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Yesterday, we shared some pretty devastating news from Alaska Airlines — Emirates partner awards were going up by as much as 100%, with the biggest hit coming to first-class redemptions. While the previous redemption rates were clearly very generous, Alaska seemed happy to take your money (in the form of purchased miles) to book these awards.

Most disappointing of all was the fact that Alaska made this change without providing any warning — the new levels went into effect immediately, even for flights booked and flown yesterday. So after receiving significant customer backlash, the airline published a Q&A, in which it explained yesterday’s changes by essentially blaming “travel hackers” taking advantage of an “exceptionally good deal.”

Alaska’s new redemption rates for flights on Emirates.

Why Did Alaska Make the Change?

Let’s let the Alaska team explain that:

Alaska’s premium Emirates awards have long been known as an exceptionally good deal. With the rise of “travel-hacking,” intended to exploit Mileage Plan’s award routing rules, coupled with below-market award levels, our previous award levels were unsustainable. The new award levels enable Alaska to continue to offer Emirates Business Class and First Class as a redemption option.

Clearly Alaska’s Emirates redemption offered an exceptional value, made even more lucrative through the ability to add stopovers (what Alaska refers to above as an intention “to exploit Mileage Plan’s award routing rules”). So perhaps a change was due. Why make it without providing any warning, though?

Again, here’s Alaska:

Given the dynamics of this particular award, we were unable to announce changes in advance. This approach doesn’t represent a new normal. Our policy is to communicate significant program changes with at least 30 days’ notice when at all possible.

In other words, by providing 30 days of notice here, Alaska would have prompted a run on the bank, encouraging members to redeem millions of miles quickly. This would have been costly for the airline.

You can still get a great deal when redeeming for Cathay Pacific first class.
You can still get a great deal when redeeming for Cathay Pacific first class.

How To Get a Refund on Purchased Alaska Miles

Perhaps the one saving grace here is that Alaska is allowing customers who purchased miles recently to claim a refund, saying “If you purchased miles on or after March 1, 2016, you can contact our Customer Care team for a refund.”

You can reach the Mileage Plan Customer Care team at 800-654-5669. The office is open Monday-Friday from 8:00am until 5:45pm Pacific Time and Saturdays from 8:00am until 4:45pm.

Interestingly, Alaska doesn’t mention a deadline to do this, nor is there a future cutoff. Based on the very basic language here, you could wait indefinitely before calling for a refund, and refunds could apply to purchases made after today as well. I imagine Alaska will update that language, so if you definitely want your money back, I’d advise calling as soon as possible.

Will you be contacting Alaska for a refund?

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Alaska miles are extremely valuable because you can book awards on partners like Emirates, Icelandair, Korean Air and Japan Airlines. The current bonus of 40,000 miles can book you a roundtrip ticket on Alaska Airlines from Boston to San Diego or New York to Seattle, for example.

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More Things to Know
  • Now - 40,000 Bonus Mile + Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ Offer.
  • Get 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • Save with a free checked bag on Alaska flights for you and up to six other guests on the same reservation.
  • Get Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ every year! Each year on your account anniversary get a companion fare from $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22). Valid on all Alaska flights booked on with no blackout dates.
  • Earn unlimited 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and unlimited 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases. And, your miles don't expire on active accounts.
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  • Redeem miles with no blackout dates on any of Alaska's 1,200 daily flights or choose from over 900+ destinations with more than a dozen global airline partners. Plus, get exclusive access to discounted redemption levels when you redeem miles for hotel stays at over 400,000 properties using Alaska Airlines Hotels.
  • Plus, no foreign transaction fees and a low $75 annual fee.
Intro APR on Purchases
Regular APR
18.24%-26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
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