Best Ways To Use Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles

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Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles are among my favorite mileage currencies out there. On a per mile basis, I value Alaska miles more than any other airline miles. In this post I wanted to talk a bit more about actually redeeming Alaska miles — the rules you need to be aware of, and the best uses of Alaska miles.

How to earn Alaska Airlines miles

While Alaska Mileage Plan doesn’t partner with any of the major transferrable points currencies, there are some other useful ways to earn their miles:

Earning Alaska Mileage Plan miles with Alaska credit cards

Both the Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card and Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card are excellent options for earning Alaska miles. Both cards are offering welcome bonuses of up to 40,000 Mileage Plan miles, plus $121+ companion certificates, upon completing minimum spend.

These cards also offer valuable long term perks for Alaska frequent flyers, like a first checked bag free.

If you don’t have either of these cards, you can potentially pick them both up, for a total of 80,000 Alaska miles plus two companion certificates. These are excellent cards.

You can learn more about the Alaska business card in this post, and learn more about the Alaska personal card in this post.

Earning Alaska miles with other credit cards

While Alaska doesn’t partner with Amex, Capital One, Chase, or Citi, they do partner with Marriott Bonvoy, so you can transfer over Marriott points. The ratio for that is that 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points converts into 25,000 Alaska miles (if you convert in different increments it’s a 3:1 ratio).

This can be a solid deal, and there are lots of credit cards that can earn you Marriott Bonvoy points. However, if trying to earn Alaska miles through credit card spend, the Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card and Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card are better options.

Earn Marriott Points

Buying Alaska miles

Alaska Mileage Plan is pretty aggressive about selling miles, and they seem to offer promotions on purchased miles every couple of months.

When they do offer a bonus on purchased miles, you can expect for the bonus to be in the 35-50% range.

It doesn’t cost anything to join the Alaska rewards program, so I generally recommend signing up ahead of time — you have to be a registered member in order to take advantage of certain mileage purchase promotions.

Earning Alaska miles by flying

Not only are there great ways to earn Alaska miles either through credit cards or by buying them outright, but Alaska is also a good program to credit flights to.

For one, Alaska Mileage Plan is the last major US frequent flyer program to award miles based on distance flown rather than dollars spent.

Alaska also has excellent mileage earning rates on a variety of airline partners, ranging from Condor to Emirates to Cathay Pacific. So there are lots of flights you can credit to Alaska to earn miles with them.

Aer LingusEmiratesJapan AirlinesRavn Alaska
American AirlinesFiji AirwaysKorean AirSingapore Airlines
British AirwaysFinnairLATAM Airlines
Cathay PacificHainan AirlinesPenAir
CondorIcelandairQantas

How to use Alaska Airlines miles

There are quite a few things to understand about redeeming Alaska Mileage Plan miles, and most of these are good things, though there are other things that make Mileage Plan unique, both for better and for worse. so let’s look at everything you need to know:

Redeem miles on Alaska Airlines partners

You can redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles on the following partners:

Aer LingusEmiratesJapan AirlinesRavn Alaska
American AirlinesFiji AirwaysKorean Air
British AirwaysFinnairLATAM Airlines
Cathay PacificHainan AirlinesPenAir
CondorIcelandairQantas

Note that while Alaska has a partnership with Singapore Airlines, it’s not yet possible to redeem Alaska miles on Singapore Airlines, though this should change soon.

With the exception of Cathay Pacific and LATAM award tickets, all other Mileage Plan partners can be booked online at alaskaair.com.

If you have a complicated itinerary or an itinerary involving travel on Cathay Pacific or LATAM, 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.

Alaska has separate award charts for each partner

Unlike some other programs, Mileage Plan doesn’t have a single global award chart. Rather each airline partner has their own award chart, and you can only redeem in select regions.

If Alaska doesn’t publish an award chart for a partner in a specific region, then you can’t redeem miles for it. This is a limitation of the program.

Because Alaska publishes separate award charts for every partner, you can’t mix partner airlines on an award ticket.

You can always fly Alaska Airlines to the gateway city on the same award ticket to start an award reservation, but you can’t mix multiple partners on a single award ticket. There are no exceptions to this.

Alaska Mileage Plan’s 72 hour advance booking policy for Asia

Alaska has a policy whereby they won’t let you redeem Mileage Plan miles for travel within Asia when booking within 72 hours of departure. Apparently this rule exists due to fraudulent redemptions, so it is something to be aware of.

Alaska Airlines has discrepancies when it comes to partner airline award inventory

On the surface Alaska Mileage Plan should have access to the same award availability as other partner airlines do, though in some cases Mileage Plan inexplicably doesn’t have access to the same space. Most commonly:

  • Mileage Plan often has access to one less first and/or business class award seat on Cathay Pacific than other programs do
  • Qantas awards sometimes don’t show up, though there’s not much rhyme or reason to that
  • Not all Emirates flights show up

Alaska Mileage Plan stopover rules

One of my favorite things about the Alaska Mileage Plan program is that you are allowed a stopover on a one-way award ticket. This is possible regardless of which partner you redeem with.

So if you book a roundtrip as two one-ways, this means you can potentially get two stopovers on a roundtrip ticket.

To book a ticket online with a stopover, just use the multi-city function, and you can search each portion of the ticket individually.

Fees and policies when redeeming Alaska Mileage Plan miles

Alaska Mileage Plan award ticketing fees

There are a couple of fees associated with redeeming Alaska miles:

  • There’s a $12.50 partner award booking fee, which is charged each way per passenger, and applies for all new partner award bookings (this isn’t waived for elite members)
  • If you book by phone, there’s a $15 service fee, which is waived for MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members

It’s worth noting that Alaska doesn’t have a close-in ticketing fee, unlike some other major US airline programs.

Alaska Mileage Plan award ticket change & cancelation fees

Alaska Mileage Plan charges $125 per person to change or cancel any award tickets, regardless of the airline or type of award. That fee is waived for MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members.

All passengers can cancel their tickets within 24 hours of booking, assuming they’re booking for travel more than 24 hours before departure.

Alaska Mileage Plan award fuel surcharges

Alaska Mileage Plan passes on carrier imposed surcharges for travel on some partner airlines, but not all. The only partner airlines that have carrier imposed surcharges are British Airways, Hainan Airlines, and Icelandair.

See this post for everything you need to know about carrier imposed surcharges.

Alaska Mileage Plan award ticket holds

Alaska Mileage Plan doesn’t allow award holds anymore. So to book you need to have sufficient miles in your account, though you can cancel for free within 24 hours.

Best ways to use Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles

Alaska Mileage Plan is one of those programs with a few partners that really “make” the program. So let’s look at some of the best ways to redeem Alaska Airlines miles, in no particular order:

1. Use Alaska miles on Cathay Pacific

One of my favorite uses of Mileage Plan miles is for redemptions in Cathay Pacific first and business class. Here’s the Mileage Plan award chart for travel on Cathay Pacific:

RegionsBusiness ClassFirst Class
US to Asia50,000 miles70,000 miles
US to Africa/India/Middle East62,500 miles70,000 miles
US to Australia60,000 miles80,000 miles

For example, you could redeem just 60,000 miles for travel in Cathay Pacific business class from the US to Australia. This means you could fly from New York to Hong Kong, have a stopover for several days, and then continue to Australia on the same ticket. That’s a spectacular deal.

On the surface redeeming for Cathay Pacific first class is an even better value, though they typically make at most one award seat available in advance, and then it’s only within a couple of weeks of departure when they open more seats, so this isn’t ideal for everyone.

Redeem Alaska miles for Cathay Pacific’s A350 business class

2. Use Alaska miles on Japan Airlines

Japan Airlines is probably my single favorite Mileage Plan partner for redeeming miles. Here’s the Mileage Plan award chart for travel on Japan Airlines:

RegionsBusiness ClassFirst Class
US to Japan60,000 miles70,000 miles
US to Southeast Asia65,000 miles75,000 miles

For example, being able to redeem 65,000 miles for a business class ticket from the US to Southeast Asia is an exceptional deal. You can fly from the US to Tokyo, have a stopover for several days, and then continue to Bangkok, Singapore, etc.

Alternatively, you can book the same award ticket in first class for just 10,000 more miles, which is an excellent deal, if you can find availability.


Redeem Alaska miles for Japan Airlines’ 777 first class

3. Use Alaska miles on Emirates

Alaska and Emirates have had a partnership since 2013, though unfortunately a few years back they devalued first class redemptions. So at this point business class redemptions are the sweet spot, in my opinion.

Here’s the Mileage Plan award chart for travel on Emirates:

RegionsBusiness ClassFirst Class
North America to Middle East, India, and South Asia82,500 miles150,000 miles
North America to Asia105,000 miles180,000 miles
North America to Europe105,000 miles180,000 miles
North America to Africa120,000 miles200,000 miles
North America to South Pacific120,000 miles225,000 miles

While not my single favorite use of Alaska miles, being able to redeem 82,500 Alaska miles for a one-way business class ticket from the US to Middle East/India with a stopover in Dubai is a very good deal.


Redeem Alaska miles for Emirates’ A380 business class

4. Use Alaska miles on Fiji Airways

Fiji is absolutely gorgeous, and conveniently is right on the way if traveling from the US to Australia or New Zealand. So flying Fiji Airways, whether with the intention of visiting Fiji, or enroute to another destination, is a great option.

Here’s the Mileage Plan award chart for travel on Fiji Airways:

RegionsEconomy ClassBusiness Class
US to South Pacific40,000 miles55,000 miles

The way I view it, the best deal is to redeem 55,000 miles to fly one-way from the US to Australia or New Zealand. You can fly from Los Angeles to Nadi, have a stopover there, and then continue several days later to Australia or New Zealand. While their business class product isn’t that great, this is the best way to visit Fiji on miles.


Redeem Alaska miles for Fiji Airways’ A330 business class

5. Use Alaska miles on Hainan

Hainan Airlines operates quite a few routes between mainland China and the US, and they’re generally quite good about making award seats available. They’re also the best mainland Chinese airline, in my experience.

Here’s the Mileage Plan award chart for travel on Hainan:

RegionsEconomy ClassBusiness Class
US to Asia30,000 miles50,000 miles

Redeeming just 50,000 miles for a one-way business class ticket between the US and Asia via China is a great deal, especially as you can do a stopover in China. There are some carrier imposed surcharges on Hainan, but they’re fairly mild.


Redeem Alaska miles for Hainan’s 787 business class

6. Use Alaska miles on Qantas

Qantas is one of the stingiest airlines when it comes to making award seats available. However, when they do make seats available, redeeming through Mileage Plan is an unbeatable deal.

Here’s the Mileage Plan award chart for travel on Qantas:

RegionsBusiness ClassFirst Class
US to Australia & New Zealand55,000 miles70,000 miles

They charge 55,000 miles for a one-way business class or 70,000 miles for a one-way first class ticket from the US to Australia or New Zealand. For example, you could fly from Dallas to Sydney, have a stopover, and then continue from Sydney to Auckland.


Redeem Alaska miles for Qantas’ 787 business class

7. Use Alaska miles on LATAM

LATAM is stingy when it comes to making award seats available, though when they do, there’s no better program than Alaska Mileage Plan.

Here’s the Mileage Plan award chart for travel on LATAM:

RegionsEconomy ClassBusiness Class
US to South America25,000/30,000 miles (off-peak/peak)45,000 miles

Being able to redeem just 45,000 miles for a one-way business class ticket to South America with a stopover is a spectacular value. For example, you could fly from Los Angele to Lima, have a stopover and visit Machu Picchu, and then continue several days later from Lima to Santiago.


Redeem Alaska miles for LATAM’s 787 business class

Bottom line

On a per mile basis, I value Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles more than any other airline currency thanks to their unique airline partners and the ability to do stopovers on one-way award tickets, which is something that very few programs allow nowadays.

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 use your Alaska rewards on the right partners.

If you don’t yet have the Alaska Airlines Visa® Credit Card and/or Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card, this is a great way to jumpstart your Alaska mileage balance.

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Comments

  1. Cathay availability has been absolutely abysmal as of late, and the little availability you can find via BA doesn’t seem to match up with Alaska agents. CX use to be my favorite use of AS miles, but with how poor availability has been, I wouldn’t even consider it a perk anymore.

  2. @John. No doubt that this is the result of the mistake fair a few months ago. Thousands bought business and first tickets to and from the U.S. and pretty much messed with the inventory for the rest of the year. I imagine 2020 it will clean up again.

  3. Rates and availability are pretty good on Korean Air, but only if you’re booking a round trip or open jaw itinerary, as they will charge the round trip rate on a one way booking.

  4. For over a month I’ve been checking every single day for first class availablity on Cathay from hkg to JFK.

    I am in hkg and ready to go as soon as they have cx F availability.
    Any tips?

  5. I am frustrated that for some reason I can not get myself, nor my wife approved for the Personal Credit Cards. GRRRR!!!!

  6. Is there a workaround the new rule of having a lap child pay a full award rate? I’ve called multiple times and everyone’s told me I can’t just add a lap child with the 10% due to “tax reasons”

  7. that’s a good point about KE bookings being round trip. When I saw the mileage for a trip I was searching as 1 way I was shocked. But that makes much more sense.

    This is also a really useful post, Ben. You’re full of great info today

  8. I was lucky to be able to book 3 business class tickets on Qantas to Adelaide/Perth. All for 155K miles.

    I was going to use it for Cathay, but there has been nothing in terms of availability for them!

  9. I second what others have said about Cathay premium cabin award availability. There is virtually none on transpacific legs, likely due in part to CX honoring those mistake fares to Vietnam a few months back.

  10. I booked Cathay Pacific biz yesterday for Sept, one way Seattle to Hong Kong, a 4 day layover, then on to Bali (DPS). Over a $4000 ticket for 60k miles plus about $85 in fees and taxes is a great deal.
    And the agent saw the same availability I found on BA.

  11. CX availability has been abysmal even BEFORE the mistake fare. So I wouldn’t be holding my breath for availability to come back in 2020.

  12. @ Rody — Unfortunately the lack of Cathay Pacific first class award space might have to do with the Cathay Pacific first class mistake fares we saw late last year, which on many dates completely sold out the first class cabin.

  13. I find CX availability to be fairly open in 2020 at least from the West Coast (LAX, SFO, SEA, YVR)

  14. @Jorge- The elimination of lap infant tickets is a huge devaluation for anyone with young children. I’m not going to blow 60k on a redemption for a one year old for a seat he won’t even use.

    Any DP’s out there about ticketing the lap infant directly through the partner airline once the reward booking has been made?

  15. Anyone with experience in this please let me know.
    I’m planning a trip to Brazil next year and would like to fly LATAM biz with the misses. To get a pair of seats do I check as early in advance or do they open more seats close to departure time?

  16. Finding Qantas availability is basically impossible, though has gotten slightly better recently. They’re also not releasing availability to Alaska at 330 days at the moment either.

    Was able to find plenty of Cathay in 2020, though no F. Snagged 2 J seats JFK-HKG-MEL… now to figure out how to be patient until then. I noticed weekend availability is really non-existent even into 2020, but if you’re willing to fly Mon, Tues or Wed there’s plenty of availability.

  17. I can very rarely (very very very rarely) find business class seats for the overseas portions of trips using Alaska miles. Routinely, the Alaska Air website offers me Alaska first class for the domestic portion of my flight, and economy for the partner portion. Makes those miles useless for me on partner travel. Am I doing something wrong?

  18. @grant – I booked economy awards on Japan Airlines and called directly to add a lap infant to the award. It took the agent a little bit to figure it out, but it was eventually done correctly.

  19. @ Jorge — Yeah, so that whole thing is interesting to me, because Alaska has never been able to issue infant tickets for awards (at least not in the past 10 years AFAIK). We’ve always called the partner and had them issue them directly, then had them link the ticket numbers in their reservation system.

    I don’t believe this is a new policy, or just the effects of a memo going out to agents clarifying that yes, infants do need separate tickets on international partner awards, a bunch of confusion, and then the bulletin saying they “must” have their own award seat. It might take a few calls, but I think the partner should be able to do it for you in most cases.

  20. @ Grant — That’s how we’ve always done it, and while I haven’t needed to try lately, I would suspect it would still work.

  21. @ TimInSeattle — There isn’t going to be much to Europe beyond British Airways, honestly, and very little of that will be out of Seattle. I’d start by looking out of other hubs to get a sense of where space is, then use the multi-city tool.

  22. CX to Asia is 55k in business. I booked with Alaska agent 2 months ago for JFK to SIN. Agent was flabergasted that the business seats (3) were showing. She felt like she found the “magical bunny”.

    Returning AKL to LAX om Fiji with stopover. Mileage was same, but with stopover the taxes were about $160 if I remember correct as opposed to $55 per ticket. Still a good deal.

  23. Thanks Lucky. Great stuff as usual.

    What’s the best way to book and check LATAM availability? Which website? Thanks as always.

  24. @Lucky
    Apparently you can’t earn Alaska miles on all American flights:
    From the Alaska web site:
    You’ll earn miles on domestic American Airlines flights with an Alaska Airlines (AS) flight number, and on all American marketed and operated international flights.

  25. @David L
    CX to Asia is 50k for business class, as Lucky posted and as shown on alaska airlines website.

  26. When did Alaska split out India/South Asia for CX flights? I know I booked NYC-MLE with 50k in business last year. I suppose the pricing makes more sense though, given the extra distance.

  27. I have always loved Alaska Airlines, but recently spent four wasted hours trying to find anything appealing anywhere in the world with business class and no stupid stopovers that are way out of the way (e.g., Santiago, Miami, Dallas, Toronto). I have lots of miles and will use them and then ditch my card and this program. Your review seems unbelievable given my experience. I think the program has gone downhill and is now one of the worst out there.

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