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New Alaska Air Benefit: Elite Extension for New Parents

Alaska Airlines’ latest addition to its Mileage Plan program, announced today, won’t have any effect on the great majority of the airline’s customers. So few Mileage Plan members will be affected, in fact, that it might be dismissed as a token gesture. But it’s smart marketing. It burnishes the brand of an airline that is already a traveler favorite, having come out on top in two recent surveys of customer satisfaction.

Oh right, that new Mileage Plan feature. It’s called Elite Leave, and it allows elite members of Alaska’s program to extend their status for an extra year during a period of pregnancy or parental leave.

So, for example, if you are currently MVP Gold and your pregnancy extends into 2018, your status will be honored through the end of 2019. Naturally, you’ll have to provide the airline with a doctor’s note or other proof that you qualify.

The idea is pretty straightforward: Having children typically means a cutback in travel, with a consequent loss of elite status and benefits. Other airlines say, “Tough luck.” Alaska has a different response: “We’ve got you covered.”

Again, the number of affected travelers will be miniscule. But it’s an undeniably thoughtful gesture on Alaska’s part. Which ties in with the narrative that Alaska is one of the airline industry’s good guys.

Well played, Alaska!

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After 20 years working in the travel industry, and 15 years writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

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