Alaska Blames “Travel Hackers” For Their No-Notice Mileage Devaluation

Filed Under: Alaska, Awards

Earlier today I wrote about the massive devaluation Alaska made to Emirates first class redemptions, where we saw award costs increase by anywhere from 67% to 100%. The cost of a first class award between the US and Africa increased from 200,000 miles roundtrip to 400,000 miles roundtrip.

Emirates A380

The worst part is that there was no advance notice, so members who have been collecting Mileage Plan miles with a specific use in mind found the value of their currency halved overnight, in some cases.

Making a change without notice was completely within Alaska’s rights, as the terms of the Mileage Plan program say they can make whatever changes they want whenever they want. But there’s a difference between what they can do and what they should do, especially since they’re a loyalty program. A lot of Mileage Plan members lost trust in the airline with this change, and that goes against everything a loyalty program should stand for.

Did I like the recent changes to American AAdvantage? Absolutely not. But American provided advance notice of the changes, so they were at least transparent about it. That means a lot to me.

Well, Alaska Airlines wrote a blog post following the uproar from members regarding today’s changes. They sure have some interesting stuff to say. The post starts by apologizing to those customers who were surprised by the change, though says they were “unable to communicate it in advance:”

“Our goal has always been to offer our customers the best loyalty program in the industry. It is a priority to ensure Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members retain access to first and business class on Emirates. Today we made a necessary change that caught many of our members by surprise,” said Ryan Butz, Alaska’s managing director of loyalty marketing. “We apologize to the customers who may have been surprised by today’s update, which we were unable to communicate in advance.”

Then they go on to offer an explanation for why Mileage Plan is making this change:

Alaska’s premium Emirates awards have long been known as an exceptionally good deal. With the rise of “travel-hacking,” intended to exploit Mileage Plan’s award routing rules, coupled with below-market award levels, our previous award levels were unsustainable. The new award levels enable Alaska to continue to offer Emirates Business Class and First Class as a redemption option.

Yes, Alaska has very generous routing rules, like letting you route from the US to Europe via Dubai. But it’s puzzling to blame the devaluation on “the rise of travel hacking, intended to exploit Mileage Plan’s award routing rules.” If the issues were the routing rules, why not change them up? Blaming members for Mileage Plan’s routing rules seems silly.

I’m not sure what we’re supposed to make of them saying that they had to change the award costs due to the below-market award levels. Alaska does say they want Mileage Plan to be a competitive advantage, so are they inferring we should expect them to eliminate stopovers on one-way awards soon, and raise Cathay Pacific award prices to match American’s recent changes?

Cathay-Pacific-First-Class-777 - 1
Will the cost of Cathay Pacific first class awards increase next?

While far from an ideal solution, I commend Alaska for at least being willing to refund mileage purchases for those who purchased miles this month:

If you purchased miles on or after March 1, 2016, you can contact our Customer Care team for a refund.

Alaska goes on to explain why they didn’t provide advance notice, and say that this isn’t a new normal. Instead they say they’ll provide at least 30 days of advance notice in the future “when possible:”

Given the dynamics of this particular award, we were unable to announce changes in advance. This approach doesn’t represent a new normal. Our policy is to communicate significant program changes with at least 30 days’ notice when at all possible.

I’m fairly confident they’ve heard us loud and clear, and will effort to provide notice in the future. I didn’t expect them to outright promise never to make changes without notice, but I do think they’ll go great lengths to avoid it in the future, given the response they got with this change.

Emirates business class redemptions are still quite reasonably priced…

Bottom line

On the plus side, I commend Alaska for offering to refund mileage purchases from the past month, and saying they’ll provide at least 30 days notice in the future, when possible. I know that’s not ideal and isn’t a “make good” for those who have been working hard towards a specific Emirates redemption, but it’s better than nothing.

At the same time, I find the overall passive aggressive and blame-shifting tone of the blog post to be off-putting. They’re taking the low road here. Rather than owning the change, they’re blaming the change on members who were “exploiting” this redemption.

Alrighty then…

What do you make of Alaska’s explanation of their no notice Mileage Plan changes?

  1. If a so-called “blogger” gets 5 Alaska cards in one day, I’m gonna call it hacking.
    If 100 other bloggers write 100 times about how they booked Emirates F for “almost free” etc etc…
    Look in the mirror.

  2. Refunding mileage purchases doesn’t help me out… I transferred almost all of my SPG points to Mileage Plan to get to 200K miles… was going to book two tix for my parents next month (Mom’s 60th birthday present). Eat shit, Alaska.

  3. You’ve been plugging AS miles = Emirates First Class for as long as I can remember. Are you feigning disbelief that people took your advice and turned a good deal into an unsustainable one? Even the airlines are impliedly blaming the bloggers here.

    You ostrich bloggers are so talented at being in denial; it’s incredible.

  4. Lucky, be thankful that you were able to exploit this deal probably more than anyone else. The award redemption on Emirates were extremely generous for a while, and I’m glad I was able to take advantage of it while it was available. IF anyone killed the deal, it was the bloggers.

  5. Let’s face it, Alaska played a typical dirt bag scam: run a mileage bonus buy for three or so weeks knowing that in an unannounced manner the price for at least one award will skyrocket on the very last day of said bonus buy program. Alaska knew full well what it was doing. They’re offering refunds because they know some clever lawyer can spot a case of fraud – regardless of the program’s rules of changes ‘anytime’. Cheaper to refund and avoid the hassle of any potential litigation. Alaska Airlines just got a bit more greasy for me.

  6. “With the rise of “travel-hacking,” intended to exploit Mileage Plan’s award routing rules, coupled with below-market award levels, our previous award levels were unsustainable.”

    Setting aside the silly side-tracking regarding “routing rules”, is 100k one way in F to Europe or Asia really that “below-market” anyways? That was pretty in-tune with post-devaluation award charts on UA and AA in F…

  7. I was a bit taken aback by the “travel hacking” statement as well. I don’t really see what anyone is hacking when we are following clearly posted program rules. It does concern me we will see further devaluations sooner rather than later or, even worse, reduced availability, or both.

    However, refunding of the mileage purchases is commendable; I don’t see any of the Big 3 carriers ever doing something that benefits the customer in that way. Hell, you can’t even get AA to bend the rules on SWU usage when flying AA metal purchased on BA stock. Sure, it’s the rule and their right to enforce it, but when there is a clear medical need and the availability is there? But I digress…

  8. This whole episode is unsavory. I’m about to book a BOS>SEA flight in first. I was gonna book Alaska but I think I’ll go with Delta instead. I’ve never heard Delta blame bloggers for pointing out mileage redemption options which represent great value.

  9. Bloggers are running a business. If blogger A promises free trips on Emirates Blogger B must follow suit. If blogger B wont do it (out of some ethical quandary) blogger C will. Basically human nature sucks. It was inevitable since it was a losing propostion for Alaska, maybe bloggers accelerated the timeframe of this change but in the end it was bound to happen. No doubt that someone wouldve eventually spilled the beans, cant blame the bloggers for trying to get as many website hits as possible. But really the lack of competition in the airline industry is to blame, the big 3 award programs suck, so we all go to the one worthwhile program in our own self-interest and this is the end result.

  10. I think AS is right to blame some of the “travel hackers”, because like the mint deal and everything else, it was shut down cuz someone wanted to be behind the lens for 14 minutes, and say look mom…I’m on TV!! I recall one article about someone talking about how they spend $300 to travel EK F. ..and once attention is diverted to the sweet spots, they quickly shut the shades, so you cant look no more 🙂
    It was good while it lasted, and hopefully that’s the last deval,(but we know there’s more coming) for awhile. Save the good info on these hacks for paid FTU sessions, bar huddles, DO’s, etc etc….and lets keep this hobby going.

  11. Bloggers didn’t force them to sell miles with bonuses and then offer EK F for 90K or 100K. They did that to themselves. If people followed the rules AS created and got good redemption values out of it, then that is what the program allowed. To blame it on bloggers or “hackers” (a term I absolutely detest, no one “hacked” anything) is disingenuous.

  12. Is it true that your posts regarding purchase of Alaska miles whenever they came up with bonus offers (which was fairly frequent) contained referral purchase links that generated income for you when people clicked through those links to buy miles?

    Is that the real reason you are bummed about this move by Alaska?

  13. While giving refunds is commendable, the rest is very weird. I’ve never seen “travel-hackers” blamed for an award devaluation by other airlines.

    I think it’s clear that Emirates forced this increase and they, likely, forced Alaska to not give advance notice to avoid a massive spike in bookings.

  14. A simple search of “alaska emirates” on your blog renders 19 pages of results. As someone who has clearly benefitted from the previous redemption rates, you might want to recognize your contribution to their demise.

  15. With a little luck all of the people screaming and crying about not being able to fly Emirates 1st class so cheaply will pull out of the Alaska mileage plan, leaving it easier for the rest of us to book free and reduce price tickets to ‘ordinary’ destinations like Phoenix, Chicago, LA, etc.

    Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

  16. LOL they are blaming bloggers like yourself because clearly you needed to post about Alaska and Emirates constantly to get your referral points, and now your upset that youre the reason they’re upping the price??

    Just man up and accept responsibility for your contribution instead of blaming airlines which are an actual business.

  17. Everyone who reads these blogs is a travel hacker. That’s why they (we) read them. To now post here and say the bloggers caused this is the height of hypocrisy.

  18. “where we saw award costs increase by anywhere from 67% to 100%”

    Economy to Africa was 47.5k post dev and remained the same at 47.5k. How exactly is that a 67% increase?

    Should read: “where we saw award costs increase by anywhere from 0% to 100%”

  19. Time to cancel the BOA Alaskan Air credit card and expend any remaining miles on Cathay and wave bye to Alaskan Airlines. UMP card/Star Alliance now looks like the best card/mileage plan out there. Don’t talk people ..act.

  20. All we need now is all the carriers to stop releasing space a few days out. I was on Etihad AUH-SFO last night ans we were the only 2 flying first…but when I checked there was no guest space available. Of course, you could use Emirates “standard” award at 1,000,000 plus points.
    I love seeing those on their site and wonder who ever uses them.
    It seems we are headed toward a collision of discounted first revenue seats versus award tix.

    Time to burn everything….miles. that is

  21. I’ll join the others and say you need to look in the mirror. I didn’t expect to find an unbiased view here or any other BA blog since Alaska miles purchases for Emirates awards headlines were an easy and repetitive cash cow for all the bloggers (aka page visits and clickbait headlines).

  22. It’s the bloggers fault? Come on a give me a break. We live in a free county and fortunately you can write about what you want to write about. Why did Alaska raise redemption rates on Emirates? Because Alaska under priced them and then later figured it out. How did people discover the below market cost? In a free economy people are going to communicate information, and then the arbitrage opportunity gets shut down. Enjoy the arbitrage while you can and then move on. Good grief.

  23. and….I am getting tired of traveling.
    All these changes can’t be great for blog readership.

  24. It seems silly of AS to set up a frequent flier program with intricate routing rules, and an entire fiat currency of ‘miles’, and then complain that people use that currency to purchase the products that AS is selling within the rules that AS has laid out. It isn’t the travel bloggers’ fault that AS redemptions were unsustainable. And it isn’t ‘hacking’ to use the currency within the rules of the program. I wish they had just owned up to it and said it was their mistake. Because, if it was unsustainable, it was because AS made it unsustainable.

  25. Thank you. Most of the juvenile dumb %ucks (including myself) will go away leaving the practitioners to their art till the next cycle starts.

  26. yea for lucky me. I have two LAX DXB MXP Emirates First booked.
    Booked 10 months out and only 2 seats available.Yes a deal and very hard to find. Point is 100000 or 180000 good luck finding it. Will be interesting to see if there is a lot more space available in the future .

  27. That’s ridiculous. It’s not travel hacking when they’ve created the redemption system. It’s just the utilization of mileage – no hacking or tricks needed. Alaska shot themselves in the foot this time.

  28. So they were ok with people using their miles no matter where they came from until they weren’t ok with it and not they blame travel hackers. If they don’t want people using miles from various sources then take away the ability for us to transfer miles into a program we don’t fly. Otherwise everyone who booked those flights played within Alaska’s rules until they decided the rules were too generous.

  29. A devaluation was bound to happen when you have people jumping on the AS buy miles promo, earning AS miles through SPG, BoA CC signs up and so on.

    I’m not solely blaming Lucky or any blogger, but posts like these:

    Make the general population aware of the redemption and the relatively ease of accruing AS miles. It’s a free world for Ben or any blogger to write about what they want. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that AS changed their redemption rates. I agree doing it overnight is not good for customer relations.

  30. I cannot disagree strongly enough with those who are attacking Ben and other bloggers. Alaska set up the redemption levels, the routing rules and the opportunities for accruing miles including their own fire sales. If Alaska (or Emirates) was dissatisfied with the redemptions to date it certainly had plenty of time to tweak its program to meet its objectives. I recognize that an overnight devaluation is its legal right but it does not help Alsska build trust in its program. Since the term “hacking” was raised I do want to make a distinction between redemptions based on published criteria and exploiting errors or loopholes. I do not condone actions such as redemptions made for amounts below published levels such as when a coding error under prices awards on a web site.

    Ben is not the problem and he does not need to look in the mirror. That action should be reserved for Alaska and/or Emirates for setting up a program that they would eventually decide was too generous and then changing the rules without notice.

  31. I’m obviously missing something in all of this. If it wasn’t for the information being disbursed by the bloggers then I probably wouldn’t have any real concept of the possibilities out there. The thing is that so many are climbing on this bandwagon and not feeling that Alaska did right by them. Well tough. Nothing ever comes without cost and if you don’t capitalize at the right time then you miss out.
    One thing that is always heard is to burn those miles and points, because their value could change at any given time. Most every blogger, at one time or another, has said it. Why is it that so many are prepared to listen too and gain from, most of the content they read, yet feel that this important advice should go unheeded?
    I feel quietly confident in saying that Alaska and every other airline, has a team in place who read all of the major blogs. It keeps them informed too.
    Was the timing bad? Of course it was. The lack of notice is deplorable but I take Alaskas point yo heart. If they had given notice every man and his dog would have been fighting for seats. To me the beauty of this game is to get the amazing experience. Inwascfortunate enough to have been able to redeem for Qantas F for tonight’s flight from DFW-SYD with an add on from MIA and to PER. An amazing redemption for 72.500 and $33. Sadly I was medically grounded on Tuesday and this wonderful trip, that I’ve been planning for 5 months, is now dismissed from my experiences. I’ll probably never find these flights again but, I have until October too do so. I’ll just watch and hope that a blogger somewhere that I follow, tweets away.
    My point to all of this is that many of us would have no idea if it wasn’t for these blogs. So they make money but don’t we all try to do so? If it’s a sales pitch for credit cards or miles sales or error fares, every one of us has gained from their efforts. They deserve what they earn from their click bait.
    I have no beef with Alaska or any bloggers. It’s a business to them and it’s a game for us. If you want to look at in other way than that, then judge yourself. Did you get all of your points and miles from butt in seat paid travel? I certainly didn’t. Ever have a Bluebird or a Redbird? How are those working for you now? Did you learn to MS just with those options?? I know I had no clue but have discovered many methods now. Everything is going to change and their isn’t a set timetable. Both are useless to us now and I for one, really do miss them.
    The airlines are around to make money and they are doing so again. I’m thrilled for them to be doing so. I can’t say I approve of many of their policies but I know if I want in I have to play their games.
    There was a reason these programs were called loyalty programs. I don’t see most people really looking at them that way anymore. It seems now that the only loyalty is to use any way we can to save as much as we are able in attaining a flight.

  32. BTW how do the carriers “settle up” between themselves on mileage tickets? Alaska books its award travel on Emirates as “staff tickets” with no baggage allowance, which is a hint. Basically Emirates is selling unused F inventory for $1700 (LAX-DXB-BKK) which isn’t free, and perhaps in a way it’s an ultra-low-cost, very limited availability, discount bucket.

    Now it is 180K miles, or an 80% increase without any notice. That’s roughly $3000 now. List price $9651. What a PR disaster, but still cheap.

    I didn’t see the new mileage rates until after purchasing miles under the 40% promotion which runs out at midnight.

    Presumably they’ll have a big promotion soon, like American is doing, to quiet things down.

  33. Ooops. $9651 is via MXP, which oddly enough, is a place I need to visit in May… one stop is $14524… so $3000 is quite a bargain regardless, just not dirt cheap.

  34. What about date changes for already booked Emirates First class flights? Right now, if I change it online it’s asking for the extra 80k miles! Doesn’t the same policy hold intact for changes up to 60 days before departure? This is a complete mess! 🙁

  35. I don’t recall Ben pushing manufactured spending or advocating multiple AS credit card applications to earn AS miles on his blogs. Airlines make money off of mileage sales, which is often what Ben pushes on his blog. Alaska does not make money on those people who apply for 5 credit cards in one sitting or run $500k through their credit cards via manufactured spend without the benefit of having legitimate business expenses. So let’s not be so quick to bunch Ben with all the other bloggers bragging how you can get “free” first class flights.

    I was not naive to think I could get “free” flights from the very get go. Extremely discounted? Yes, and I’m currently working toward a one month honeymoon where 90% of the costs will be defrayed by airline miles, hotel points, and leveraging credit card benefits (I.e Prestige 4th night free). All of this is through legitimate spend. Is it a hassle for me to constantly manage my credit card spend to make sure I meet minimum requirements all the while making sure I live within my means? Sure. But I get the assurance knowing I’m not leading to the breaking of the system, as is the case here.

    The only people with a gripe today are those who earned Alaska status and miles the old fashioned way – through LEGITIMATE spending. Everybody else doesn’t matter. They’re just like a spoiled child whose toy (which was never properly earned to begin with) was taken away from them.

  36. It’s not binary, the spectrum of blame runs the gamut. AS setup the routing rules and award chart and were well aware of how folks redeem their miles. But Ben and his brethren aren’t blameless either, they are directly rewarded for inducing people to apply for AS/SPG cards. No one has clean hands.

  37. You used the word “inferring” in the article when you should have used “implying”. A comon mistake.

  38. “the overall passive aggressive and blame-shifting tone of the blog”

    Did seeing yourself in the mirror scare you?

  39. On the plus side, I commend you for acknowledging Alaska’s response at all.
    At the same time, I find the overall attitude that you and other bloggers have to never accept any responsibility for how your actions affect others to be extremely off-putting…

  40. EK probably strong armed Alaska into making this change. The simple fact remains that the more this hobby becomes mainstream, the more these “hacks” which are easy to exploit will disappear. This has now become a losing game in the long term, better to apply all the brainpower here for something else instead of cribbing.

  41. I am shocked when I read your blog today. I just want to thank you, Ben for what I learnt from you. At least I tried shower 4 times with 100K AS miles. There are a lot of sore losers. I think majority appreciate your effort.The only thing I am not happy is that I was not allowed to use EK lounge in DXB.

  42. Refusal to communication has absolutely nothing to do ‘travel-hacking’ reducing award availability. Their crime isn’t changing the redemption rate. Their crime is changing redemption rate at the end of a sale with intend to decrease the value of the mile they just sold without acting in good faith. They provide no reason why they refuse to communicate to their customer ahead of time, and they are setting example for other airlines to follow such practice. They have just cause to make the change, but they have no excuse to make the change without notice. From a company with greed from selling mile for profit than for improve overall airline performance & service, I question its integrity both now and in the future.

  43. I have a question I hope others can answer. I was surprised to read that the EK F award redemptions on AS were significantly under market value. Let’s take 90K miles from the US to DBX. Until AA’s devaluation just last week, wasn’t this right in line with the redemption on AA for EY F? Even AA’s new rate for EY F to the Middle East is considerably less that AS’s rate for EK F to the Middle East.

    I know that I’ve read that EK charges its own members way more than AS did, but given the attractive rates on JL for EK F and AA’s rates for EY F, aren’t the new AS rates for EK F the highest out there by far? Do any other US airlines charge 180K or 200K miles one-way for an F ticket? Heck, even SQ Suites is 107.5K, and considerably less with their 15% discount.

    I flew EK F SFO-DBX-LGW last summer and loved every second of it. But AS’s new rates would suggest it’s the most aspirational redemption out there.

    Just really curious about the “under market value” side of it all. Thanks — eager to hear what y’all say.

  44. Alaska could have avoided all this hoopla if they didn’t offer the redemptions for EK First since, after all, Alaska doesn’t have a comparable cabin offering for EK skywards members to redeem on AS metal.

  45. Once everyone calms down and lets the dust settle, I think we can begin to see Alaska wasn’t stupid, and was more than willing to risk angering their clientele (if you can even call it that) as this was a pure business decision. @ Norman beat me to it – Alaska was clearly losing a lot more money in these redemptions, and miles sales weren’t helping meet the gap. You can say all you want about raking in $34 million more in sales, but they are clearly paying a lot more for seats on airlines that charge $10k+ for their first seats! This redemption was BOUND to happen, and you can bet Cathay First and Business are going up as well. Alaska clearly saw the mess that ensued after American announced their devaluation (Cathay seats have all but dried up for the next ~12 months). The same would have happened to Emirates seats if Alaska had given prior notice. Emirates probably refused to let that happen, and strong armed Alaska into forcing them to make this change overnight. Any airline that makes it harder for their own frequent flier base to redeem miles is stupid, and Emirates has taken care of this now. Changing JAL rates is only a matter of time.

    Lets also think about how many people such a change ACTUALLY affected. I’m speculating wildly here, but Alaska probably has a lot more members who don’t care / didn’t know about such redemptions, that those who do (i.e. readers of BA blogs/Flyertalk). Sure, a lot of those miles sales were coming from the few of us who “hack” our way through premium flights, but again these are largely loss-making (for both Alaska and Emirates). Again, I bet Alaska was not willing to further strain their relationship with Emirates as their revenue passenger feed to Emirates probably helps them a lot!

    I’m not saying the timing of this was alright though – making this change at the end of a miles sale was downright sneaky. But they are offering to refund it now, which I would argue is a lot more than “less than ideal”. Was I furious when I woke up yesterday to read this? Sure! But I think we need to “grow up” now and stop whining about these changes, especially when we are clearly part of the problem. Not to say that anything is going to change – we are now going to run to JAL to make our redemptions, and its only a matter of time before we have another cry-fest when they change their award chart as well.

  46. @Ben – for starters, thank you for sharing your knowledge . I for one owe you !

    Guys , Bottom line – any one who has read Ben’s posts, and then acts on it, falls in the category of a travel hacker. Heck, I myself had no clue about the Alaska credit cards or how to book CX seats let along how to get Etihad seats or Emirates seats. by using miles and I’ve done it all, thanks to knowledge shared by Ben !

    Do I care that I have never travelled Emirates first class .. NO,!! Having a shower in the air, has never really interested me. But like others, what has bummed me is the ‘loyalty’ factor and no notice . But let’s face reality – every airline is in it for the money !! And every one of us who uses miles has cut into an airline’s revenue, so this was bound to happen.

    Ben – it may be time for you to get think about a place on earth as ‘up in the air’ times may be ending 🙂

    As for us normal folks , my only to those who are sitting on stash of miles .. burn, baby burn !!

  47. This is rich coming from you, a few weeks out from exploiting the MRU loophole. The fact is you make a ton of money promoting these awards (via credit card referrals and points pro) so your complaining seems self serving.

  48. I am going to sue Alaska airline’s mileage plan for misleading advertisement. The advertisement emphasis on ‘Buy miles to fast-track your travel’. Now from fast-track become out of track travel. Because of the 100% miles increase for Emirate award ticket changes, I can’t able to redeem first class ticket on Emirate via Alaska mileage plan. So the advertisement was a trap, get people attention to buy miles and then they change the award requirement. So I can’t redeem what my original plan. Instead Alaska require me to buy more points to get what I want. They deliver a false and dishonest message.

  49. It’s tempting to blame bloggers for this. Indeed, Lucky has arguably been the most outspoken in terms of how to get EK F on the cheap. But let’s face facts: It is the airlines that have been selling miles on the cheap — whether by sign-up bonuses or direct purchase — while simultaneously promoting all the great “free” travel you can earn by using them. Obviously they hoped people would either let their purchased miles spoil or use them on their own metal at unfavorable CPM rates, but why they should be surprised that folks want to maximize value is beyond me. The airlines — not bloggers — created this monster, and it is they who are responsible for failing to properly align the “printing” of mileage currency with the supply of goods you can buy with that currency.

    Accusing people who take the time to learn the system and share their knowledge of “hacking” is a low blow, in my opinion. Earning and burning at the most favorable rates is not taking advantage of the system. It’s not cheating; it’s not exploiting mistakes or errors. It’s 100% playing by the airlines’ rules. It seems to me what Alaska should be admitting is that their own policy of selling miles on the cheap coupled with attractive redemption rates has had some “unintended consequences” that they need to fix. That, at least, would be honest.

  50. I get why Alaska did this. Probably under some duress from Emirates. So my 900K of Alaska accrued miles has been devalued significantly. My wife almost cried as our three trips on Emirates first class look to be a memory.

    I do agree the publicity given to the generous award levels gave rise to its demise.

    Now you need to figure out a way to get one way awards to parts of the world and then get paid Emirates flights back at very cheap rates. Fares exist around $3000 one way, in first, from Africa to the US. I have seen under $5000 for Africa originations for roundtrip first class fares.

    So get real. This is a blow. But figure a way around it.

  51. As long as Mileage Plan doesn’t introduce a cap on how many miles you can purchase in a year, all is still well in my book. Yeah, no notice sucked but that’s life sometimes.

    You’re still getting EK F for well under retail, people. The gravy train had to slow down at some point.

  52. The best part of this post and many of the comments is this thought of “loyalty.” None of you were “loyal” to Alaska. You were loyal to Alaska having constant sales of miles and loyal to Alaska having outsized redemption opportunities. To say that their actions have hurt your “loyalty” to flying the airline is beyond laughable.

  53. @Flyboy – good lucking suing them, lol. You don’t think that AS had their ass covered before devaluing their program? You’re in a dream world.

  54. Looking at the comments and general comments from travel bloggers puts a smile on my face. I love to see people exploiting a system knocked down a few pegs.

  55. @Lucky, thank you for continue to share with us how to best navigate the miles & points landscape. Your efforts are appreciated!

  56. But all of those miles people have bought through the program provide a not negligible amount of revenue for the airline. Whether some one has been “loyal” by buying AS miles or by flying on their flights, I don’t really see much difference.

    We also need to realize that while EK may charge a retail price of over $10K for those seats, AS pays a fraction of that when they settle up with EK. Now, if they were really paying out more to EK than they were getting for their miles, then that was their mistake in undercharging for those seats. That’s not the fault of “travel hackers”.

  57. @Don

    “I’ve never heard Delta blame bloggers for pointing out mileage redemption options which represent great value.”

    I’ve never head bloggers claim Delta offered great value….

  58. Unfortunately in the absence of data we can only speculate, but I’d hazard a guess there’s an obvious distinction of importance in AS MP’s eyes between true loyalists/non-bloggers who actively participate in the loyalty program and the hobbyists/F-class-for-pennies-on-the-dollar enthusiasts who treat AS MP like a currency platform funded with SPG transfers and mileage sale purchases.

    That EK was the only redemption that shot up without notice would suggest some truth to the above statement. We all know that’s a hot ticket, and AS reserves the right to charge what they want for said ticket.

    I have a hunch the truly loyal AS MP members are redeeming tickets for SEA-PVR or LAX-SJD, with only a really small percentage finding the EK partnership of value.

    Look, bloggers/enthusiasts know they’re getting a deal. So for the people who are upset that “AS doesn’t care about their loyalty” or they’re going to “sue” because AS didn’t give you time to make final redemptions, you kind of need to get over yourself if you primarily use AS as a points laundering platform. You’re not loyal to AS, you’re loyal to your hobby, and you might even be disappointed they beat you at your own game.

    Somebody posted above the gravy train is ending; I believe that to be true in the world of loyalty programs, and this is yet another example.

    Not everything in life is fair. For some people, this is one of those things. Chin up.

  59. Paul etc, couldn’t agree more, adapt and survive!!! Cape Town to US one way on EK <$3000 r/t 30 segment experience), food is crap and the $30k price tags a joke…… forces prevail, big deal….Lucky has provided a free creative service to many entitled minds and now a backlash??? Really??? Great job Ben, keep up the good work!!!! Love to see the s–t storm if you suddenly stop the blog tomorrow, take a 7 figure salary with an airline and the ungrateful masses had to scramble to find their own way to the front of the plane with just taxes, some manufactured spend minus heap loads of criticism for you for paving the way for their ungrateful fat asses to be there, because they don’t fit in coach!!!!…..Keep up the great work!

  60. Because you and other bloggers take about 3.8 seconds to ruin an excellent deal, and will beat a good deal right into the ground over time, I truly can’t wait until the credit card companies stop paying you to plug their cards. At some point, the credit card bonus market will rationalize just like the frequent flyer programs have. I’ll be eagerly reading while your “industry” circles the drain.

    The selfishness of you and other bloggers has irrefutably contributed to the value decline of FF programs.

  61. @Mark – Perfectly well put. In my mind, AS made it pretty clear what kind of loyalty they prefer.

  62. “I love to see people exploiting a system knocked down a few pegs.”

    I’m not sure how anyone was “exploiting the system.” Alaska happily sold its miles to anyone. In what way is buying miles and then using them exploiting the system? It’s like saying I’m exploiting the system when a supermarket has a sale on cat food and I go and buy 300 cans. They wanted to sell it to me at that price, and I bought it. I was not exploiting the supermarket. Had they not wanted to sell that much to me, they could have done any number of things, like capped the amount I could buy, or set the price a bit higher, or forced me to buy $X worth of other items to get the discount on the cat food. There are exact equivalents to these restrictions for the sale of FF miles, some of which Alaska even used (limit on number of miles one can purchase – yet people like you still claim they were exploited. Or, in Alaska’s own terms, “hacked.”

    That is ridiculous. They were not exploited, hacked, or anything of the sort. They made the rules, and now they (and their supporters) whine because people actually followed them.

  63. We live in Seattle and in our family, all four of us (kiddos included) are MVP Golds or 75ks. My husband and I had planned a trip to the Middle East for President’s Day 2017. In order to afford a fancy trip, we earned and banked points. We used our flexible Chase UR points to buy the outbound on Korean Air, transferring 210K UR points to KE, which is an otherwise useless currency to us. For the return trip we were planning to use 180K Mileage Plan points to fund our way home. Each of my husband and I had around 200K miles in our Alaska accounts (we have never bought miles, these have been earned by flying). This morning was our morning to book the return trip.

    I searched for availability for 2 on our return, saw a great flight on EK, and saw that it now cost 300K miles for 2. I was mad that the points went up but we have already invested (sort of irreversibly) in our outbound trip so decided to pay the new price. I used my account to buy one ticket then opened my husband’s account to buy the second ticket. First time booking EK, just using the Alaska website, I’m not really a “travel hacker” (whatever that means). Those of you who have done this a few times can guess what happened next – the space was gone. We could not buy the second ticket home. Our flights are not even available in Business.

    Alaska not only burned us on the amount of miles but made it impossible for us to secure the tickets we could have had using any number of their miles.

    I called Customer Care and was told very quickly, “Emirates controls our prices, we don’t, they didn’t want to give warning. You can use your miles to purchase your husband’s ticket on another partner airline, let me transfer you to the partner desk.” They had no help.

    We have refunded the one ticket home, cancelled our trip and hotel, and I am now looking for new ways to spend 210K KE miles on a round-trip.

  64. “In my mind, AS made it pretty clear what kind of loyalty they prefer.”

    All they have managed to do is raise prices for an aspirational award, which will be harder for even “truly loyal” Alaska fliers to obtain. Had they wanted aspirational awards to be available only to “truly loyal” members, they would have done something completely different – for instance, make them available only to their elites, or require that some fraction of the miles used to purchase such awards come from flying on Alaska metal. And they would have long ago stopped the practice of selling large quantities of miles, and having sales for this purpose.

    No, they are not making a statement about loyalty. If they are making any hidden statement, it is simply that the EK redemptions became too expensive for them, so they raised the miles price to reduce the amount they had to pay for them. That is all. A hard-headed business decision to defend their bottom line.

    Which is fine – they just should have warned people first.

  65. Lucky,

    Perhaps at some point you might comment upon the general tenor of these comments which seem to fall into 2 categories: (1) the broad dissemination of the fantastic awards and relative ease of earning them was the functional equivalent of killing the goose that lays the golden egg and, (2) Alaska got to set the rules, but sleazily changed the rules when they came to realize they were being too generous.

  66. @snic – By almost definition AS elites actually fly the airplane and filing after filing shows that most members of an airline’s FF program redeem for domestic Y awards. The proportion of people bothered by this change is highly skewed toward people who rarely step foot on an AS plane. This was very clearly a shot across the bow of a certain set of customers – a set they freely called out in an official blog post even.

  67. @Michelle – You can still fly from the Middle East to the USA with AS MP miles in relative comfort: Air France/KLM for 70k/ea, Cathay Pacific for 62.5k-70k, etc.

  68. Well they still won’t get my money and it will just mean I use cash back cards more and also cut my travel plans in half. It is what it is but I’m still going to ride up front even if it is only half the time.

  69. I’d say that what the US domestic airlines have been doing over the past few years is “passenger hacking”. Soon we’ll see fees for overhead space and under-seat-in-front-of-you.

  70. All the bloggers should STOP flaunting taking showers at 35,000 feet, having 5 course dinner with Caviar or having suites in the air (we know Economy awards doesn’t sell to the readership).

  71. @JohnE-take a pill, dude. Or, maybe a whole bottle. Geez.
    @ff lover-why on earth should bloggers stop writing about what most of us love to read about?! You make no sense. I have zero interest in reading about flying in the back and staying at the Best Western. Been there, done that, thank you. I’m stepping up my travel game, thanks entirely to travel bloggers. Judging from Lucky’s readership, I’m hardly alone.

  72. @mbh – Think before reacting to something. What I’am saying is flaunting every other day by multiple bloggers, it catches Airline/Banks/Hotel attention, are not required (unless to sell story/credit card links with shiny pictures) unless something new. You can search on Google to find any past article about anything/info!

  73. @ff l, you can’t possibly be so naive as to think all of these blogs are not constantly monitored by everyone in the biz.
    The way I see it, about 10% of travel hackers are really hard core and work at this in their free time (or, in some cases appear to be unemployed), and 90% of us rely primarily or entirely upon bloggers. So, while bloggers (and, by extension, WE) kill the deals, without the bloggers the vast majority of us would never find these deals.

  74. If you look at Alaska Airlines own website, they actually had a blogger (Scott Mackenzie, of TravelCodex) posting articles on Alaska’s own blog. I have pointed this out and even grabbed screenshots and links to these blog posts on my own blog article regarding the obvious hypocrisy of Alaska’s statements blaming “travel hackers.”

    In fact, in Alaska Airlines’ blog articles they mention redemptions for Emirates awards in every single post!

  75. I am an Alaska Airlines gold member. I have flown F 3 times (one ways). When Emirates was first announced as a partner I was happy primarily because I could get my bags checked all the way through to India which was my only destination where I travel twice a year. I could never get a Business class mileage award on Cathay Pacific let alone a First Class award so I was happy because Emirates always had a lot more availability and the ability to book online.

    Yes the 90K was good while it lasted, however even if you buy miles on AS from it works out to 2 cents a mile. So it now costs $1200 more on a one way than before. But if you try to book on British Airways another partner they have the ridiculous fuel charges that adds at least another 1000 to your trip…so the increase would actually bring it closer to BA redemption levels and greater availability. Just try getting an F all the way from Asia to USA its virtually impossible.

    In a way its Alaska’s own fault for letting people buy miles from and use on Emirates flight because folks quickly figured out that it was a good deal to do so. Frequent flier miles used to be earned in the past not bought outright like they do now.

  76. Hi Lucky,

    I’m an MVP gold member and received this response from Customer Care that seems to have a more detailed definition of what “travel hacking” means to them:

    “Both Alaska
    Airlines and Emirates have been dealing with issues of “travel hacking” or the
    selling of award tickets for a profit by individuals and brokers in direct
    violation of our policy and Emirates policy. The decision was made that in
    order to continue to offer award travel on Emirates changes had to be made to
    curb this fraudulent activity. Normally when we make changes to our Mileage
    Plan we give 30 days notice but in this instance with the rise of fraudulent
    activity we needed to make a drastic change to fend off the rise of ‘travel
    hacking.’ “

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