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Alaska Airlines is rolling out a program for its high-status new parents.

Family-friendly air travel doesn’t always have to involve flying with little ones. Especially not on Alaska Airlines. At least not anymore. 

Earlier this month, the carrier rolled out a revolutionary new program that amounts to a year-long freeze on mileage status for new parents. The program, formally dubbed Elite Leave, enables Alaska Mileage Plan MVP, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K members to extend status for an additional year when they go on parental leave from work, retain all benefits during the freeze, and resume exact status levels when they return. 

Put differently, elite-status members who will take a parental leave that ends at any point in 2017 (or who already have taken one to this point in the year) can extend their status through the end of 2018.

 As an airline spokesperson noted in a recent blog post, the goal of the new program is to minimize stress for new parents who are accustomed to the perks of frequent travel but may jeopardize earning some of them with the inevitable slowdown in travel following the birth of a child.

“It’s such a high-stress, high-emotion, low-sleep time in your life that the last thing you want to be worrying about is losing your status,” said Natalie Bowman, managing director of brand marketing.

The blog post lays out a two-step process for preserving status through the new program. 

First, to establish eligibility, a Mileage Plan member must email elite.flyer@alaskaair.com his or her full name, date of birth, Mileage Plan number, and a note from a doctor or employer as proof of parental leave. Next, once the airline confirms eligibility, it will enroll members into the program automatically and calculate the how long status will be extended.

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According to the blog post, the idea for the program came from a frequent flyer who reached out to Alaska because she’d just had a baby and was upset about potentially losing her MVP status. The request made its way to Alaska’s leaders; the rest is history. 

It’s important to note that the new program applies to both men and women—anyone who takes official parental leave is eligible. 

According to an article from the Puget Sound Business Journal, Alaska is the first U.S. airline to offer a program like this one. The story notes similar programs are offered internationally by Air Canada, British Airways and Qantas. As word spreads about this progressive new approach to reward travel, one would hope that more airlines follow suit.

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