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In case you missed it, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines are breaking up. After 18 years together, the two formerly close partners are deciding to go their separate ways. While there’s nothing that you can do to save the relationship, there are three actions points/miles enthusiasts and airline elites should consider before the changes kick in on January 1, 2018:

1. Devaluation of the Alaska Airlines award chart for AA flights

This is the big hit for us miles and points collectors. Alaska awards on American Airlines flights are being “harmonized” with what American Airlines is charging for these award flights. We’ve had nearly two wonderful years since American Airlines’ last AAdvantage award devaluation where we’ve been able to book American Airlines award flights with Alaska miles at pre-devaluation rates. That’s ending January 1, 2018.

Most of the changes are bad:

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%

But there are some awards that are going to be cheaper if you book after January 1, 2018:

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%

Check this article for details of how these rates compare to the current AAdvantage award chart and which routes you might want to book before the changes.

Action item: Search for and book some last-minute awards before the old American Airlines award charts are history.

2. Select preferred seats for 2018 flights

Reciprocal elite benefits between Alaska and American are ending December 31, 2017. That means Alaska elites no longer get priority check-in, priority boarding, free preferred or Main Cabin Extra (MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K) seats and free checked bag(s) on American Airlines flights. Similarly, AAdvantage elites won’t get priority check-in, priority boarding, preferred seating and two free checked bags on Alaska flights.

Unfortunately, most of these elite benefits have a hard December 31, 2017 cutoff, meaning these benefits won’t apply to 2018 flights no matter when the flight was purchased.

However, there’s one benefit that you can lock in now for travel in 2018: preferred seating. As part of the divorce papers, the terms specifically state “Preferred and Main Cabin extra seating assigned prior to December 31, 2017, will be honored for travel on or after January 1, 2018.”  That means you have just one more week from today snag those seats for 2018 travel.

I just went through this process for an upcoming Alaska award flight booked with AAdvantage miles. I needed to call American Airlines reservations for the Alaska confirmation number. Once armed with this information, I was easily able to select preferred seats on my Alaska flight.

Action item: American/Alaska elites should check your 2018 flight bookings and select preferred seats for free while you still can.

3. Check where your 2018 flights are crediting

Another hard cutoff relates to crediting flights. Effective for flights starting January 1, 2018, you’ll get zero AAdvantage credit for Alaska-marketed flights. You can still earn AAdvantage credit for Alaska-operated flights, but only if you booked the American Airlines codeshare. The easiest way of telling which you have: pull up your flight confirmation and see which airline’s flight number appears. If it’s an Alaska flight number, that means it’s Alaska-marketed and won’t earn any AAdvantage miles.

The reverse is nearly true. Alaska Mileage Plan members won’t get any credit for American Airlines-marketed flights – unless it’s an international flight. As Alaska doesn’t have intercontinental flights, they’re fine with partnering with American Airlines for these flights.

Action item: check your 2018 flight bookings and make sure that you’re crediting the flights to the right program.

Featured image by PG/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.

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