3 Reasons Alaska Miles Aren't Worth Earning
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Hilary Stockton

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3 Reasons Alaska Miles Aren't Worth Earning


On the face of it, Alaska Mileage Plan miles are a great frequent flyer currency, with many partners, lower award chart rates in many cases, and a generous stopover policy that applies even to one way partner awards. But lately the miles have proven pretty frustrating, at least for my clients' needs, and I no longer recommend earning Alaska miles for certain kinds of premium international travel. Here's why:

1. Emirates First Class is Ridiculously Expensive

Ever since the unannounced devaluation, Emirates First Class on the A380 between the U.S. and Dubai has been 150,000 Alaska miles, vs. its previous cost of 90,000 miles. And NYC JFK to Milan MXP for some reason is even more expensive, at 180,000 Alaska miles, for a flight that's less than 8 hours. At that point you may as well just transfer AMEX Membership Rewards points to Emirates Skywards if you just need a one way award, at 85,000 miles for that JFK-MXP Emirates First Class flight--plus, you can then take advantage of Emirates Chauffeur, which you no longer are eligible for on partner award flights. And of course with the laptop and tablet ban on flights returning from Dubai (see U.S. Bans Laptops as Carry-ons for Flights from Dubai and Middle East to U.S.) it's not as attractive anyway to fly Emirates on the return.

2. Less Award Space for Cathay Pacific First Class, JAL First Class and Cathay Pacific Business Class

For some time now, there's been less award space when using Alaska miles to book Cathay Pacific First Class, JAL First Class and even Cathay Pacific Business Class awards. On several flights where there's 1 Cathay Pacific First Class award available when using AAdvantage miles or Avios, there's been nothing available using Alaska miles. And recently, when attempting to book a specific Cathay Pacific Business Class flight within Southeast Asia for which there are 3 award seats available to AAdvantage and British Airways, Alaska isn't able to book even a single award seat, citing only coach as available. This was the result when calling 10 different times, so it's not an agent error.

3. Award Calendar Opens Later

Because so many people are often chasing first class award seats, it matters greatly when the award calendar opens, and here again, Alaska Airlines is at a disadvantage. It opens 330 days in advance of the departure date, whereas American AAdvantage opens 331 days before the departure date, British Airways opens 354 days before the departure date, and Cathay Asia Miles opens its award calendar 360 days before departure.

Ultimately, having lost its value proposition for Emirates First Class awards and with noticeably diminished award space for Cathay Pacific First Class and Business Class awards, Alaska miles have lost their luster for me. We'll continue to focus on earning AAdvantage miles and transferable points, such as AMEX Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards.

What's your take on Alaska Mileage Plan miles--do you like them more or less than 18 months ago?

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User_avatar_default James C. commented 15 May 2017
Yes, AS has devalued but what airline hasn't? AA is a disaster, talk about devaluations and their service is substandard compared to AS. My wife and I have switched from UA to AS about three years ago and even though I am a lifetime platinum with UA I fly them maybe once a year. We don't feel there is another US airline that compares.
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 15 May 2017
My focus is on international first class and business class partner awards, and in this respect I consider AAdvantage miles superior now to Alaska, because so often Alaska just doesn't have as much award availability when it comes to Cathay Pacific and JAL. Personally, I avoid flying all U.S. carriers domestically as much as possible, except for JetBlue. I'd fly JetBlue, especially its Mint product, any day over Alaska (and others), even though TrueBlue points are worthless when it comes to international premium class redemptions.
Picture?type=large Emmanuel R. commented 15 May 2017
Agreed. Ran into the same problem in 2016. Just frustrating when you can see those open seats on BA and AA sites and for them to say no!
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 16 May 2017
Can't agree more. Will probably end up cancelling this current Alaska award and rebooking with AAdvantage miles, to avoid a 5 hour flight in economy.
Picture?type=large Bill R. commented 16 May 2017
I did get the EK F awards using 90K AS miles just before the devaluation for our trip to India this past Jan/Feb. I also used AS miles for rdtrip AS F for SNA-PDX for this August's total solar eclipse. But I agree that award pricing for EK (and the travel ban) and award availability for CX and JAL is now terrible. Even award availability for BA and Europe is now pitiful. I've also started back to AA (just flew AA/QF F for LAX-SYD using AA miles, and have LAX-LHR coming up in Oct for AA F). I also have stockpiled some SPG to LH miles for LAX-FRA in LH F while that route still has F. Everything else is earning SPG (for transfer to AA while it lasts), Chase, and Amex.
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