This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.
Update 2/15/18: Alaska has clarified its policy since it was first announced. It will not block last-minute partner awards on bookings from from North America — the restrictions will only apply to intra-Asia award tickets only.
Alaska Airlines has made a large and negative change to its MileagePlan award program. On February 8th, the airline updated three of its partner pages saying that award flights must be booked at least 72 hours before the departure time. The change is immediate and affects Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines and Hainan.
At first this might not seem like a huge deal: You simply can’t book three Alaska partners with 72 hours of departure. But using Alaska miles on Cathay Pacific and JAL are some of the best redemptions in the points and miles game. You can use just 70,000 Alaska miles to fly Cathay First, which is an absolute steal for one of the nicest cabins in the sky.
However, it could be quite tough to book one of these awards since Cathay releases an extremely limited amount of first class award seats. The main trick was waiting until the last minute when Cathay opened up first class award space, usually within 72 hours of departure, and then snagging the seat. The new policy essentially ends that strategy, especially since Alaska actually sees less availability for Cathay than other loyalty programs.
Alaska claims the change has to due with combating fraud, so it’s possible that the airline will be able to reverse the policy once it has figured out a better solution to combat the issue.
The next-best option is redeeming American miles or Asia Miles on Cathay, but you’ll have to shell out tens of thousands more miles than through MileagePlan for a one-way flight.
JAL and Hainan Airlines are usually a little better with award availability, so they may be less affected by this, but the rule still stands that most carriers usually release business and first class seats right before departure. The theory being that airlines are more willing to allow miles to be redeemed if they don’t think they are going to sell the seat anyway.
Fortunately Alaska didn’t actually change its MileagePlan award charts, but it’s just going to be much harder to find that coveted first and business class availability.
With great travel benefits, 2x points on travel & dining and a 50,000 point sign up bonus, the Chase Sapphire Preferred is a great card for those looking to get into the points and miles game. Here are the top 5 reasons it should be in your wallet, or read our definitive review for more details.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® named a 'Best Travel Credit Card' by MONEY® Magazine, 2016-2017
- 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
- No foreign transaction fees
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Get 25% more value when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel.
- No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards