Alaska is not one of my main airline programs (yet!), but when planning my Maldives/India trip, I knew I wanted to fly back to the States in Emirates First Class.
My plan was to use 90,000 Alaska miles and $57.47 in taxes to reserve a first class award from Mumbai connecting in Dubai to JFK with the first leg aboard an Emirates 777-300, and the longer one to New York aboard an A380.
However, I didn’t have those miles to begin with. Though I’m familiar with Alaska’s Mileage Plan program, I’m always learning more things about it, including something I learned during last year’s Chicago Seminars – which is that Alaska actually has a “Fly & Buy Miles” features where, when booking a flight at alaskaair.com, you can purchase up to 10,000 additional Mileage Plan miles at a special discounted price that works out to 1.9 cents per mile plus a 7.5% tax (so about 2.04 cents per mile).
Here are the rest of the Terms and Conditions:
- Fly & Buy Miles are only offered during the initial purchase of a revenue ticket at alaskaair.com.
- Fly & Buy Miles are not offered when purchasing award reservations.
- Fly & Buy Miles are credited to your Mileage Pla account separately from miles earned by taking a qualifying flight.
- Prices are stated in U.S. Dollars and are subject to applicable taxes, currently 7.5% for U.S. residents. Taxes vary for residents of other countries.
- Fly & Buy Miles and associated taxes are nonrefundable.
- Purchased Fly & Buy Miles do not count toward qualification for Mileage Plan MVP or MVP Gold status.
- Fly & Buy Miles will generally post to your Mileage Plan account immediately after the transaction is complete but may take up to two business days.
- The Mileage Plan Conditions of Membership apply to Fly & Buy Miles.
To test it out, I purchased a refundable one-way flight from Seattle to Portland earlier this week and opted to purchase 10,000 additional Fly & Buy miles, which rang up at $190 plus $14.25 in tax (7.5%) for a grand total of $204.25.
I made both purchases using my American Express Premier Rewards Gold card, which offers 3X points per $1 on airfare. As you’ll see below, what’s interesting about this is that, though this rang up as two separate transactions, both were categorized as an airline purchase, meaning I got the 3X Amex points on the bonus miles as well, which is not the case when buying them outright from the airline through Points.com (or for any other kind of miles usually, for instance when you’re taking advantage of buy or share miles promotions).
Once the transactions had posted and the miles were in my Mileage Plan account, I simply canceled my Alaska ticket and kept the non-refundable bonus miles (and still got 3X on that purchase).
This was test case and I don’t expect it to raise any red flags, but that said, I wouldn’t encourage you to go out and make 10 refundable reservations all at once and purchase the maximum 10,000 miles with each or the airline might cut you off.
To put this in perspective, here is Alaska’s Emirates partner award chart:
I’m planning to go back to Africa at some point this year since I have part of an unused award from the US to Johannesburg to fly. So let’s say I wanted to buy the 100,000 miles to return to the US aboard Emirates.
If I were to buy the 100,000 I’d need for a one-way first class award on Emirates for the return from Africa to North America it would run me $2,042.50. Emirates currently operates the A380 from New York JFK and LAX to Dubai. From Dubai to Johannesburg, it flies the 777-300ER.
For comparison’s sake, I priced out a one-way ticket from Johannesburg to LAX first class on Emirates at the end of January and it would cost $6,520.
By spending $2,042.50 on miles, I’m saving myself nearly $4,478! To me, this only makes sense if you want to fly Emirates first class since you’re still paying thousands of dollars for these miles and the high prices of first class fares might just justify the expense for you if you’re willing to spend a couple thousand dollars for a ticket in the $10,000 range.
On the flip side, let’s say you wanted to do this to fly roundtrip from the US to Dubai. That would require 85,000 miles, which would cost $1,737. Looking at flights from New York JFK to Dubai, a roundtrip economy ticket would only cost $1,113 and you wouldn’t be subject to award availability, so better to buy in that case.
I ended up buying several thousand miles through this method, and then transferring some of my Starwood Preferred Guest points to Alaska for the rest in order to book my award on Emirates – and the plan worked perfectly. Stay tuned a little later today for my review of Emirates First Class.
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