March 31 - American and Alaska Announce Elite Benefits
On March 31, Alaska Airlines joined the Oneworld Alliance — the alliance that American Airlines helped found in 1999. Now that Alaska is part of Oneworld, American and Alaska elite members are guaranteed elite benefits when flying on any Oneworld airline.
However, Alaska and American expanded elite benefits beyond the minimum required by the alliance. In November 2020, the two airlines teased that reciprocal upgrades would be added in mid-2021. Now, the two airlines surprised travelers by adding these perks at the end of March.
Here's what you need to know about the reciprocal elite upgrade and seat benefits for Alaska and American elites.
Dec. 11 - Alaska Passengers Can Skip Arrival Screenings with Hawaii Pre-Clear Program
The new Hawaii Pre-Clear program will allow Alaska Airlines passengers flying to the Aloha state to get a pre-screening on the West Coast, instead of waiting in long lines upon arrival for officials to check if travelers meet the state's COVID-19 testing requirements. Alaska passengers will receive an email to upload their COVID-19 test results and fill out the health questionnaire in order to qualify for the pre-screening. Then cleared passengers will get a wristband at check-in or at the gate, so they'll be able to skip the screening upon arriving at a Hawaii airport. The program rolls out to all Alaska flights to Oahu and the Big Island starting Dec. 14, 2020. Currently, Alaska flights to Kauai are suspended because the island has pulled out of the pre-travel testing program and requires a 14-day quarantine for arriving travelers.
Dec. 10 - Alaska Announces Oneworld Elite Status Matching
With Alaska Airlines set to join the Oneworld alliance on March 31, 2021, elite status holders have been waiting for formal announcements on what sort of benefits they can expect from the transition. Alaska has now announced how its elite levels will status match to Oneworld elite status. They are as follows:
Alaska MVP = Oneworld Ruby
Alaska MVP Gold = Oneworld Sapphire
Alaska MVP 75K = Oneworld Emerald
Benefits such as priority check-in, lounge access, preferred boarding, special security lines and baggage benefits will automatically become available to Alaska elites on March 31 on alliance airlines.
Sept. 1 - Last But Not Least, Alaska Joins the Pack, Ditches Change Fees
In a policy change that everyone saw coming, based on United, Delta and American's moves earlier in the week, Alaska Airlines has now also announced they will get rid of change fees. The new policy is pretty simple: Through Dec. 31, 2020, all flights are covered through Alaska's peace of mind waiver related to COVID-19 and already have no change fees. Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, change fees will be eliminated on Main and First Class tickets (Saver tickets are not eligible), for all flights (including international ones). Details on refunds or credits if you change to a cheaper flight will not be immediately available; we will update when more information is released.
July 16 - Alaska Adds Seven More Destinations Out of LAX
Adding to five previously announced new locations earlier this year, Alaska announced today seven new routes allowing Southern California (LAX airport) customers access to new locations by the end of 2020:
Fort Myers, Florida.
Tampa Bay, Florida.
Fares start as low as $39 one way, and you can get more details about routes and timing at Alaska's website.
Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card