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Alaska will cut life of frequent flyer miles

In just the latest negative change to airline loyalty programs, Alaska Airlines has announced that miles will expire after two years instead of three.

Here's the gist of the notice from Alaska's website:

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"In an effort to reduce costs while minimizing the impact to our customers, we will be changing our Mileage Plan account inactivity policy. Currently, if an account has no activity for three years, it becomes inactive. Effective April 1, 2008, accounts with no mileage activity for the previous two years will become inactive and the miles will be removed from the account."

Alaska isn't breaking any new ground with this change; American, United, and US Airways recently adopted 18-month expiration policies, while Delta cut back from three years to two.

So it could be argued that Alaska has done nothing more than adopt the customer-unfriendly policies already in place at the majority of other larger airlines. Still, it's disappointing that Alaska couldn't resist the negative trend. It would have been a feather in the program's cap to be slightly more generous than competing programs.

With the change at Alaska, Northwest is the only major carrier which allows program members to extend the life of their miles with account activity every three years. I've predicted elsewhere that we'll see an announcement from Northwest before the end of this year aligning their policy with the other airlines'. That seems even more likely now.

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