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Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Awards Fails Frequent Flyers

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Awards Fails Frequent Flyers

Old Jan 14, 18, 8:42 am
  #16  
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Originally Posted by mrapollinax View Post
I feel that the before the AA changes the midwest was serviceable. The 2018 version of MP has become a West Coast centric program for the most part...
Yes. Unfortunately the change reduces the chances of people in the east and midwest choosing AS when it made sense. Travelers outside the Pacific corridor who in 2017 might have prioritized their MP account and given AS 30% of their business will, in 2018, probably give AA or DL 100% of their business. Not sure how that's a win for AS now that the merged airline has lots more ASMs to sell.

But:

Originally Posted by channa View Post
I suspect AA has been paying AS quite a bit in earned miles because of this and wants to reduce this expense... I don't think they liked the idea of AS being a surrogate program for its customers.
Nail --> head. At the end of the day, the last mileage-based FF program does not sync with any revenue-based program without hurting both parties. AS got a bunch of elites who mostly flew the competition, and AA and DL had the problems channa cites.

But I think AS' growing isolation is a serious strategic problem for a suddenly larger airline that has true utility for suddenly a lot fewer people.
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Old Jan 14, 18, 4:21 pm
  #17  
 
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Originally Posted by BearX220 View Post
But I think AS' growing isolation is a serious strategic problem for a suddenly larger airline that has true utility for suddenly a lot fewer people.
If you weren't living in an AS market and "just" using its mileage program primarily as a generous bank for miles, perhaps that going away isn't really a strategic problem for AS?

I also wonder how many of AS' truly loyal customers regularly run into the stop-over and regional limitations issues outlined in the blog post. Perhaps the FT community and the blogger aren't exactly the case AS should optimize for?
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Old Jan 14, 18, 6:50 pm
  #18  
 
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Originally Posted by mrapollinax View Post
Fixed that for you. I feel that the before the AA changes the midwest was serviceable. The 2018 version of MP has become a West Coast centric program for the most part, as it should be as that is where AS has shifted its focus in the near term.
I'm based in SFO and loosing AA makes Alaska Airlines virtually useless to me as I often have to fly east/west, not north/south. So many places I can't reasonably get to, or even get to at all, on AS. At this point it seems to me that Alaska Air works if you live in Seattle or mostly fly up and down the west coast. If you need to go west of the Rocky Mountains you're more often than not going to be out of luck.

I'm just trying to figure out at this point if I go back to dealing with the devil (UA) or give Delta a shot. All of this makes me quite sad.
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Old Jan 14, 18, 9:35 pm
  #19  
 
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Originally Posted by Skyjumper View Post
I'm based in SFO and loosing AA makes Alaska Airlines virtually useless to me as I often have to fly east/west, not north/south. So many places I can't reasonably get to, or even get to at all, on AS. At this point it seems to me that Alaska Air works if you live in Seattle or mostly fly up and down the west coast. If you need to go west of the Rocky Mountains you're more often than not going to be out of luck.

I'm just trying to figure out at this point if I go back to dealing with the devil (UA) or give Delta a shot. All of this makes me quite sad.
It's still viable if you have no problem connecting in SEA/PDX and plan to hit the 'major' cities. Heck you even have a few options from SFO.

It's when you need to go to the smaller towns that it becomes a problem.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 12:26 am
  #20  
 
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Originally Posted by Yellowjj View Post
It's still viable if you have no problem connecting in SEA/PDX and plan to hit the 'major' cities. Heck you even have a few options from SFO.
Why on earth would someone connect in Seattle when flying SFO-MSP or SFO-ORD?
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Old Jan 15, 18, 12:33 am
  #21  
 
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Originally Posted by tusphotog View Post
Why on earth would someone connect in Seattle when flying SFO-MSP or SFO-ORD?
I share your sentiment, and I think most would, but you'd be surprised by what some FTers will do for extra miles.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 12:41 am
  #22  
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Originally Posted by jinglish View Post
I share your sentiment, and I think most would, but you'd be surprised by what some FTers will do for extra miles.
A) They are a Flyertalker out to experience more of life at 35000 feet.

B) This was the cheapest option presented for travel that date (not as likely, but for the general flying public, the more logical reason for selecting this routing).
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Old Jan 15, 18, 12:54 am
  #23  
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Originally Posted by tusphotog View Post
Why on earth would someone connect in Seattle when flying SFO-MSP or SFO-ORD?
Why would it be necessary to connect on these routes? AS serves both of those nonstop.

The question is what markets does AS either not serve that would make the AS program not viable for a SFOer, and/or, what markets does AS serve that are not practical for SFO origins?

If you're going to secondary domestic markets, there are a number of holes. If you're going to primary domestic markets, the biggest ones I can think of are ATL and MIA. ATL can be worked around with an AA codeshare via LAX, and MIA, well you can either use the AA codeshares with a connection or go to FLL.

The other issue AS has is a frequency problem. With some markets having 1x a day service, that can pose a problem. And in some shorter haul markets, an even higher frequency is necessary than the 3-4x they have.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 5:53 am
  #24  
 
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Originally Posted by channa View Post
Why would it be necessary to connect on these routes? AS serves both of those nonstop.

The other issue AS has is a frequency problem. With some markets having 1x a day service, that can pose a problem. And in some shorter haul markets, an even higher frequency is necessary than the 3-4x they have.
So much this. Based in MSP I can get to SFO directly using AS. However cost and frequency often make me look elsewhere. The only MSP routes that are competitive in the slightest are the PDX/SEA routes as for business I would be flying west either early in the morning or in the midday, but typically the costs of these flights are more than the DL offerings.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 8:59 am
  #25  
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Originally Posted by tusphotog View Post
Why on earth would someone connect in Seattle when flying SFO-MSP or SFO-ORD?
Because of this:

Originally Posted by channa View Post
The other issue AS has is a frequency problem.
SFO-ORD (for example) is 1x/day each direction. If you want to go eastbound in the PM hours, or westbound in the morning hours, you're connecting through SEA.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 9:17 am
  #26  
 
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Originally Posted by BearX220 View Post
Because of this:



SFO-ORD (for example) is 1x/day each direction. If you want to go eastbound in the PM hours, or westbound in the morning hours, you're connecting through SEA.
I think the point is that if that's what you want, you're not flying AS. I can't see AS attracting any meaningful number of business travelers on connecting itineraries when there are ample nonstops on other airlines.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 9:40 am
  #27  
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Originally Posted by czpdx View Post
I think the point is that if that's what you want, you're not flying AS. I can't see AS attracting any meaningful number of business travelers on connecting itineraries...
Hate to sound like a broken record, but that's exactly my point, and the problem. AS doesn't attract customers living outside the Pacific corridor or Alaska. It doesn't attract business travelers who need options, because low frequencies. It doesn't attract price-conscious customers, because it's rarely the price leader. It doesn't attract customers who want a premium inflight experience, because it doesn't offer one.

So who the heck is this airline for, anyway? IMO, appeal narrowing, scale expanding, equals trouble.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 11:12 am
  #28  
 
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So for someone SFO-based, how is this different/worse than the pre-merger situation? VX/Elevate didn't have any domestic partners, so your options were to fly where VX flew when VX flew or fly a different airline. Now, you at least have AA codeshares beyond ORD/DFW/PHX (which may not work very often, for sure) as well as the option to connect through SEA. So the loss of a full partnership with AA certainly hurts a lot compared to what ASVX would have been (which is presumably why AA wanted to cut off the full partnership), and the loss of a full partnership very much hurts any pmAS loyalists who weren't based on the west coast as well as west coasters who also make trips within the eastern 75% of the US. But all these problems for SFO-based people don't seem new at all to me.

And though ASVX has a long way to go out of SFO for business traveler frequency and nonstop options, isn't that too improving significantly since the merger?

I agree with others that the AA/AS partnership became unsustainable for two main reasons:
  1. ASVX the airline is now big enough and competing head-to-head with AA in enough markets that neither airline loved giving their customers to the other.
  2. Mileage Plan, with mileage-based earning and its wide partner network (this was before the dissolution of the remaining Skyteam partnerships was announced), was so clearly superior to AAdvantage that there were enough people in markets that are only outstations for AS the airline (eg me in PHL, ryandc99 in the Midwest) crediting primarily-AA flying to AS, creating an imbalance that I can't imagine AA was happy with. That part of the equation was, I'm sure, good for AS: they were happy to get a bit of revenue from MKE-CLT trips where they don't compete at all and drive outstation-based customers to prefer AS for trips to the west coast (and use the AS credit card, giving AS more bonus revenue). But if that position made the full partnership unsustainable from AA's point of view, I'm sure AS is OK with trading off the loss of frequent flyer program revenue from customers outside their core market with increased business from the main business (people paying for airfare, not frequent flyer revenue) in their core market. It doesn't make sense for AS to limit their aspirations on the west coast to keep AA happy; in fact, doing so would potentially be an antitrust violation anyway.

Upshot: I don't like the loss of the full AA partnership, but I understand it and don't think AS had a better option.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 11:29 am
  #29  
 
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Originally Posted by BearX220 View Post
Hate to sound like a broken record, but that's exactly my point, and the problem. AS doesn't attract customers living outside the Pacific corridor or Alaska. It doesn't attract business travelers who need options, because low frequencies. It doesn't attract price-conscious customers, because it's rarely the price leader. It doesn't attract customers who want a premium inflight experience, because it doesn't offer one.

So who the heck is this airline for, anyway? IMO, appeal narrowing, scale expanding, equals trouble.
For me, with a mix of business and leisure travel (the business travel usually booked 3-8 weeks in advance, always lowest-logical-fare coach, so not last minute and reasonably flexible in timing), it's a mix of things.
  1. They're usually price-competitive, even if not quite the low fare leader.
  2. Their schedule has its annoyances (the lack of a banked hub in SEA making connections awful between outstations with infrequent flights -- for me, YLW/EAT to east coast destinations -- is the biggest for me), but generally gets me where I want to go.
  3. I find their service to be competent, friendly, and efficient. They don't try to be annoyingly flashy (VX) or annoyingly cute/overfriendly (WN), but they generally answer their phones quickly, have helpful airport staff, etc.
  4. I find them more pleasant to fly in coach than any other domestic airline. Not hugely so; they're not a true premium airline that would command a multiple hundred or thousand dollar premium (which I wouldn't be willing to pay anyway even for a Emirates F Suite flying nonstop YYF-PVD when that's where I want to fly). But they're appreciably more reliable and more friendly than the competition.
  5. Their frequent flyer program and affordable credit card with the very strong companion fare makes them the low fare leader for family trips.
  6. Their lack of change fees for MVP Golds and anyone outside 60 days is very customer friendly; that leads me to book long-in-advance family travel with them even when they're not the cheapest. (In fact, I don't even look at the competition for family trips outside 60 days: if I'm willing to pay the fare AS offers, I go for it because of the lack of change fees.)
  7. A very small thing that I loved when I had a lap infant: they automatically block an empty seat next to an adult with a lap infant, so if the plane didn't go out full, the two of us with a lap infant nearly always got three seats.
So it's a mix of things, but the general theme is that AS is friendly, efficient, and functional in small ways that add up to a significant advantage without trying to do too much.

Now, if AS fritters those small things away with cost-cutting and SEA gets too crowded to allow an efficient operation, those advantages could go away quickly. But I personally haven't really seen that yet now that I'm based sort of in their core market. If I were still based in PHL, though, I'd probably be gone back to either AA or free agency.
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Old Jan 15, 18, 4:25 pm
  #30  
 
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Originally Posted by jinglish View Post
I share your sentiment, and I think most would, but you'd be surprised by what some FTers will do for extra miles.
Nothing surprises me on FT anymore.

Originally Posted by channa View Post
Why would it be necessary to connect on these routes? AS serves both of those nonstop.

The question is what markets does AS either not serve that would make the AS program not viable for a SFOer, and/or, what markets does AS serve that are not practical for SFO origins?
Well, my comment was directed at Yellowjj who said AS MP is a "viable option" for people in SFO needing to hit major cities and willing to connect in SEA/PDX. I just cherrypicked a few routes, but your comment about the frequency issue is the issue. Alaska works great if you're going when the flights are leaving from SFO. But if you need to fly SFO-ORD before 8a, you're SOL. If you need to leave MSP after 4p, you're on Delta or Sun Country.

As for AS being a viable program, it really depends on the routes. If you're in the SD-LA-SF-PDX-SEA-Alaska/Hawaii corridor frequently; they're pretty good. Going east of SF or LA? They're worthless if you need flexibility.

My only hope for management to wake up and sense the displeasure from the passengers is for them to lose that JD Power award this year. If Delta wins it, you can bet the folks at Angle Lake will (hopefully?) wake up.
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