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Nearly a month ago, I wrote an article detailing how I saved my once-in-a-lifetime anniversary trip by ordering lunch. In this post, I wanted to explore the Alaska Airlines Mileage Program and discuss why I was on a mission to not allow my miles to expire.
ALASKA AIRLINES MILEAGE PLAN PROGRAM
The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program has long been my favorite airline loyalty program for several reasons including:
- Amazing list of airline partners
- Great redemption rates
- Extremely generous stopover policy
With that being said, this information may be outdated 3 months from now as Alaska Airlines is scheduled to join Oneworld by the beginning of 2021 and it has been speculated that a program devaluation is on the horizon. I hope everyone is wrong!
Regardless, let’s talk about the program in its current state. I’ll also attempt to keep every section short, so we can dive into the good stuff…
HOW DO I EARN ALASKA MILES?
Currently, Alaska does NOT partner with Amex, Capital One, Chase, or Citi. However, they do partner with Marriott Bonvoy.
The loyalty program also partners with Bank of America (BOA) and offers the Alaska Airlines Visa Credit Card and Alaska Airlines Visa Business Credit Card which allows you to earn Alaska miles by spending on your credit card.
In short, if you stay at Marriott properties, carry a Marriott credit card, OR apply for the co-branded cards with BOA, you have Alaska miles.
Note: Marriott transfers to Alaska at a ratio of 3:1, but if you transfer 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, you’ll receive 25,000 Alaska miles (a 5,000 point bonus). SEE MARRIOTT GUIDE
Additionally, Alaska frequently sells points that are often in the range of 30-50%, so that is another option.
Finally, you can…gasp….actually fly (butt-in-seat). Interestingly, Alaska Airlines is the last major US-based airline loyalty program that awards miles based on distance flown rather than dollars spent so, it can pay to actually fly with them.
WHEN DO ALASKA MILEAGE PLAN MILES EXPIRE?
Read THIS POST.
MILEAGE PLAN PARTNERS
Alaska Mileage program has an excellent range of partners including:
Aer Lingus, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Condor, El Al, Emirates, Fiji Airways, Finnair, Hainan Airlines, Icelandair, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, LATAM Airlines, Qantas, and Singapore Airlines.
You can earn and redeem miles on any of the partners listed above.
HOW TO REDEEM ALASKA MILES
Since we’re talking about earning and redeeming miles, let’s just jump into it.
The first thing you should know is that you will need to call Alaska Airlines at 800-252-7522 to book “complicated” award flights or any flights that involve Cathay Pacific and LATAM. For the most part, you shouldn’t have any challenges booking the remaining partner airlines on Alaskaair.com.
Secondly, each airline partner has their own award chart and you can only redeem in select regions.
Given these two rules, you can’t “mix” partner airlines on an award ticket.
However, there is one exception to this rule…Mileage Plan allows you to add an Alaska Airlines flight (for no extra cost) to the gateway city to start your award redemption IF Alaska flies from your city.
For example, Japan Airlines does not depart from the Atlanta (ATL) airport, but the carrier does depart from Seattle (SEA). I would use my Alaska miles to book the Japan Airlines award ticket and Mileage Plan would allow me to add an Alaska Airlines flight on the front-end from Atlanta (ATL) to Seattle (SEA).
This is where it gets good!
As I mentioned above, Alaska Mileage Plan has generous stopover policy and allows you book a stopover on a one-way award ticket regardless to which partner you redeem with (more on this below).
To book a ticket online with a stopover, simply select the “multi-city” function, and search each segment individually.
7 FANTASTIC REDEMPTIONS USING ALASKA MILES
Now this is my favorite part!! There are a plethora of ways to redeem Alaska miles for great value but I’m going to focus on 7.
It’s worth mentioning that Mileage Plan passes on carrier-imposed surcharges for travel on British Airways, Hainan Airlines, and Icelandair. In other words, if you want to avoid redeeming miles AND paying those pesky fees, avoid the aforementioned airlines. Other than that, you should be good.
The following routes all depart from the USA. In no particular order…
REDEMPTION #1: Cathay Pacific Business Class To Asia
- Hub Airport: Hong Kong (HKG)
- Award Price: 50,000 miles (one-way)
- Example Route: New York (JFK) – Hong Kong (HKG)
Note: If you have a few miles to spare, I recommend splurging and redeeming 70,000 for a one-way First Class ticket. Cathay is regarded as one of the best in the world. You won’t regret it. 😉
REDEMPTION #2: Cathay Pacific Business Class To Africa (…the long way!)
- Hub Airport: Hong Kong (HKG)
- Award Price: 62,500 miles (one-way)
- Example Route: New York (JFK) – Hong Kong (HKG & stopover as long as your want) – Cape Town (CPT)
Note: The first class rate in redemption #1 and redemption #2 are the same. Would you rather pay 70k for one flight or two flights? But be aware that Cathay does not operate First class to Africa. In other words, first class USA-HKG and business class HKG-CPT (or Johannesburg (JNB)). That’s phenomenal value for TWO 14+ hour flights!!
REDEMPTION #3: Japan Airlines Business Class To Asia
- Hub Airport: Tokyo-Narita (NRT) or Tokyo-Haneda (HND)
- Award Price: 60,000 miles (one-way)
- Example Route: New York (JFK) – Tokyo Haneda (HND)
REDEMPTION #4: Japan Airlines Business Class To Southeast Asia
- Hub Airport: Tokyo-Narita (NRT), Tokyo-Haneda (HND)
- Award Price: 65,000 miles (one-way)
- Example Route: New York (JFK) – Tokyo Haneda (HND & stopover as long as your want) – Singapore (SIN)
Note: There is only a 5,000 mile difference between redemption #3 and #4. 5k miles for a second business class flight that’s ~7 hours!? Sign me up!!
REDEMPTION #4: Fiji Airways Business Class To Australia
- Hub Airport: Fiji (NAN)
- Award Price: 55,000 miles (one-way)
- Example Route: Los Angeles (LAX) – Fiji (NAN & stopover as long as your want) – Sydney (SYD) (or Auckland (AKL))
Note: Fiji Airways operates a brand new A350 between LAX and NAN. 😍
REDEMPTION #5: Emirates Business Class To United Arab Emirates
- Hub Airport: Dubai (DXB)
- Award Price: 82,500 (one-way)
- Example Route: Los Angeles (LAX) – Dubai (DXB)
It’s worth noting that Alaska charges 62,500 miles for LAX-DXB (via HKG), but if you really want to experience Emirates, it will cost you a few additional miles.
REDEMPTION #6: Qantas Business Class To Australia or New Zealand
- Hub Airport: Sydney (SYD) or Brisbane (BNE)
- Award Price: 55k miles (one-way)
- Example Route: Chicago (ORD) – Brisbane (BNE & stopover as long as your want) – Auckland (AKL)
Caveat: Finding award space on Qantas can sometimes seem impossible, but when the carrier does release award seats, it’s a great deal!
REDEMPTION #7: American Airlines Business Class To Southern South America
- Hub Airport: Several
- Award Price: 57,500 miles (one-way)
- Example Route: Dallas (DFW) – Santiago (SCL)
American Airlines will charge you 61,500 AA miles for the same flight…IF it’s even possible to find availability.
BE CREATIVE, THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
In this hobby, the more creative you are, the longer your miles will last.
Let’s say you redeem 50,000 Alaska miles to book a biz class award ticket from Dubai to Los Angeles (via Hong Kong) on Cathay Pacific.
Remember that stopover rule? Let’s use it here.
Option #1: If you do not live in Los Angeles, take a few days to stopover and explore the city then continue on to your home.
Option #2: If you do live in Los Angeles, take advantage of the stopover option. When booking the ticket, be sure to stop at home (Los Angeles) for a few months and then continue on to Miami…NYC…Chicago…or Seattle. No one ever said you had to stop at home. And the best part is…it won’t cost you any extra miles.
If you value quantity over quality, take a look at the economy prices…not bad at all.
Although I love everything about the routes mentioned above, proceed with caution. Again, I have to admit that I’m a little worried about what the future holds for Mileage Plan given it is supposed to join Oneworld soon.
Personally, I can’t imagine 1) the generous stopover on one-way awards or 2) the low award prices will remain where they are. I’m not implying the miles will be worthless, but there is a real possibility that they may not be as valuable as they are today. But if you have Alaska miles…rock it!
Does anything on this list stand out to you? If you had 100,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles, on what carrier would you redeem them?
p.s. And if you’re interested in my anniversary trip…
- Atlanta – Seattle (Alaska Airlines Business Class)
- Seattle – Hong Kong (Cathay Pacific Business Class) stopover for 3 days
- Hong Kong – Cape Town (Cathay Pacific Business Class)
…3 flights for 62,500 miles (or 125,000 miles total for us). I’ll take it! 😎
I also love Alaska’s generous stopover rule on one-ways. I hope they don’t get rid of this feature once they join Oneworld. If I had 100K Alaska miles, I would either fly LAX to Vietnam with stopover in HongKong or LAX to Cape Town with a stopover in Hong Kong.
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I see we have a Cathay fan who knows how to maximize their miles! 🙂