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Alaska Op Goes Distance

Alaska's largest bundled-services provider will now reward its best customers with frequent-flier miles.

General Communications Inc., which provides cable TV, local and long-distance telephone, Internet and cellular service, has become a Mileage Plan partner with Alaska Airlines.

"Alaska is the de facto standard — the only airline throughout the state," said GCI vice president of corporate relations David Morris. "We've been trying to get in [their] program for years."

GCI customers will earn one mile for every $1 they spend. Bonuses will help drive upgrades, too.

For instance, customers that upgrade to digital service can earn a 7,500-mile bonus. Customers new to the company can earn up to 10,000 for signing up for a selection of services.

Current customers will also be rewarded with anniversary bonuses of 500 miles for every six months of subscribership. GCI has entered the Yellow Pages publishing business, as well, and small businesses that advertise will also be eligible for mileage.

The program will aid consumers in earning free flights. Alaska offers free in-state flights for as little as 10,000 miles during off-peak hours, and flights to the lower 48 states for as little as 20,000 miles.

"We definitely see this as a retention/acquisition tool," Morris said.

Alaska previously partnered with the state's AT&T Corp. affiliate, which offers only long-distance services in the state.

Airline tie-ins have proven popular, especially in remote cable operations. An attractive part of Oceanic Cablevision's Kupa'a subscriber club in Hawaii is a tie with Aloha Airlines.

Holders of the club card, issued by the Time Warner Cable-owned system in Oahu, can use it to get 10% fare discounts for inter-island or mainland U.S. fares.

GCI has no other affinity programs,

"This is it. This will be the flagship product we offer," Morris said.