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This morning, we found out that American Airlines and Alaska Airlines are taking a step back from their partnership. Effective January 1, 2018, AA and Alaska elites will no longer get elite benefits on each other’s flights. And, you’ll no longer be able to earn award and elite miles on the other airline’s flight numbers.

But, something else is also happening on January 1 — Alaska’s changing Mileage Plan award rates on AA flights. While the changes aren’t all bad, it’s certainly a notable devaluation. Thankfully, the changes are just limited to AA redemptions, and, unlike past Alaska Mileage Plan changes, we have almost six months advance notice before these changes go into effect.

Prices going up / awards to book before December 31

There are 16 award categories that will see an increase. Most are modest (13-38%), but first class AA flights to Asia Zone 2 (including Hong Kong and China) are jumping a whopping 63%.

Travel between Continental US or Canada and: Award type Book by
December 31, 2017
Book on or after
January 1, 2018
% Increase
Asia Zone 2 First Class 67,500 110,000 63%
South America Zone 1 First Class 40,000 55,000 38%
South America Zone 2 First Class 62,500 85,000 36%
Europe First Class 62,500 85,000 36%
Caribbean First Class 40,000 52,500^ 31%
Mexico First Class 40,000 52,500^ 31%
Central America First Class 40,000 52,500* 31%
Asia Zone 1 First Class 62,500 80,000 28%
Asia Zone 2 Business/First Class 55,000 70,000 27%
Asia Zone 1 Business/First Class 50,000 60,000 20%
South America Zone 2 Business/First Class 50,000 57,500 15%
Europe Business/First Class 50,000 57,500 15%
South America Zone 1 Coach 17,500 20,000 14%
Europe (Off-peak) Coach 20,000 22,500 13%
Asia Zone 1 Coach 32,500 35,000 8%
Asia Zone 2 Coach 35,000 37,500^ 7%

^ indicates that the new rate is higher than the mileage required using AAdvantage miles.
* indicates that the new rate is lower than the AAdvantage rate.
Otherwise, the new rates are the same as current AAdvantage rates.

In case you need a refresher on zones, Alaska includes the following descriptions:

  • American’s Business/First Class award is for first class on a two-cabin aircraft or business class on a three-cabin aircraft. The first class award is for first class in a three-cabin aircraft.
  • Asia Zone 1 awards include Japan, Korea and Mongolia. All other Asia travel is considered Zone 2.
  • South America Zone 2 includes Argentina, Brazil (excluding Manaus), Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. All other South America travel is considered Zone 1.

In addition, Mileage Plan is slashing off-peak awards to Central America, South America, and Asia. In addition, off-peak awards for Europe will only be valid for travel from November 1 to December 14 and January 10 to March 14, instead of the current range of October 15 to May 15.

Specifically, here are some awards you might want to try to book by December 31:

Prices going down / awards to book after January 1

In addition, there are five regions where award prices are going down:

Travel between Continental US or Canada and: Award type Book by
December 31, 2017
Book on or after
January 1, 2018
% Decrease
Continental US/Canada Business/First Class 32,500 25,000 23%
Hawaii Business/First Class 47,500 40,000 16%
Caribbean Business/First Class 30,000 27,500^ 8%
Mexico Business/First Class 30,000 27,500^ 8%
Central America Business/First Class 30,000 27,500^ 8%

Although Caribbean, Mexico and Central America rates are dropping from 30,000 to 27,500, this new rate is still more than you’d pay using AAdvantage miles (25,000).

Bottom Line

It’s a bummer that many Mileage Plan awards on American Airlines flights are jumping. But, in many ways, this devaluation is finally just aligning Mileage Plan rates with American Airlines’ devaluation in March 2016. So, one way of thinking about these changes is to be appreciative that these “zombie” rates will have stuck around for over 21 months by the time they’re finally nixed.

For the next six months, it’s time to set your Expert Flyer award alerts for American Airlines flights — especially for flights to Hong Kong (HKG) where the rates are jumping drastically.

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