Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles are one of my favorite mileage currencies right now. Their award partners are excellent – including Emirates and Cathay Pacific – and their redemptions are both reasonably priced, and allow for a free stopover or open-jaw.
Earning Alaska Miles
Alaska miles can be accumulated multiple ways:
- Traveling on Alaska flights or flights on their partner airlines:
- Alaska partners with many top notch airlines like Air France, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, KLM, Korean Air and Qantas. What’s even better is that Alaska allows you to earn Mileage Plan elite-qualifying miles while flying these airlines. That makes Alaska miles among the most versatile airline mile currency out there!
- Alaska Airlines Personal & Business Credit Cards:
- Alaska offers both a personal and a business co-branded credit card through Bank of America. While both of these cards are churnable (i.e., you can earn the sign-up bonuses on the cards multiple times), BoA has been cracking down on this lately with these cards in particular, so I don’t recommend you go too crazy with churning this card. Both the Personal Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan card and the Business Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan card offer 25,000 bonus miles upon approval, a free checked bag on Alaska flights, an annual $121 coach companion ticket, 3 miles for every dollar spent on Alaska purchases and 1 mile for every dollar spent on all other purchases. There is also a current offer circulating around that offers a $100.00 statement credit after $1k spend in the first 3 months.
- Mileage Plan Shopping Portal:
- Like all the major airlines, Alaska has its own shopping portal where you can earn miles for buying items from certain stores online. These portals can be a little quirky, so make sure you clear your cookies and restart your web browser before using these portals. Each store will earn a different number of miles per dollar spent and those will change regularly, so make sure you check out the Mileage Plan Shopping Portal before making your next online purchase!
- Mileage Plan Dining:
- Like all the major airlines, Alaska also has its own dining program where you can earn miles for simply dining out. I always recommend signing up for these since all you have to do is enter your credit card number and the program does all the rest for you tracking your dines. Miles usually post within about a week of your dine. Make sure you check out Mileage Plan Dining!
- Transfer SPG Starpoints:
- Alaska’s only “transferable currency” partner is SPG. You can transfer your Starpoints to Alaska at a 1:1 ratio, but remember that SPG offers you a 20% bonus if you transfer in chunks of 20,000 Starpoints (in which case you would receive 25,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles for 20,000 SPG Starpoints). The American Express SPG card currently offers 25,000 Starpoints for $3k spend in the first three months.
Booking Alaska Mileage Plan Award Tickets
Mileage Plan awards for Alaska and most of their partner airlines can either be booked online, or by calling into Mileage Plan at 1-800-252-7522 between 5:00 AM and midnight daily. If you are looking to book award tickets on either Cathay Pacific or LAN, your only option for booking is to call into Mileage Plan.
Alaska Mileage Plan Booking Fees
Alaska unfortunately charges some relatively small fees on partner award tickets. Those fees are as follows:
- If you call in to book your ticket, there is a $15.00 non-refundable call center booking fee. If you’re calling in for Cathay Pacific or LAN bookings, I would recommend that you ask them to waive this fee since the ticket(s) could not be booked online.
- There is also a $25.00 non-refundable partner award fee for a roundtrip ticket, or $12.50 for a one-way ticket. This award fee will apply to any award booked using Mileage Plan miles on an Alaska Airlines partner airline.
- Lastly, there is a $125.00 change or cancellation fee which applies to any changes and all cancellations made within 60 days of travel. In the event there are changes made at least 60 days prior to travel, Alaska will waive the change fees.
Luckily, Alaska does not have any close in ticketing fees for bookings made close to departure – unlike American and United. Also remember that you can always cancel an award ticket within 24 hours for no charge (this applies to purchased flights as well).
Combining Flights On Partner Airlines
One thing to be aware of with Mileage Plan redemptions is that Alaska does not allow you to combine airlines on an award ticket. There is an exception for Air France and KLM as Alaska considers them the same airline (which makes sense considering they are both part of Flying Blue) for purposes of an award ticket.
The other exception to this is that you can always include Alaska flights on award ticket with any partner airline. This becomes worthwhile if you are not based of the gateway city you need to be at for your partner award flight. It’s also worthwhile to remind yourself that if you want to check out two partner airlines, you can always book the outbound on one airline, and then, on a separate award ticket, book a different partner airline on the return.
Stopovers And Open-Jaws
One of the things that make Alaska miles so valuable is that they offer some of the most generous routing rules around. On a roundtrip international ticket, Alaska allows you to include two stopovers (stays of more than 24 hours in a city different than your ultimate destination) and two open jaws (where you return from a city other than your destination, or return home to a city other than your origin). This means you could fly from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific, stopover in Hong Kong for a few days, and then continue on to another Cathay Pacific destination like Bangkok. When you return, you could utilize your open jaw to start from Singapore, again route through Hong Kong for a stopover, and then fly back to New York for your second open jaw.
On an international one-way ticket, you are still allowed one stopover. Since it is a one-way ticket, you can make your departure and arrival cities most anything you want (that are serviced by Alaska or their partners and for which there is an award chart published). Booking two one-way award tickets also allows you to utilize two open jaws without being “stuck” with the same airline
On a domestic one-way ticket, you are still allowed one stopover. That means you could book a trip from Los Angeles to Fort Lauderdale with a stopover in Seattle in between.
It is also worth keeping in mind that your stopover must be a logical routing to your final destination. However, Alaska is somewhat unique in that your stopover can be in a third region that is neither your origin, nor your destination in certain instances. For example, if you were flying on Emirates from Orlando to Delhi, you could use your stopover in Dubai.
Alaska’s Award Chart
Yet another aspect of Alaska Mileage Plan that is unique is that they don’t have a single award chart with different rates for all regions. Instead, Alaska has different award rates for different airlines based on the regions you are transiting. It is important to know that Alaska does not publish award rates for all regions. If Alaska does not publish a chart between the regions you are looking to transit, then you cannot redeem Alaska miles for that route.
Best Uses For Alaska Miles
As with most airlines, there are a few partners that offer the best redemptions. In my opinion, these are redemptions on Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Qantas, Fiji Airways and LAN.
Cathay Pacific is easily one of my favorite airlines. While Cathay Pacific offers a great product, they also offer some exceptional redemption value when using Alaska miles! Some of the better one-way redemption costs are as follows:
|Regions||Business Class||First Class|
|United States to Asia||50,000 miles||70,000 miles|
|United States to Africa/India/Middle East||62,500 miles||70,000 miles|
|United States to Australia/New Zealand/South Pacific||60,000 miles||80,000 miles|
While you may say some of the first class redemptions are higher than it would cost if you used American Airlines AAdvantage miles, keep in mind that you get a free stopover with each of those awards – something that American does not allow. That means if you were to fly first class to Bangkok, you could have a free stopover in Hong Kong for 70,000 miles! That first class ticket would cost you well over $10k on average, so the value is exceptional.
Although I have never had the privilege of flying on Emirates, it is very high on my list of airlines to fly. Emirates flies some of the newest planes in the air and their first class is constantly call the most blingy in the skies. With the onboard showers, the business class bar and the service, I think it’s fair to say Emirates offers a truly extravagant experience. The one-way redemptions of interest are as follows:
|Regions||Business Class||First Class|
|United States to Asia||75,000 miles||100,000 miles|
|United States to Europe||75,000 miles||100,000 miles|
|United States to Middle East||72,500 miles||90,000 miles|
|United States to Africa||77,500 miles||100,000 miles|
Remember that Emirates’ Los Angeles-Dubai route is the longest A380 route currently available. This means that you could book an award to Europe or Asia on the A380 in first class from Los Angeles to Dubai, have a free stopover in Dubai, and then continue on to your European or Asian destination for only 100,000 miles! This is another first class ticket that would cost you well over $10k on average, so the value again is exceptional.
I think Qantas first and business class award space Downunder may be one of the toughest redemptions to find. With that said, it’s hard to beat Alaska’s redemption rates if you can find the space. Alaska charges only 55,000 miles in business class and 70,000 miles in first class for flights from the United States to Australia. This redemption is truly exceptional for people who want to use their stopover in Fiji or New Zealand. If you can find award space, using Alaska miles are the single best value for premium cabin redemptions on Qantas.
Fiji Airways is a niche airline given that they only focus on flights to and from the small island nation of Fiji. However, they are the only practical way to get to Fiji from North America. While American also partners with Fiji Airways, it will cost you 62,500 miles for a one-way business class award ticket from the United States to Fiji. Meanwhile, Alaska charges a much more reasonable 55,000 miles one-way for a business class award ticket from the United States to Fiji.
What is really exceptional about this is that Alaska considers Australia and New Zealand as the same region as the South Pacific (which includes Fiji). This means that for that same 55,000 miles, you could fly Los Angeles to Fiji, stopover in Fiji to catch some sun, and the fly from Fiji to Australia or New Zealand! That is beyond an exceptional deal!
LAN to me is a bit of a unique carrier. I’ve had the opportunity to fly them in both coach and business class. While I was not overwhelmed by the service or the hard product, I oddly feel like the airline is exactly what the South American market demands. In any case, one of the best redemptions using Alaska miles is a 45,000 mile one-way business class ticket between the United States and South America on LAN. Since you get a free stopover with your one-way award, you could book Orlando to Lima, have a stopover in Lima (for a pisco sour or two and some ceviche), and then continue on from Lima to Buenos Aires for only 45,000 miles! While LAN doesn’t offer the most amazing hard product or service, it’s pretty hard to argue with 45,000 miles for a business class flight with a free stopover.
As you can see, Alaska Mileage Plan miles offer a whole lot of value if you make the right redemptions. They are easy to accrue through credit card sign-ups and I don’t know of any other airline credit cards that offer 25,000 miles just for being approved. When this is coupled with their generous stopover policy, including on one-way tickets, it makes Alaska award tickets hard to beat!