This post is sponsored by Alaska Airlines
When it comes to frequent flier programs, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is in a league of its own, and proves that going global differently works.
How? Well, for one, it has not followed the pack into one of the big three airline alliances (Oneworld, SkyTeam or Star). Instead, it boasts strong ties (and remarkably low mileage redemption rates) with a long list of first-rate global airline partners including Aer Lingus, British Airways, Condor, Cathay Pacific, Hainan, Icelandair, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, and Singapore Airlines. Its members as well as most points and miles experts cherish the broad reach of its partner networks and the ease with which they can earn and redeem their Mileage Plan miles.
Plus, the program is rich with benefits including the rare ability to earn frequent flier miles based upon distance flown (instead of dollars spent). Its broad range of global partners provides plenty of opportunities to earn and burn those miles, which is what really separates it from the crowd.
While the options are plentiful, award prices vary depending upon the partner and its published award chart for Mileage Plan, which can be confusing for new members, so let’s take a look at some examples of how earning and redeeming Mileage Plan miles beats the competition.
Fly to Asia, Africa or Oceania on partner Cathay Pacific
You can snag a one-way flight on Cathay Pacific from the mainland U.S. and Alaska to Asia for only 50,000 Mileage Plan miles in business class and only 70,000 miles in first class. Economy class is 30,000 miles in each direction. That is an incredible deal when you consider the quality of Cathay Pacific and the distance flown—for example, flights between San Francisco and Hong Kong can last 12-14 hours.
What’s even better is that Alaska permits a stopover in Hong Kong en route to your final destination in Asia. Unlike other airlines, Alaska does not divide Asia into zones, which simplifies things. In comparison, American charges 60,000 AAdvantage miles to Japan and Korea and 70,000 to the rest of Asia each way in business class. Alaska is even more of a bargain when compared to American when traveling in first class. AA charges 80,000 miles one way to Japan or Korea and 110,000 miles each way to the rest of Asia. United recently announced that it is following Delta with dynamic pricing (and the elimination of an award chart), which means it will be harder to know how many miles you need for an award flight. As of now, United charges 70,000 miles one way to Japan or Korea in business class and 120,000 miles in first class on its Star Alliance partners.
Alaska miles can be also used to get to Oceania and Africa on Cathay Pacific flights. To Australia and New Zealand, it’s 60,000 miles in business class or 80,000 miles one-way in first class. You’ll burn just 62,500 miles one-way in Cathay Pacific business class to South Africa.
Miles cannot be redeemed on Cathay partner Cathay Dragon, however. Still, when you look at the
Fly to the Middle East or India on partner Emirates:
Ever dreamed of sipping a cocktail in a lounge at a stand up inflight bar? (See the photo in the slideshow at the top of this post!) Alaska can make it happen with 82,500 miles each way in business class from North America to the Middle East or India on Emirates. You guessed it; you can make a stopover in Dubai (worth the stop for quick look!) on the way, too. In economy class, it is 42,500 Mileage Plan miles each way when traveling on Emirates- on some routes from the West Coast, Emirates flies the big A380 double-decker to DXB.
By comparison, United charges the same amount for economy and a little less for business class (75,000 miles each way), but there won’t be an onboard bar and lounge on any of its partner flights.
Take a sojourn to the South Pacific on Fiji Airways or Qantas:
Many South Pacific islands are tough to reach using miles, and even though American has a partnership with Fiji Airways, Alaska charges less for the same flights. It’s 40,000 Alaska miles each way from the continental U.S. to the South Pacific in economy and 55,000 miles each way in business class (Fiji Airways does not have first class). These award prices include connecting domestic flights on Alaska Airlines if award space is available.
What’s really nice (if you have the time for a longer South Seas adventure) is that you can use the same award to fly to Fiji and stay a few days before continuing onto Australia or New Zealand at the exact same price. United charges 35,000 miles (5,000 less than Alaska) to the South Pacific in economy each way, but has stricter routing rules. Business class to the South Pacific is 70,000 miles. If you are bound for Australia or New Zealand, the mileage amounts for United flights jump to 80,000 miles each way in business class. Alaska Mileage Plan for the win.
Another way to get to the South Pacific is with Alaska’s partner Qantas, with award seats costing just 55,000 miles each way in business class. The more elusive first class award (since many Qantas flights no longer offer first class) is only 70,000 miles each way if you can find them. Both of these prices are significantly less than what Qantas’ Oneworld sibling American charges. On top of that Alaska elite members (MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75K) and Alaska Lounge members can access Qantas lounges, even when traveling in economy!
Take a deep dive into Latin American on LATAM:
Headed to South America? Economy flights using Alaska miles on LATAM cost 30,000 miles each way (25,000 miles during off-peak periods like southern hemisphere spring and fall). Business class in each direction costs just 45,000 miles, and of course, you can take an interesting stopover in a LATAM hub like Lima, Santiago, or Sao Paulo, before continuing elsewhere. (See LATAM’s sprawling network here.) By contrast, United charges 60,000 miles for business class in each direction.
One of the last mileage program goldmines
Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan website does a nice job displaying partner award availability making it easy to search for award space although not all airlines are listed (namely Cathay Pacific and LATAM). Another caveat when redeeming Alaska miles is that not all partner airline routes are eligible for mileage redemption (although the vast majority are). For example, right now you can only earn miles when flying to Israel on Alaska’s newest partner El Al. The same goes for Aer Lingus, but both should be on board with redemption opportunities later this year, according to the airline.
Keep in mind that you can only use one partner for an award (plus any available connecting Alaska
Don’t forget that Marriott Bonvoy points can be transferred to Alaska, and you can also purchase miles directly but it’s best to wait until Mileage Plan runs one of its sporadic promotions offering a bonus on top of what you purchase.
Whether you live in a city served by Alaska Airlines, or pile up miles through the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card, if you overlook this program, you could be missing out. Alaska Mileage Plan is a gold mine when it comes to traveling internationally with often cheaper award prices than what its competitors charge on their partners. The ability to have a stopover on most award tickets (even one-way awards) is one of the hallmarks of Alaska Mileage Plan. The hardest part is deciding where you want to go!
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Alaska Airlines. We will periodically publish posts like this one from commercial partners about topics relevant to frequent travel. Would you like to sponsor a TravelSkills post? Contact Chris McGinnis.
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Chris McGinnis is the founder of TravelSkills.com. The author is solely responsible for the content above, and it is used here by permission. You can reach Chris at [email protected] or on Twitter @cjmcginnis.
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