Update: These offers for the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express have expired. Learn more about the current offers here.
Alaska Mileage Plan miles are one of my favorite mileage currencies out there, given their wide array of partners and reasonable premium cabin redemption rates. So I figured I’d write a post about the basics of redeeming Alaska miles.
What are the best ways to rack up Alaska Mileage Plan miles?
Alaska frequently offers a bonus on the purchase of miles. For example, they’re offering up to a 40% bonus on the purchase of Mileage Plan miles. To find the best promotions available for the purchase of Mileage Plan miles going forward, check out the “Buy/Share Miles” page on alaskaair.com.
Alaska has a personal and business co-branded credit card, which anecdotally are relatively easy to get approved for:
Alaska Mileage Plan is also transfer partners with Starwood Preferred Guest, meaning you can transfer points at a 1:1 ratio, and for every 20,000 points you transfer you get a 5,000 point bonus.
That makes the Starwood Preferred Guest Card the best for racking up Alaska miles through everyday spend, since you’re essentially earning 1.25 miles per dollar spent:
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express
- Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Card from American Express
How do you book an Alaska Airlines partner award ticket?
The following Alaska Mileage Plan partner airlines can be booked online at alaskaair.com:
|American Airlines||Delta Air Lines||KLM|
|Air France||Era Alaska||PenAir|
|British Airways||Fiji Airways||Qantas|
Meanwhile the following partners have to be booked by phone:
If you have a complicated itinerary or an itinerary involving travel on Cathay Pacific or LAN, you’ll want to call Alaska’s Mileage Plan partner award desk, which can be reached at 800-252-7522 daily between 5AM and 12AM PT.
What kind of fees does Alaska charge for Mileage Plan award tickets?
Alaska charges the following fees on partner award tickets:
- $15 nonrefundable call center booking fee – for new awards booked over the phone
- $25 nonrefundable partner award fee ($12.50 for a one-way) – applies to all awards using one of their airline partners
- $125 change/cancellation fee – applies to changes/cancellation made within 60 days of travel (changes fees are waived if changes are made at least 60 days prior to travel)
Alaska doesn’t have any close-in ticketing fees for bookings made close to departure, unlike American and United.
Does Alaska Mileage Plan allow holds on award tickets?
Alaska no longer allows holds on award tickets, unfortunately. That being said, Alaska does let you cancel award tickets within 24 hours, and make a free change to an award ticket within 72 hours of ticketing (though more than 60 days before travel commences you can do that for free either way).
Does Alaska Airlines let you mix airlines on an award ticket?
The one major downside is that Alaska doesn’t let you mix airlines on an award ticket, with the exception of Air France and KLM (they’re considered the same airline for the purposes of redemption).
You can include Alaska on an award ticket with any partner airline, though, to get you to the international gateway city. Keep in mind that Alaska now allows one-way awards on all partner carriers, so at least you can fly one airline on the outbound, and then on a separate award fly another airline on the return.
Ultimately not being able to mix partners is my biggest gripe about Alaska miles, since it really limits being able to get to some destinations.
What is Alaska’s Mileage Plan stopover policy?
Alaska is one of the most generous airlines when it comes to stopovers, since they allow stopovers on one-way awards. So you’re allowed one stopover per direction, and if you book a ticket as two one-ways that means you can basically get two stopovers on a roundtrip.
Does Alaska have a Mileage Plan award chart?
Another thing that makes Alaska unique is that they don’t have a traditional award chart. This is to say that there’s not a single chart with different rates for all regions, where the prices are the same regardless of which carrier you fly.
Instead they publish different award rates for different airlines by region. It’s worth noting that Alaska doesn’t publish award rates for all regions, and if they don’t publish a chart between regions you can’t redeem miles for that route. A lot of their award charts are simply for travel originating or terminating in the US.
Here are the Alaska award charts by region:
|Intra-State||Continental U.S. and Canada||Hawaii|
|Mexico||Caribbean||Central and South America|
|Europe||Africa – Middle East – India||Australia – NZ – South Pacific|
What are the best uses of Alaska miles?
Alaska Mileage Plan is one of those programs with a few partners that really “make” the program. Specifically, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, and Qantas, in my opinion.
Alaska doesn’t let you just route to Asia on Cathay Pacific, but to several other regions as well. Here are the one-way redemption costs:
|Business Class||First Class|
|US to Asia||50,000 miles||70,000 miles|
|US to Africa/India/Middle East||62,500 miles||70,000 miles|
|US to Australia||60,000 miles||80,000 miles|
Those are amazing redemption rates. Keep in mind that you get a stopover with each of those awards, meaning you can fly from the US to Hong Kong, have a stopover, and then continue to Africa, India, or the Middle East, all while paying 70,000 miles in first class.
Cathay Pacific has one of my favorite first class products out there, as it’s incredibly “solid” all around — amazing hard product, great service, and good lounges and food.
While Alaska and Emirates have been partnering for a couple of years now, Alaska only published an award chart for travel on Emirates in early 2013. The one-way rates are as follows:
|Business Class||First Class|
|North America to India/Middle East||82,500 miles||150,000 miles|
|North America to Asia||105,000 miles||180,000 miles|
|North America to Europe||105,000 miles||180,000 miles|
|North America to Africa||120,000 miles||200,000 miles|
|North America to South Pacific||120,000 miles||225,000 miles|
To a large degree Emirates might be style over substance, but my gosh it’s a lot of style/bling. Between the onboard showers, bar, and room service phone, it’s a jaw-dropping experience.
Emirates flies the longest A380 route in the world, between Los Angeles to Dubai, so on a single award for 100,000 miles in first class you can fly A380 first class from Los Angeles to Dubai and then connect to either Europe or Asia, after a stopover in Dubai (if you’d like).
So Qantas first and business class award space can be really tough to come by. That being said, if you’re booking far in advance and can find the space, it’s tough to beat Alaska’s rates. Not only are they lower than American’s redemption rates for travel on Qantas, but you can also get a stopover in each direction, while American no longer allows stopovers at all.
So for example, you can fly from Los Angeles to Sydney/Melbourne/Brisbane, have a stopover, and then continue to New Zealand a few days or a week later.
Alaska’s one-way redemption rates for travel on Qantas are as follows:
- US to Australia business class: 55,000 miles
- US to Australia first class: 70,000 miles
If you can find award space, this is the single best value for premium cabin Qantas redemptions, assuming you desire a direct routing. And Qantas A380 first class is a damn solid product, though finding award space can be a real challenge.
So maybe I’m in the minority, but I really want to visit Fiji. The only practical way to get there from North America is on Fiji Airways’ flight out of Los Angeles. American also partners with Fiji Airways, and charges 62,500 miles for one-way business class. As usual American doesn’t allow a stopover aside from the North American gateway city.
Meanwhile Alaska charges 55,000 miles one-way for travel between the US and Australia, New Zealand, and the South Pacific. What this means is that for 55,000 miles you could fly something like Los Angeles to Fiji, have a stopover for a while, and then Fiji to Australia or New Zealand.
That’s a hell of a deal, and a great way to visit Fiji without having to fly Fiji Airways both ways (they actually have a new business class product on their A330s, which looks very similar to Singapore’s A330 business class).
Alaska charges just 45,000 miles for one-way business class between the US and South America on LAN, and the great thing is that you’re getting a stopover on a one-way. Not only would you not get a stopover if booking through American, but they won’t even let you route through Lima if flying to “South America Zone 2,” which includes Santiago, Buenos Aires, etc.
So for 45,000 miles you could do something like Los Angeles > Lima, have a stopover, and then Lima > Buenos Aires. Then on the return for another 45,000 miles you could do something like Buenos Aires > Santiago, have a stopover, and then Santiago > Los Angeles.
While American’s distance based OneWorld awards are also great for this type of itinerary, it’s tough to beat Alaska for a straightforward redemption.
Despite some of the frustrating rules associated with redeeming Alaska Mileage Plan miles, there’s a ton of value to be had as well if you redeem on the right partners.
Alaska’s “gem” award redemptions are among the best in the industry, and when you combine that with their generous stopover policies it’s a program that’s tough to beat.