Alaska Airlines Cuts Stopovers On Intra-Asia Awards

Filed Under: Alaska, Awards

I find Alaska Mileage Plan miles to be incredibly valuable, and in particular appreciate that they allow stopovers even on one-way awards. Well, it looks like the program is changing their policy on this, at least for travel within one region.

Alaska Cuts Stopovers On Intra-Asia Awards

Alaska Mileage Plan has quietly eliminated the option of having stopovers on one-way awards within Asia. Alaska’s partners allowing intra-Asia redemptions include Cathay Pacific, Hainan Airlines, Japan Airlines, and Singapore Airlines, and for travel on these airlines you can no longer have a stopover within Asia.

This has been added as a footnote to the award chart when searching for redemption rates within the region:

10. Stopovers are not available on Intra- Asia award redemptions.

Note that you can still have a stopover when traveling between other regions and Asia. For example, if redeeming miles on Cathay Pacific from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Singapore, you can still have a stopover in Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific A350 Business ClassCathay Pacific A350

Alaska Redefines Singapore Airlines Award Regions

It was just about a week ago that Alaska Mileage Plan introduced award redemptions on Singapore Airlines. Since introducing these redemptions, they’ve already changed what region China belongs to.

Here was the intra-Asia award chart when redemptions were first introduced:

Meanwhile here’s how they’ve changed the intra-Asia award chart:

What has changed here is that originally China was considered to be part of Southeast Asia, while now it’s part of North Asia. That means the cost of premium cabin redemptions between China and Southeast Asia has more than doubled.

Singapore Airlines A380

What Caused These Changes?

I’m not saying I agree with this, but let me share my understanding of why these changes were made. I think there were a few things at play here:

Mileage Plan Fraud

First of all, Alaska Airlines has reported that they’ve had a lot of fraud with intra-Asia awards. This is why they have a restriction where they won’t let you redeem miles for intra-Asia award tickets within 72 hours of departure. This is also why they’ve added limits on how many miles non-elite members can buy.

This fraud comes both in the form of accounts being hacked, as well as in the form of there being a lot of mileage brokers in Asia who would charge people cash for these tickets, for which they’re redeeming miles that they purchased at a discount.

Cathay Pacific A350 business class

Alaska’s Very Generous Routing Rules

I suspect to a large extent this was a technology limitation, but Alaska is known for (probably inadvertently?) having some ridiculously generous routing rules, especially on intra-Asia flights.

For example, Japan Airlines charges 25,000 miles for a one-way ticket within Asia. For whatever reason, their system has historically allowed someone to book a 25,000 mile business class ticket from Jakarta to Tokyo to Singapore, all with a stopover in Tokyo for as long as you’d like.

That’s just one of many examples. I’m not sure if that was a true technology limitation, or what, but it’s puzzling that routings like that have been possible for so long.

Japan Airlines 787 business class

These Redemptions Have Gone Viral

Sometimes certain sweet spot redemptions go viral in the US, and quite a few people book them. However, based on what I’ve been hearing about redemptions at Alaska Mileage Plan, they have the ability to go significantly more viral in Asia (especially in China).

With Singapore Airlines redemptions having recently been introduced, and with some “creative” routing opportunities, it’s my understanding that hundreds of awards have been booked that probably weren’t intended to be possible.

So at some point that will cause airlines to change their policies.

Singapore Airlines A380 business class

Bottom Line

It would have most definitely been nice to get some advance notice of these changes, or at a minimum have an official announcement about these changes, rather than just updating a footnote in the award chart.

That being said, I certainly understand why Alaska made these changes. We take advantage of award chart sweet spots when they’re alive, and we expect that over time the sweet spots will change.

In the case of Alaska, they had some outrageously generous routing rules, which combined with free stopovers, were too good to be true. I’m not sure why they haven’t just been able to update routing rules rather than doing this, though I also get where they’re coming from.

I imagine at some point they also find themselves in a situation where their partner airlines get annoyed at them for the number of redemptions that are booked, and that can put some of these partnerships at risk.

What do you make of these Alaska Mileage Plan award stopover changes?

Comments
  1. I had been eyeing a Delhi – Tokyo – Singapore business class itinerary for 25K miles on JAL airlines, with a 6-7 day stopover in Tokyo. Bad luck that it won’t be doable anymore

  2. It was possible to book a PVG-SIN-LHR-SIN first class award for 37500 miles until this change, so non of this is surprising.

  3. Sigh I was going to book an FC award HAN-SIN-PEK today for march..guess that plan’s over now lol if only I booked first thought about it later

  4. What Caused These Changes?
    Ans: Intra Asia routes (ex: SIN-HKG) make stopover at Europe/America/Africa/Australia on SQ business or even first/suite class.

  5. Those changes were overnight. It was possible last evening and no longer so this morning. (Singapore time). I think SQ redemptions is the catalyst for these changes because they were at very attractive rates and availability for routes to mainland China.

  6. MileLion and his idiot followers ruined this for everyone now even the Tokyo stopover by JL has been pulled.

  7. Waiting for Alaska / SQ to cancel those ticketed first class SQ tickets now.. 35k First class tickets, really? Dream on please… jokes on those blind Milelion followers who blindly follow the herd, now many of them are whining and complaining of their excess Alaska miles.. HAHA

  8. Go, AS. Mileage Plan was never intended to be a currency/bank for travelers who never set foot on an AS metal flight, or brokers violating the terms of service.

    I saw some blogger complaining about “broken trust.” Trust works two ways. AS should invalidate some tickets for fraud while they’re at it.

  9. PVG-SIN-LHR-SIN with stopover at LHR at intra Asia one way rate. That’s what cause the devaluation.

    Quite a few blogger just complain but doesn’t understand why. What I have to agree with LBJ is that people shouldn’t speak on the things they are not well educated.

  10. I agree with Asdf bloggers/hackers are continuing to ruin these programs for us true FF that actually pay for our tickets. I am a MM on AS so one knows. If you truly have real status with AS I suggest you call the Partner Desk they will first look at your record and know whether your a real flyer or hacker. Personally I would love to see these programs killed and the money put back into reducing tickets. I fly first today and as I did 30 years ago, pay for it

    As for the blogger that wrote of “broken trust” he needs to disclose his AS account so we call all see his flying record on Alaska then and only then can his blog be valid.

  11. @QRcode I could have taken advantage of them. I am sitting on lots of AS miles because I actually fly AS. I’m happy AS closed the loopholes and i’m happy all of those idiots in Asia loaded up on miles and are now complaining about how they can’t use them in ways they weren’t intended for use. MileLion and his followers are bunch of deplorables.

  12. CONGRATS to AS. As a legitimate actual bum on seat frequent flier, I appreciate the choice of airlines I have for my mileage redemptions. It is one of the last programs that reward by miles flown. Anything that helps AS lower their redemption costs and takes the heat off them from their partners is a long term smart move IMO.

    Today I will fly from Australia to Seattle in paid Qantas, Fiji Airways and Alaska Airlines. Rinse and repeat every two weeks. I love being able to redeem my miles for a treat routing via Asia. The last thing I want is to lose the many redemption options AS offers on SQ, CX and JL.

  13. Seems the real AS flyers are all in agreement! I too am sitting on miles 1.8mm to be exact and loving it.

  14. I too am excited. I’ll bet you that nearly all of these folks who used stopovers on intra-Asia awards have never even flown on Alaska.

  15. you guys are forgetting that AS sells a shit ton of miles… just because you don’t fly them constantly doesn’t mean they’re not making money from you.

    May even be making more from those miles than your paid tickets, so simmer down you super in-the-know really cool frequent alaska fliers

  16. So many mention of PVG-SIN-LHR-SIN. I’ve heard rumors but not any proof of this ticketing. Can’t even replicate before the AS change hit (intra Asia was still ok then). I think it’s fake on this one.

    Having creative one way stopover is one thing. Going to EU and backtrack clearly violates routing rule. And if this does in fact able to be ticketed, I would blame AS and not those bloggers for this. This is more into mistake fare territory. You can blame bloggers who killed the deal but it’s the airline who screwed up.
    And by the way, the stopover trick was out there forever, I suspect SQ was pissed off that you could sneak in Suites without using Kris and that killed it.

  17. Not sure why the Alaska members are so antagonistic towards people who don’t fly Alaska. If Alaska only wanted to sell to their frequent flyers, they would do so. There’s a reason why they don’t: They profit off people who never fly Alaska and just buy their miles.

  18. I’m glad the SQ loophole was closed(because it was so stupid) but sad that the JL stopover is gone too. As an AS flyer I don’t agree with all the complaining & bitching about the bloggers—they are just selfish for holding on to their little sweet spots and not letting other people know those.

  19. Pardon my ignornace, but when I look at a Bus Flight from GMP (Seoul) to HND(Tokyo) on the 19th of October, with a stayover in Tokyo until 10/24 then flying first to JFK, it costs 70K. Just like the 70K for just the NRT to JFK route… what am I missing?? I did just have a few beers, but I just don’t see it??

  20. It’s unfortunate that Alaska made this change but I clearly understand why they did it. A stopover on an Intra-Asian itinerary was very generous to begin with.

  21. First of all, Alaska Airlines has reported that they’ve had a lot of fraud with intra-Asia awards

    – probably the same people spewing the world with roba-calls in Chinese.

  22. As someone living in southern China, thankfully, HKG is still considered as “Southeast Asia” for SG award redemptions. 🙂

  23. Not trying to troll, but instead genuinely want to understand why all the hate is being directed towards Milelion, when all blogs, including Lucky’s, do mention these points hacks for their readers? What makes Milelion especially culpable in this case? How is it different from any error fare being posted online and then getting pulled because too many people took advantage of it and the word spread?

  24. Amused at all the sanctimonious types here today who think if you don’t fly AS you should not have access to the MP program. Do you hear members of AA spouting the same self-entitled rubbish? Of course not!
    IMO Alaska, as an airline, is pretty mediocre, with limited routes, inconvenient departure times, very ordinary aircraft, awful lounges with restrictive entry requirements, bad IT and indifferent customer service.
    And don’t get me started on their fake premium award redemptions with the pesky ‘mixed cabin’ symbol.
    So tell me again why I should go out of my way to fly AS ?

  25. @Eskimo, it wasn’t a rumor. My friend just booked SIN-LHR-SIN-TPE all in biz class for 25,000 miles recently 🙂

  26. To put a clear and obvious system glitch redemption on a group with 6000+ people is just naive. Especially with airline like SQ.

    Thanks to these idiotic people who booked this impractical itinerary, the JL intra Asia gap had also been closed now. Just put your hand up and say you are wrong in this one instead of saying others are being salty.

  27. I think it just as excuse to say its because of booking on PVG-SIN-LHR-SIN that AS cuts the , as I don’t think you can book a flight on PVG-TYO-LHR-TYO in the first place, for the sake comparison. It’s more like their IT system screwed up big time and now it’s time to cut the losses and try to do the recovery.

  28. @Hiro

    Maybe point me to some picture evidence please. All around is just words and words that I hear. I’ve seen some pricing glitch for RT (where you can legally backtrack) but never a OW with backtracking. There are many safeguards that prevent this. No backtrack, mile limit, zone limit. This is same logic that will stop you from flying paying SIN-BKK fare but routing SIN-SYD-LAX-EWR-LHR-IST-NRT-BKK.

    Even if it was IRROPS, some rules can get ignored some still can’t. I used to be able to circle back to ATL 3 times but they never been able to route me via SEA or LHR ever.
    Another IRROPS case took them forever to change JFK-CDG-BOM to JFK-ICN-BOM as the routing is illegal and it became JFK-ICN+ICN-BOM.

  29. @Eskimo

    Go do a search of the Milelion telegram group. Plenty of evidence of booked, confirmed and ticketed itineraries. There are a couple of people who are flying the aforementioned route today.

    I didn’t book it myself, but a friend of mine did and is already in London trying to get last minute tickets to a Premier League game.

  30. Lol, all you guys raging at Milelion. If there’s an available way to get value out of a program that’s not expressly forbidden, who would not take it? Isn’t that the same as when there are mistake fares or awards? Besides, this is all still subject to award supply and dependent on specific airline partnerships (or routes).

    Granted that as this has been brought more into public light recently (probably in Western blogs) it’s going to be criticized further, but I don’t think it will get as much negative impressions if such a way was also available in North America or Europe, no?

  31. @Asian Miler

    Again, all I see here is loose claims and grudge against this Milelion. I have yet to see credible source of this being ticketed or even honored. (remember the UA very little miles thing?). I still say the EU backtrack is fake.

    I do treat this (if it’s true) as mistake fare, enjoy it quick and hope it sticks. Don’t be a dick and make it public. Airline is to blame for their mistake not bloggers who exploit them.

    I think it doesn’t matter East or West, people will always complain if you killed the deal. All those loopholes are harder and harder to find, and blogger made them dead very fast, thats it. There are still few holy grail left, alive for a long time within a small group. Will bloggers find out, I say matter of time before they stumble upon it.

  32. @Eskimo I was able to quote the one-way backtrack 2 days ago and I did see someone ticketed that flight(he was going to no-show the last flight). It was not fake at all. I complained how stupid the route was to my friend and apparently AS fixed it for SQ and Asia(that’s all I’m going to say)

  33. @glenn t

    “awful lounges with restrictive entry requirements”

    LOL apparently you don’t fly AS at all. They have the most generous lounge entry requirements.

  34. It’s just unfortunate they took down the intra-asia redemptions. I love AS, am MVP Gold and personally fly a couple of AS flights between JFK and PDX/SEA annually. At the same time I have redeemed the intra-Asia JAL a few of times in the past, and even booked one (guess the final one now) for this Christmas. 25k is a real steal for a “round trip” on J to Japan from any city in Asia.

    @Eskimo those PVG/HKG-SIN-LHR/FRA/SYD etc-SIN flights were true. I booked one of them for 25k all-in on J and the flight is confirmed.

  35. @Eddie
    @James

    LOL, I’m not asking you guys to confirm or deny it. Like I said, no credible source, not even from the tabloid sites like that guy. This mistake has been fixed so I don’t even have any interest in trying to know the details. I’m just surprised it got through many safeguards unlike mistake fares where people use wrong FX or decimals.

    All I can hope is they honor your tickets. Paying cash is one thing, redeeming miles might put you at a disadvantage.

    And yes, losing JL sucks, especially that was known (and legal) for a long time.

  36. @TracyL Thanks! I just thought it meant a stopover basically in the same Asian Region, but this makes sense. Given that, this will never effect me.

    Thanks again.

  37. Does this apply to itineraries that begin or end outside of Asia? For example: SFO-HND (5 day stopover) – ICN?

    Or: ICN – KIX ( 5 day stopover) – LAX?

    or is it only for those beginning and ending in Asia

  38. Haha! I thought all the begg… I mean bloggers whom too hunger for click rates so that publicized every single loopholes should be blamed!

  39. I try to search and book a flight to redeem miles using JAL from Jakarta to Tokyo round trip without trick but JAL is not showing. Does anybody know why?

  40. they’ve pulled JAL temporarily I think. I also want to book SIN-HND-GMP return but unable to see availability anymore.

  41. same here. I hope they will add JAL again. I asked JAL directly but they can’t confirm anything. we need to ask Alaska they said. But Alaska Airlines haven’t replied my email.

    Do you think JAL will be added again? Because I try to go to Hongkong, Cathay isn;t there too only SQ is available and SQ is more expensive like doubled

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