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Alaska Air Adds 15th Loyalty-Program Partner

Alaska Airlines today announced the addition of its fifteenth Mileage Plan airline partner.

Beginning on June 23, Mileage Plan members can earn miles for flying on China’s Hainan Airlines; mileage redemption for Hainan award flights will begin later in 2015.

Miles earned for Hainan flights qualify toward earning Mileage Plan elite status. And through October 31, Mileage Plan members will earn double miles for Hainan flights.

Hainan flies nonstop to Beijing and Shanghai from Seattle and Boston, and to Beijing from San Jose and Chicago. The airline’s route network includes more than 90 destinations worldwide, with extensive coverage within China.

As is customary with such marketing tie-ups, the relationship is reciprocal: Members of Hainan’s Fortune Wings Club may also earn miles for Alaska Airlines flights, and will be able to redeem miles for award flights on Alaska some time later this year.

Earning miles for flights to China and elsewhere in Hainan’s network is a feather in the cap of Alaska’s program, to be sure. But the opportunity for award travel to and within China is probably the more meaningful plus for the program. And the bigger story still is that a smallish airline like Alaska can cobble together a roster of airline partners that makes its loyalty program the equal of those hosted by many much larger carriers.

It’s also worth noting that Mileage Plan is one of the very few remaining U.S.-based programs that still awards miles on the basis of miles flown, rather than according to the number of dollars spent to purchase tickets. Mileage-based programs tend to be more rewarding for less frequent travelers, while spend-based programs favor the frequent business traveler.

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