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US: Alaska Airlines announces timeline for Virgin America loyalty merger

It's official: after merging Virgin America last year, Alaska Airlines has made short work of the Virgin American brand: Alaska has officially announced the long-expected move of retiring Virgin American's Elevate loyalty program and moving its members to Alaska's Mileage Plan. Our take: Alaska is providing a smooth and generous transition path to a new relationship for loyal Virgin America flyers.
 
By Rick Ferguson
 
As Skift reports, the announcement came via an email to Elevate members that published a timeline for the integration of the two loyalty programs. That timeline provides a reasonable full year for Elevate members to migrate over to Mileage Plan, with specific incentives and milestones spaced out along the way, including:
 
  • A 30% mileage bonus for members who convert now
  • The ability to earn and redeem Elevate points with partners through Fall of 2017
  • Earn and Redeem Elevate points on Virgin America through December 31, 2017
  • Remaining Elevate points converted to Mileage Plan miles in early 2018
According to Grant Martin at Skift, Elevate members should in general be happy with the changeover. Money quote:
 
"The good news for Elevate members is that they have a good loyalty program to look forward to. Alaska Airlines regularly wins awards for its distance-based loyalty program and generous spectrum of partner carriers. So in the end, while Virgin America fans lose an airline, they at least have a loyalty program to brag about."
As we usually do with these stories, we'll check in with the voices of the frequent-flyers over at Boarding Area, who spend more time dissecting airline loyalty programs than medieval monks spent creating illuminated manuscripts. Their take: while some Elevate members are grousing about the exchange rate from Elevate points to Mileage Plan miles, overall the Boarding area is cautiously positive on the upcoming migration. Money quote #2:
 
"Converting Virgin America Elevate points into Alaska Mileage Plan miles can represent a fantastic value. Given the option, I'd absolutely take 1.3 Alaska miles over 1 Virgin America point. However, once you make the transfer, it can’t be undone. That's why you should not convert Virgin America Elevate points into Alaska Mileage Plan miles unless: you have a specific, short term use in mind; [and] you fully understand the differences between Alaska Mileage Plan and Virgin America."
Sounds like good advice to us. In the meantime, kudos to Alaska for providing a lengthy, generous, and smooth transition to the Mileage Plan for Elevate members.
 
Rick Ferguson is CEO and Editor in Chief of the Wise Marketer Group.