There’s no doubt about it: Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan program is one of the most valuable mileage programs there is right now. It’s kind of ironic too, because Alaska Airlines doesn’t belong to any alliance. They do, however, have a very good mix of partners that can be used on award travel around the world. Combine that with a very attractive award chart(s) and flexible routing rules and you have a valuable program that everyone in the points game should be aware of.
- Air France
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Delta Airlines
- Emirates Airlines
- Fiji Airways
- Korean Air
- There are different award charts for different airlines by region. Kind of wacky.
- Stopovers are permitted on one-way international partner awards. Awesome!
- Stopovers are permitted on one-way domestic awards when flying entirely on Alaska Airlines metal (including to Hawaii). Also awesome!
- No fuel surcharges, except British Airways.
- Most partner award availability can be searched online using their useful website (have to call for Cathay Pacific and LAN).
- Delta and Korean Air require round trip awards (i.e. same price for one way and round trip).
- On one way tickets, you can only use one partner airline. Two partner airlines on a one way is simply not allowed. You can fly Alaska Airlines AND a partner airline on a one way, but not two partner airlines. Round trips can use a different partner in each direction. The exception is Air France and KLM, who are considered one airline.
- There’s a $15 fee for phone bookings. Booking partner one-way flights costs $12.50. Change/Cancellation fees are $125 if travel is within 60 days. There is no cancellation fee outside of 60 days (wow!).
1. Cathay Pacific to Everywhere
If you’re in the miles game and you’ve looked at Business and First Class award charts before, you should recognize the value here immediately. You can fly First Class to Africa, the Middle East, or India for just 70K Alaska miles (just a 7,500 mile premium over Business Class, by the way). Remember that you also get a free stopover on one-way awards, so that means you can stop in Hong Kong for as long as you want. One of the longer trips possible is from the US to Johannesburg, South Africa via Hong Kong…all for 70K in First Class. That’s an amazing deal!
Business Class to Asia at 50K is also a great deal. Alaska’s award chart considers Asia to stretch as far West as Bangkok and down South to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Bali.
Australia isn’t always easy to get to. Being able to fly through Asia makes for a long journey, but it can be very comfortable if you fly Cathay for just 60K in Business Class. The First Class price of 80K is still a great price, but I’d say Business is a better value on this one.
2. Qantas to Australia-New Zealand-South Pacific
The US to Australia is one of the longer flights you can take. These routes are popular and there’s usually a lot of demand for them, and that means award availability is usually hard to come by. It’s not nearly impossible though, as I was able to snag First Class next week while getting my friend on the same flight in Business Class.
If you do find availability, it’s tough to beat these prices. I think 55K for Business Class is a fantastic deal. While it’s not the best Business Class in the world, keep in mind that the chauffeur service Qantas has is offered to First and Business Class passengers. That’s a good deal to go down under!
3. Emirates to Africa, India, and Asia
This one is an interesting one. Emirates doesn’t have a particularly comfortable or amazing Business or First Class (they’re still very comfortable, though), but there’s a novelty to flying on the Emirates A380. First and Business Class passengers have access to the bar on the plane, while First Class passengers can take a shower at 40K feet. Emirates First Class is too “blingy” for some, but it’s a bucket list item for a lot of people, including myself. I happen to be booked on BKK-DXB-LAX in September, with both legs on the A380!
But again, the value here is very good. Being able to fly from the US to Dubai, stop for as long as you want, then continue to Asia or Africa for 100K miles in First Class is a good deal, especially considering that the second leg is only an additional 10K miles (90K vs 100K). It’s a long way to fly, but it’s also pretty comfortable!
4. Anywhere in the US to Alaska
Here’s one you probably didn’t see coming! One of the many, many unique things about Alaska’s award chart(s) is that the state of Alaska is considered a domestic flight. That means you can fly from as far South/East as Florida and go to the most North Western Alaskan city serviced by Alaska Airlines all for just 12,500 miles. Oh, and don’t forget your free stopover in Seattle or Anchorage, or wherever you choose, as long as all segments are on Alaska Airlines metal!
As you can tell, there’s a lot of quirks and special cases with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Still, if you look carefully you’ll see that there’s tons of value to be had. The bad part? There’s only two credit cards that you can get, and the sign up bonuses are usually pretty lackluster.
- Alaska Airlines Visa Signature – 40K Bonus (after $10K spend in 6 months)
- Alaska Airlines Visa Business – 25K Bonus (after first purchase)
On the bright side, you can transfer SPG points into Alaska Airlines miles at a 1:1 ratio. If you transfer 20K, you’ll get a 5K bonus. This effectively makes the transfer ratio 1:1.25. I personally had to transfer some SPG points to my Alaska account to get my Emirates First Class flight, and I thought it was a great use of those points.