be at a 1:1 ratio as Virgin America miles are generally a bit more valuable than Alaska miles, but only time will tell.

I do like that they are touting Alaska Mileage Plan members’s ability to earn miles based on distance flown rather than on dollars spent in the acquisition press release, as that will hopefully stick around in the years to come as a big differentiator from the other major US carriers’ loyalty programs.

Even if you don’t care too much about any of that you can still enter to win one of 600 pairs of tickets to their 100+ destinations on their new Different Works site.

What do you hope to see from a combined Alaska and Virgin America?

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