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Alaska Airlines rolls out Elite LeaveFrequent-flying parents of newborns can breathe a sigh of relief: Alaska Airlines has introduced a new Elite Leave program, which enables Alaska Mileage Plan elite members to extend their status when they go on parental leave. Just in time for Mother’s Day.

The new program allows parents of newborns to retain their elite status for an additional year after they go on parental leave. This means that members who will take leave this year can extend their status through 2018. Members must simply submit some basic information for verification to be enrolled.

“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.” says Natalie Bowman, Alaska’s managing director of brand marketing and a parent of three young children.

With the new program, Alaska joins the ranks of Qantas, British Airways and Air Canada, which all offer parental leave as a part of their frequent flyer programs. Right now, Alaska Airlines is the only U.S. air carrier that offers this kind of perk.

Alaska’s reputation for customer service
Alaska Airlines has long had a reputation for customer service. The airline ranked highest for the 10th year in the J.D. Power 2017 North America Airline Satisfaction Study, released just a few days ago. And the Elite Leave program stems from Alaska having listened to the requests of its customers. In fact, the idea first came around when an MVP status member informed Alaska that she had just had a baby and was worried about losing her status while caring for her newborn. The concept percolated through to the leadership of Alaska Airlines, where it was met with enthusiasm.

“This is one of those things that is a very simple change, but that we as working parents knew had the potential to make a huge impact,” said Bowman. “In this case, it just took one person asking the right question to inspire a whole new policy. It’s a great reminder that your voice does matter—you have the power to make a difference when you speak up.”

While Alaska’s customer service representatives have been making exceptions for special circumstances like this on a case-by-case basis, last week’s announcement formalizes the company’s policy. In a simple step, Alaska has showed empathy for their traveling customers and introduced something that will certainly be well-received by new parents that now have one less thing to worry about.

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