WOW: Alaska HUGELY Devalues Emirates First Class Award Costs Without Notice

Filed Under: Alaska, Awards

Alaska Airlines just did the worst thing an airline loyalty program could do — Mileage Plan made a huge award chart devaluation with no advance notice whatsoever.

My favorite Alaska Mileage Plan partner airline — or at least the one I’ve redeemed the most miles for — is Emirates. Since Mileage Plan award redemptions on Emirates became possible in early 2013, Alaska has charged the following number of miles for one-way first class redemptions on Emirates:

  • North America to Middle East/India — 90,000 miles
  • North America to Africa — 100,000 miles
  • North America to Asia — 100,000 miles
  • North America to Europe — 100,000 miles

Emirates A380 first class cabin

Alaska Mileage Plan added Hainan Airlines as an award redemption partner yesterday, but that’s not the only change they made to Mileage Plan redemption rates. Alaska also greatly increased the cost of Emirates first class redemptions, without any notice. And the changes are brutal.

Here are the new one-way first class award costs:


I think it’s reasonable for Alaska to raise award redemption rates at some point — but raising award costs 67-100% without any notice is a huge slap in the face to members. It’s especially disappointing to see this from Alaska Airlines, given that I tend to think of them as an airline with a lot of integrity.

This overnight devaluation happens to coincide with the last day that Alaska is selling miles with a 40% bonus; imagine having bought a specific number of Alaska miles for a short term redemption yesterday, only to see the price double overnight. Or equally bad is being a loyal member and having worked towards a redemption for a long time, only to have the price doubled with no notice.

Alaska has hugely been profiting off of the increased mileage sales. Their latest 10K filing showed that Mileage Plan increased revenue by $34 million last year through mileage sales. That number reflects the increase in sales alone. Wow.

I’m not sure what Alaska was thinking. I’m not sure if they were strong-armed into making this change by Emirates, if they weren’t thinking of how this makes Mileage Plan members lose faith in the program, or what.

Regardless, at this point Emirates first class is a lot less attainable than before.

Emirates A380 first class shower spa

If you’re unhappy with how Alaska Airlines handled this change, I’d recommend voicing your displeasure with them by Tweeting @AlaskaAir. I just Tweeted them, so feel free to retweet or send your own Tweet. I’d note that this is an area where we really can make a difference as members. Following customer feedback in the past, other airlines have committed to not devalue miles without providing some notice, and there’s no reason Alaska should be any different.

Bottom line

The cost of Emirates first class awards through Alaska Mileage Plan have increased overnight by 67-100%. While I respect when loyalty programs increase award rates, I really have a problem when it’s done without advance notice. In this case Alaska greatly increased the cost of the most aspirational use of their miles without any notice, and that’s a shame.

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank miles are now a much better option for Emirates first class redemptions.

Will you be impacted by this change in Emirates first class redemption rates? Do you have a problem with programs making changes without notice?

(Tip of the hat to @FlyingDrJJ via FlyerTalk)

  1. Maybe this was why I was seeing virtually no F space on Emirates when I searched the Alaska website the other day

  2. Well its the right for each company to rise prices without any notice (gas, etc) why should it be different for a miles programm?

    Just a wise move to stop people to book awards right before

  3. Is this an early April Fool’s joke? Alaska always seemed to be so customer-friendly, so for them to do this with no notice is really a surprise. I wonder if there were just so many people taking advantage of the Emirates first class awards that it was becoming too expensive for Alaska to pay Emirates for the seats compared to what Alaska was charging in miles. Or this could just be a revenue grab. Either way, they should have given some warning.

  4. @lucky do you know if you’re able to change dates on an existing award without paying new award rates if the origin and destination remain the same?

  5. I’m sitting in Jakarta. I was going to book CGK DXB IAH for May 31st just this morning here. I said eh I will do it latter tonight. This morning it was 100K J to DXB and F to IAH. Now its 180K. I’ll now buy a ticket Singapore Airlines. There is no way in hell Alaska is getting another dime from me. I don’t really have an issue with the increase. However with zero notice and 80% increase. That’s just plain BS folks. Someone at AS knew about this. I think the DOJ could also call this bait and switch. They were selling miles 40% bonus then changed the redemption.

  6. It is REALLY surprising that any company, let alone AS would pull a stunt like this.

    If it’s not a glitch, it sets a terrible president.

  7. Guess I’ll never get to experience Emirates First Class now!!! Way to go Alaska!!! Maybe it has to do with upcoming Virgin America purchase?

  8. Do you think it’s possible to get a refund for miles bought during this promotion? Now these miles are useless, 2k usd wasted…

  9. Sad to hear 🙁 but this feels like they’re saying, “So, BOA won’t do anything about it? Well, we will.”

  10. Does anyone know if CX award rates have also been changed?
    And how long does it normally take for the purchased miles to post? I bought some yesterday, but they have not been credited yet.

  11. As much as I like to use my miles to travel First Class, I think it is about time traveling in First goes back to meaning something special.
    With all the credit card bonuses and cheap redemptions, traveling in First Class became boring and lost its glamour.
    I sincerelly applaude AA, Alaska and other Airlines raising their award levels for First Class.

  12. @ Tina: It is a little different. It is more like a company selling non-refundable vouchers for their products and the next day they say: Oh, to buy one, you actually need twice as many vouchers as we told you yesterday…

    I am not personally affected, but I agree that it is kind of bad form.

  13. The loopholes are beginning to be closed off. I think the redemption chart for CX will be the next one to take a hit.

  14. Fabinho — pray tell, are there other things that you, as a consumer, feel need to be MORE expensive? Just to make them special? How about air travel to begin with. Should we go back to (inflation adjusted) $1400 JFK-LAX roundtrips? Just to make it special again, of course.


  15. I am sort of pleased, I know that won’t be popular, but as an EK plat it’s always been an irritant at the value of premium tickets I purchase and having redemptions less attainable than through a random airline half way around the world. Whos members may never purchase a revenue ticket on EK.

    No judgement on Alaska members or taking advantage of the cheap first access who wouldn’t take advantage, but pleased the playing field it not skewed away from skywards own members anymore.

    However it does seem a bit underhanded if they knew this change was coming put miles on sale and then didn’t give members chance to use those miles with at least a little notice period.

  16. Emirates first is way overrated anyway. Crappy customer service onboard, mediocre to crappy food (on all my segments last trip) and a pretty looking but cramped seat compared to CX.

  17. This is f’ed up. I was literally about to make a redemption for the end of the schedule and just needed a few more days.

  18. aaaaah
    should’ve pulled the trigger yesterday. this is awful, i hope they roll this back or give us some more time

    this can’t be right….

  19. I was waiting for my SPG transfer to clear. They arrived in my account this morning. A heck of a lot of good that will do now.

  20. i am of two minds about this. On one hand, I am not happy that there was no advance notice. On the other hand, I see what people were doing with AA–making a bunch of crazy speculative bookings, booking tickets with one short leg in F to lock in old prices, and hoping to make a bunch of changes later–and I kind of understand why a program may not want to give such advance notice.

  21. This makes me so happy. As a loyal DL flyer for years, suffering through all the hate and jokes, it’s awesome to watch everyone else race to the bottom. AA’s recent changes, now this.

    At some point ya gotta admit that the operational excellent matters.

    YEE HA. Yay Delta.

  22. At least they updated the award chart the day before their 40% off mileage sale ends instead of the day after. We can gripe about the change, but the fact remains that if you want to close the gap between what you have and what you now need for an anticipated redemption, better do it today.

  23. Ouch! Makes me glad I hadn’t pulled a trigger on buying the miles.

    P.S. It’s really disappointing to see so many people in the comments reveling in schadenfreude. As travelers, we should led stick together together.

  24. Wow, I could understand a 10-15K mile increase w/out notice, but 100%…. Damn. I’m glad I forgot to do my SPG transfer last night! I could still use the miles to get CX J or F but now I’m afraid to transfer and have Alaska change that one overnight too!

    I have a feeling EK had some say in this. Even though I primarily fly DL, I do understand that AK tends to be the more ethical of the bunch. But this brings them down to a new level.

  25. I can see them either reversing or reducing the increase following a backlash. This will kill their mileage sale business

  26. @lucky Interesting response from the Alaska Air twitter. If true, it explains a lot, but also seems like a strange agreement:

    “We don’t actually determine the amount of miles required for an Emirates flight. Emirates determines the amount of miles.-Andre”

  27. “I can see them either reversing or reducing the increase following a backlash.”

    Hahahaha! Do you also believe in Santa Claus? The tooth fairy, maybe? Never, in the history of ever, has this happened. Make no mistake, EK forced this, and nothing will be changing back.

  28. Lucky… I would love to see you write a piece on the future of first class. This doesn’t make sense to me. Outside of a VIP.. which has to be a rare bird.. how are airlines filling these huge cabins? I would think they would want FF up front to save precious revenue generation in Biz, where it is far more likely they will get a full fare.
    This whole Idea of watering down the product doesn’t ring true to me when they have such large cabins. Ironically, TAM which eliminated its F probably had it right with such a small cabin. Then I could see making F so many points.

    If I were an airline I would not want to saturate biz with point redemptions. The current award charts are heading that direction. On some routes and in some seasons that makes sense… but I would think biz is a much greater revenue generator than F. I just can’t imagine what the front of a Qantas a380 or Lufthansa 747-8i looks like now. A bunch of empty seats? Seems like a huge waste of space. While a FF might not be profitable in first, I imagine the revenue from the points that these partners get at least is break even on the caviar, champagne, etc…. at least for the less greedy of the bunch 😉

    Anyway… where is First heading? It’s now unobtainable. Will it disappear?

  29. Maybe the airlines have been reading all the Shower Class reviews on BoardingArea?

    @Neil S: I agree with you–another DL PM

  30. @Al: Yes, Delta virus now has affected all legacy carriers. Oh wait, SWA, VA and B6 started the revenue-earning scheme way back.

  31. Has there ever been a precedent for such a huge devaluation overnight? Even Delta doesn’t do things this big and they usually make changes pretty far in advance.

  32. I’ve been following your blog for a few months now and I’ve noticed there’s been devaluations all over the place. It must really be hurting airlines’ bottom line if they find this necessary. Moreover, along with the hotel chains, I’ve also noticed airlines getting more stingy about giving miles/points in the first place. It seems to be a trend unfortunately…

  33. Alaska’s comment that this was driven by EK makes sense — why else would Alaska have so many different prices for the same award on different partners, if not for that the prices are driven by the partners?

    It really sucks for people who were planning to use this award option (I had bought some miles a few months ago myself and had to wait a few weeks for the calendar to open before I could use them, and if this had happened to me timing-wise I would be extremely angry), but I’ve got to imagine Emirates was getting annoyed by the cheapness of Alaska awards vs. their own program — just go to the EK FlyerTalk page and see how many angry comments there are about all of the Alaska award users.

  34. NOOO! I’ve been saving and buying Alaska miles for months and months to fly first class for the first time! I don’t it mmight take me another year to afford it now. Why Alaska why???! Sadness.

  35. Whining all the time… So many wise people believing that they can have something for 80% off for so long… If the system is abused, the market corrects itself

  36. Dollars suddenly went up in value compared to airline miles. Fly the cheapest airline and write those useless, blood sucking representatives in Congress, why airline fares haven’t gone down more given the fall in oil prices.

    Ditch the loyalty program.

  37. Just signed up for the SPG 35K bonus with intentions of transferring the points to AS for an EK first class redemption. Guess I will have to go back to the drawing board.

  38. God. What must your life be like if you’re that person who goes “I think the Airlines have the right. Bully for them to screw over the plebs who thought they could get a great deal with some thought and effort.”

    Seriously, you lot were the kids who were dying to be Hall Monitors and snitched on everyone in class.

    These folks are only surpassed in their garbage-ness by the (clearly fake) snobs who respond with “well, as an Emirates Elite who pays 30k per ticket (sure dude), I for one am pleased that I won’t have to share my cabin with slobs from the midwest.”

    God you people must live miserable lives to make posts like this.

  39. Really? My comment with no foul language can’t get through moderation because it calls out certain posters? Am I missing something?

  40. We (2) flew DFW to DXB Sunday. We were alone in 777 F. 6 empty seats.

    DXW to ICN Tuesday. 11 of 14 seats in F empty on the A380.

    Seems I was doing them a favor trying to drink the Paradis before it “spoils”!

  41. @ Kieran — I don’t have record of you having left another comment, and I even checked the spam folder. Maybe try to resubmit? Sorry…

  42. The least they could do is add back chauffeured airport transfers and hotel overnights for long DXB layovers given the huge increases.

  43. Of course they decide to pull this bull sh*t the day I buy a bunch of Alaska Air miles to redeem on Emirates. Sure, their terms and conditions may allow them to do this but how about a little common decency. At least my other two friends who I had talked into buying points hadn’t pulled the trigger yet.

  44. I love the sense of entitlement here. Unless you have AS status with butt in seat miles you have no right to cry foul. We are all incredibly fortunate to fly incredible first class flights for a nickel. Experiences most people will never have in their lifetime. So maybe a little gratitude is appropriate. It’s also obvious why AS did this. Because EK pushed back and demanded more money for redemptions.

  45. Damn. I’m just glad I booked my PRG-DXB-SFO ticket last year. I highly doubt I will ever purchase an Emirates award ticket with my Alaska miles ever again.

  46. Does EK really control the number of miles? I think more like they raised the $$ amount and AS passed the cost raise to the passenger based on their internal price of miles.

  47. “Their latest 10K filing showed that Mileage Plan increased revenue by $34 million last year through mileage sales. That number reflects the increase in sales alone. Wow.”

    Hashtag: AS Mileage Plan Ponzi Scheme.

    To put miles on sale with a “40% bonus” then the last day, when lots of people have purchased those miles, but haven’t had a chance to book with them yet, to do a devastating devaluation of the their top redemption option should be seen as what it is: outright FRAUD. I want the news of this to get widely broadcast so that their future mileage sales plummet. > : (

  48. I am one of the rare ones – work travel sent me to the PNW for 8 months and I redirected all of my flying from AA to AS with the long term goal being this aspirational redemption. I had just accumulated enough miles for one person from actual butt-in-seat flying with plans to redeem later this year and was hoping to transfer in SPG so I could fly my partner with me. Guess that won’t happen now – I can only afford to send myself. I get that Alaska and Emirates are both businesses and they have every right to change this, but, some advanced notice would have been great as I could have just gone ahead and booked travel for later this year. I can feel sympathy for those of you who may have placed a recent order, but, to be upset over the loss of this as a loophole when you don’t have a recent miles purchase in the name of “consumer rights” is a bit disingenuous in my opinion, some of us actually pledged loyalty to the airline.

  49. I have MVPG75K will BIS miles mostly back and forth to Anchorage, and I’m *PISSED*. They need to realize that they’re no longer the only game in town in either Anchorage or Seattle. Their in-flight service isn’t good enough to keep customers around – the FF program was the differentiator. I had been thinking about switching my flying to Delta since they have more reasonable F fares for a better product (I’m already plat with DL). This will likely seal the deal for me…

  50. The links on this blog to buy Alaska miles has been a referral / affiliate link for quite some time. So as long as Alaska got paid, so did this website….. That’s why there are so many posts regarding opportunities to buy points/miles on sale.

  51. very disappointing w this UNANNOUNCED deval. I was plotting my trip to the ME for summer of 2017 in the morning only to realize big bumps late at night. initially i thought it was the correct price now i see that it was a big deval.
    worked so hard to accumulate my AS miles now they have become kinda useless on EK.

  52. I don’t really care that they devalued the EK chart personally as I had no desire to redeem my miles on EK. However, the fact that they did this with no notice now makes me worried that this is only the beginning and will do the same with the rest of their charts.

  53. Just great…. I just bought 26k miles last night so that i could top off my account for the EK F award.

  54. So choked…words can’t describe. Been saving miles for years to finally book a honeymoon with Emirates first class this summer… Out of the question now :'(

  55. @Worldtraveler303: You may be surprised to learn that many foreign carriers actually do have a fair number of paying customers in F, so they don’t need to fill the cabin with award passengers (or fill it at all, really). In fact, having award passengers can actually be detrimental since VIPs paying $15,000 for a ticket don’t want to share the cabin with a bunch of tourists taking pictures of everything and seeing how much Krug they can drink before passing out.

    Swiss basically came right out and said complaints from their paying F customers about plebs were the reason they stopped offering F award seats. High-level elites in Cathay’s Marco Polo club gave the same feedback, which is why Cathay F availability has become so much worse over the last couple of years. Qantas F is also routinely full of paying passengers, although more so on the trans-Pacific routes than to DXB/LHR where they have to compete against the Asian and Middle Eastern carriers.

    What we’re seeing with the UA, AA, and now AS devaluations is the correction of a longstanding “trade imbalance” in the mileage world. For years, most of the award PASSENGERS have come from the US with its generous award charts, huge credit card bonuses, and easy mileage purchases. Conversely, most of the award SEATS have been provided by non-US carriers. The benefits have gone to American flyers and the profits to American programs, while the costs have been borne by foreign partners. This inequality was simply not sustainable.

  56. I finalized on one emirates first class itinerary yesterday night, pending business approval this morning. Wanted the ticket to be in first class so I will be able to accommodate a grueling business schedule. I woke up this morning to this shocker. Availability was the same but the miles shot up.

    Yes, I have been working towards this redemption for a long time, choosing to travel by any of alaska’s partner airlines for almost all my travel needs. They should atleast keep the increase on hold for people who have traveled a certain number of segments in alaska/partner airlines. This is definitely an integrity check for alaska. Thanks for your twitter idea.

  57. Spent over $1200 on Alaska miles only last night as top up for an Emirates award and this happens overnight with no warning. Just called and they are refunding the purchase. Unimpressed with the increase at no notice but equally impressed with the refund response.

  58. Wow, from their FAQ this really is disappointing:

    Why didn’t Mileage Plan give advance notice? How can I expect other awards to not change suddenly?
    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’ve been saving my miles for this award. What am I supposed to do?
    You’ll continue to have access to awards in premium cabins on our other partners with coverage to most of the same destinations. Future changes, if any, to these award levels will be given with advance notice.

  59. Good. I’m glad this has happened. Too many people were simply using Alaska miles on emirates first to the point where it was getting difficult to get seats. Either pay for it or stop acting so affronted.

  60. Evaluation should happen, but not like this. There is completely lack of communication or notification. In other countries, consumer protection includes airline miles and hotel points. Changing award chart without proper notification and at the end of a mileage plan sale with intend to raise redemption rate is the intend to commit fraud. No airline or hotel has done that before. If one is allowed, soon all will follow. I suppose people have purchased Alaska mile recently but have not get to redeem the point to file complain with FTC:

    And write to Washington state attorney general to bring to his attention. If Alaska can do this, soon, UA, AA, Delta & all hotel loyal program will change award chart anytime without notification. Or do mile/point sale with intend to render them useless at the end of sale.

    If enough people come forth, there will be Class Action lawsuit. Don’t under estimate the power of the masses.

  61. I just tweeted @alaskaair and demanded a refund… here’s their response:

    “If you purchased miles on or after March 1, 2016, you can contact our Customer Care team at 1-800-654-5669 for a refund.- Andre”

    I just purchased 84k miles 2 weeks ago and will be calling in the AM for refund. Very disappointed with such unethical behavior from so called reputable company.

  62. Miles purchased are refunded, but what happens to miles transferred to alaska from other loyalty programs, like starwood? Will they help us move our points back to starwood as well?

  63. AS Executive Contacts

    Jeff Butler
    Vice President of Customer Service
    P.O. Box 68900
    Seattle, Washington 98168
    (206) 433-3200
    [email protected]

    Ben Minicucci
    Chief Operations Officer and Vice President
    P.O. Box 68900
    Seattle, Washington 98168
    (206) 433-3200
    [email protected]

    Chief Executive
    Bradley D. Tilden
    P.O. Box 68900
    Seattle, Washington 98168
    (206) 433-3200
    [email protected]

  64. Flying 1st from mainland US to HNL on Alaska using award miles is 80k. That doesn’t get you anything much beyond a few free drinks and a bit wider seat. Flying from Cape Town to HNL used to be 100k and still involved that mainland to HNL flight in addition to two other significant first class flights that were far superior in terms of quality (as they should be considering the flight length). The timing of the sale and lack of advance warning is unfortunate; but far from something worth getting upset about. The Emirates premium (business and 1st) seats have been of significantly more value than any standard Alaska award flights for a long time. good job on making the most of that oversight for as long as you did, it is surprising that it took them this long to adjust it to be closer to in-line with other awards travel.

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