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.
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?
Need Award Booking Help? Our fee is as low as $75 per ticket if you book your hotel through us.
Become a TravelSort Client and Book 5-Star Hotels with Virtuoso or Four Seasons Preferred Partner Amenities!