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Alaska Becomes the Next Airline To Devalue Its Frequent Flyer Miles

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And the year of devaluation continues. I always say that airlines are copy cats, and I was proven right again when Alaska announced that it would be changing its award chart yesterday. Before you get too worried, though, let me just say that this is very minor as devaluations go – luckily it doesn’t include Saver awards  within the Continental US and Canada or partner airline travel, so it remains a good option for booking flights on great airlines like Cathay Pacific and Emirates.

Here’s what is being devalued, though, for reservations booked on or after January 14, 2014.

For travel within the continental US and Canada:

Screen shot 2013-11-14 at 3.56.53 PMYou’ll notice that the awards going up are for Refundable Coach and First – those last-minute full-price awards that are generally double the cost in miles of a Saver ticket. Refundable Coach tickets are going up 2,500 miles each way (a 10% increase) and Refundable First class tickets are going up 10,000 miles each way (a 20%0 increase).

The news isn’t quite as not-bad for Hawaii awards:

Screen shot 2013-11-14 at 4.01.15 PMSaver and Refundable Coach and Saver First awards are going up by up to 5,000 miles roundtrip, and Refundable First class awards are going up 10,000 miles roundtrip.

On awards to Mexico, here are what the changes look like:

Screen shot 2013-11-14 at 4.11.53 PMRefundable Coach goes up 5,000 miles roundtrip. Refundable First goes up a whopping 20,000 miles roundtrip, and Saver First actually goes down 5,000 miles roundtrip.

All in all, this could have been much, much worse, like recent devaluations by Delta (which devalued its miles twice!) and United, which devalued its miles both on awards on United itself and on its partners.

In the case of Alaska, almost all the awards being affected are those expensive Refundable awards (which people redeem for last-minute seats usually) and not the Saver awards we all usually look for. The one exception is to Hawaii – some of Alaska’s most popular routes, which will cost you 5,000 more miles for a Saver Coach ticket. On the other hand flying Saver First to Mexico will now cost you 5,000 fewer miles roundtrip.

So if you’re the kind of flyer that has tons of miles and likes to redeem for expensive last-minute awards (and I don’t know too, too many of those) then this will impact you, but for the most part, this is a minor development.

What I’m really happy to see is that partner awards – both on other US airlines like American and Delta – as well as Alaska’s premium partners like Cathay, Emirates, British Airways and Air France – aren’t being affected by this at all, so for the moment we can all breathe a sigh of relief. For the moment.

If Delta’s recent double-devaluation teaches us anything, not to mention the fact that Alaska just sprung this on everyone, it’s that things can change in a second, so if you are planning on using your Alaska miles to book awards, I would try to get on that sooner rather than later so you’re not stuck spending more miles than you have to if the airline decides to change any more of its redemptions.

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