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From now through September 28, 2012, Alaska Airlines is offering up to a 40% bonus on miles purchased through points.com up to a total of 40,000 miles plus the 16,000-mile bonus.
Buy 1,000 – 19,000 miles: get a 20% Bonus
Buy 20,000 – 29,000 miles: get a 30% Bonus
Buy 30,000 – 40,000 miles: get a 40% Bonus
Ordinarily, miles cost 2.75 cents each plus a 7.5% tax. They are non-refundable and don’t count toward MVP or MVP Gold status. With the bonuses, when you purchase 1,000-19,000 miles they cost about 2.3 cents each, when you purchase 20,000-29,000 miles they cost 2.1 cents each, and when you purchase between 30,000-40,000 miles, they cost 1.96 cents each. For the biggest bonus, that basically equates to a discount of about 29% on your miles.
As usual, the big question: is it worth it? Let’s have a look at the Alaska mileage redemption options and run through a few scenarios to find out.
Here’s the Alaska award chart for travel within the continental US and Canada.
As you can see, the redemption levels are pretty standard with low-level “Super Saver” one-way awards going for 12,500 each way or 25,000 roundtrip. So to have enough miles for a roundtrip ticket, you’d need to purchase 20,000 miles with this promo to get a total of 26,000 miles for $550 plus $41.25 in taxes. Just taking a quick look at a few sample itineraries makes it clear that this isn’t a good value proposition. For instance, a roundtrip ticket from LAX-Vancouver later in September is just $301, so you’re already about $300 less than buying the miles necessary for this redemption.
One of the reasons I would consider flying Alaska is because of its number of flights from the US Mainland to Hawaii’s various islands. Not only are there tons of flights, but there are a lot of departure points from the West Coast, making it easier to find award seats if your plans are a bit flexible.
As you can see from the Hawaii award chart above, a low-level Super-Saver award ticket is 40,000 miles. You’d need to purchase 30,000 miles plus a 12,000-mile bonus with this promotion to get to that level that would cost you $825 plus the 7.5% tax. Again, likely not a great value.
Where this promo could be worth it is if you wanted to use those purchased miles to upgrade. When traveling on a purchased ticket on Alaska Airlines, you can use 15,000 Mileage Plan miles to upgrade your ticket to the First Class cabin. Tickets must be purchased from Full Flex or Value fare categories only.
Once your ticket is purchased, request a First Class Upgrade award by calling Alaska Airlines Reservations at 1-800-252-7522. Upgrades can also be requested, if available, within 24 hours of flight departure through web check-in, or on the day of departure at an airport check-in kiosk.
With this promo, if you purchased 13,000 miles, you’d get 2,600 bonus miles for a total of 15,600 miles, just over the threshold for an upgrade. That would cost you $357.50 + $26.81 in taxes for a total of $384.31. Not an amazing bargain, but could be cheaper than paying for first class.
Where Alaska really shines, of course, is in the various airline partners it has. Though Alaska isn’t part of any alliance – or because of it – it is partners with both American and Delta, as well as Air France/KLM, Air Pacific, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates (redemptions coming later this year), Icelandair, Korean Air, LAN and Qantas.
Just note: A $25 nonrefundable fee is charged per person for each award booked on a partner airline. Partner award travel with American and Delta can be booked online. All other partner award travel must be booked through the Partner Desk at 1-800-307-6912, daily between 5:00 a.m. and midnight (Pacific Time). You also have to redeem for roundtrip travel – no one-ways allowed – and you can only redeem on one partner at a time. So for instance if you wanted to get to Europe from the west coast, but couldn’t catch a direct Air France/KLM flight, then you’d have to either get to a hub on your own, or you could only take Alaska to get to a hub and then catch the partner flight, but you couldn’t take Delta or American to get to the hub. It’s a restriction to keep in mind for non-west coast flyers, though if you can get yourself to a partner hub you should be okay.
Alaska has different award charts for the varying partners:
American Continental US Award Chart
The economy redemption is in line with American’s levels, but the 65,000 miles for business/first is quite high for a domestic award.
Hawaii on American
Again, I’d rather redeem the 35,000 American miles necessary for a coach ticket to Hawaii than spend an extra 5,000 Alaska miles.
Delta Continental US Award Chart
Hawaii on Delta
Here’s where it gets interesting with other partners, though:
This is the North America portion of one of Cathay’s JFK-Hong Kong routes, so you’d be on one of their 777-300 with the all-new classes of service. Notice that you must redeem for a roundtrip award, and you’d need more miles than just using British Airways Avios (25,000) for coach, but business class is the same at 50,000 miles, and you would actually be using 5,000 less Alaska miles than BA Avios for a first-class redemption.
Looking at the requirements to fly Cathay to Asia from North America:
Using Alaska miles, you’d need just 60,000 to fly from North America to Hong Kong on Cathay, versus 60,000-70,000+ Avios or 70,000 American miles. In business, you’d need 100,000 miles as opposed to the 120,000-140,000 Avios or 110,000 American miles, and you would need just 140,000 miles to fly first class roundtrip instead of 210,000 Avios but just 135,000 American miles. So there are plenty of great redemption values to play with here.
Redemption options to Europe:
To fly Air France/KLM from North America to Europe, you’d need 65,000 miles in coach or 100,000 miles in business. Those numbers are pretty much in line with the Delta miles you’d need to fly from North America to Europe, though you’d only need 60,000 SkyMiles instead of 65,000 for coach.
As always, do the math for yourself. If you’ve got some extra Alaska miles sitting around and were considering them for a particular redemption that’s almost within reach, calculate whether the cash outlay for the extra miles is worth the value of the award you’d be getting.
That said, there are some great values to be pulled from Alaska’s various partner redemptions like that Cathay Pacific first class redemption. Though the max you can buy is 56,000 miles, if you were able to buy the 140,000 miles necessary for that redemption, with this promo it would cost you $2,956.25. That’s still a lot, but well below the $10,000-$15,000 those tickets normally go for.
Also, remember this promo is just one way to score some extra Alaska miles fast. The airline is a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest, so you can transfer points from your SPG account, and when you transfer in increments of 20,000, you automatically score a 5,000-mile bonus though transfers can take up to a week.
You can also score a 40,000-mile bonus with the Alaska Airlines Visa from Bank of America, 25,000 miles upon approval plus 15,000 more when you spend $7,500 within 6 months. The best part is that this card is totally churn-able, so you can get this bonus multiple times – just about twice a year for 80,000 miles – getting you to that dream redemption even quicker.
I might not be chomping at the bit to buy a ton of Alaska miles even with this promo, but I would definitely consider it if I were near an award threshold and didn’t want to transfer any of my valuable Starpoints since I usually get the most value using them for hotel redemptions .