6 things to know about the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program
Alaska Airlines' Mileage Plan has several features that you won’t find with the majority of competing airlines. Things like unique partners and generous stopover policies catapult the value of Alaska Airlines miles higher than any other airline mileage currency, per TPG valuations.
Knowing the program's intricacies will allow you to get maximum value out of your miles. Today, we'll discuss six things you need to know about Mileage Plan.
Alaska Airlines is part of Oneworld — but has additional partners, too
For many years, Alaska Airlines was not affiliated with one of the three major airline alliances (Oneworld, Star Alliance and SkyTeam). And while only flying a comparatively meager network of domestic routes, the airline managed to build one of the most valuable airline loyalty programs by inking deals with luxurious international airlines from every corner of the globe — including Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines.
In March of 2021, Alaska Airlines joined the Oneworld alliance. This vastly increased the number of airlines with which you can book award flights with Alaska Airlines miles. Importantly, Alaska preserved its relationship with most of the airlines it partnered with before joining Oneworld.
Here are the non-Oneworld partners it offers:
- Aer Lingus.
- Air Tahiti Nui.
- Hainan Airlines.
- Korean Air.
- LATAM Airlines.
- Ravn Alaska.
- Singapore Airlines.
It’s also partnered with Mokulele Airlines and Southern Airways Express, though you can’t book flights with Alaska miles.
Related: Your complete guide to Alaska Airlines partners
Stopovers are allowed on one-way award tickets
Stopovers on award tickets are rare in the world of travel rewards, and Alaska is one of the few airlines to offer them free of charge even on one-way awards.
This is an incredibly customer-friendly benefit that allows you to see two destinations for the price of one — with few restrictions. Here’s what you need to remember:
- You can fly a maximum of one partner as well as Alaska Airlines.
- Not all partner flights are bookable — you can easily see which ones qualify with a quick award search via the Alaska Airlines website.
- You can't add a stopover if you’re flying within a single international region, such as within Europe.
- You don’t have to fly out of the airport you arrive at. For example, in Tokyo, you could arrive at Haneda Airport (HND) and fly out of Narita International Airport (NRT).
- When flying internationally, your stopover will often have to be at the hub city of the partner airline you’re flying. For example, stopovers with Cathay Pacific will be in Hong Kong.
Related: How to book free stopovers with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
The good news is you can book most stopovers online by searching for a multicity award ticket.
There are a lot of ways to get creative with this perk. For example, you could build a stopover in Hong Kong before utilizing Cathay Pacific's extensive route network to connect to another city in Southeast Asia (Singapore, Bangkok, etc.).
Related: The complete guide to maximizing stopovers and open jaws on award tickets
It’s got some of the highest-value sweet spots of any airline currency
Alaska Airlines miles are among the most valuable rewards currencies — let alone airline miles. It consistently ranks near the top of TPG's monthly valuations, and are currently pegged at 1.8 cents per mile.
There’s a simple reason for this: It’s got excellent sweet spots for a number of routes. Some are admittedly a bit niche, but others are also award traveler bucket list items.
One famous example is using Alaska’s stopover policy: You can book a first-class flight from the U.S. to Hong Kong and a business-class flight from Hong Kong to Johannesburg on Cathay Pacific — all for just 85,000 miles. This flight can quite easily cost over $12,000 — meaning you shouldn’t have trouble getting a value of more than 14 cents per point. This award should return when Cathay Pacific's Johannesburg route returns this summer.
These seats are exceptionally difficult to book, as they are hot commodities in the points and miles world — and Cathay Pacific doesn’t release many premium award seats to partners.
Other great deals that you can book with Alaska Airlines miles include:
- Business class on Qantas to Australia for 55,000 miles.
- Business class on LATAM to Chile with a stopover in Brazil for 45,000 miles.
- First class on Japan Airlines to Southeast Asia with a stopover in Japan for 75,000 miles.
- Business class to New Zealand on Cathay Pacific for 60,000 miles.
Related: The 6 best airline award chart sweet spots
Watch out for mixed-cabin itineraries
Despite the multiple warnings Alaska now has on the website when booking award tickets, many travelers continue to unknowingly book mixed-cabin award tickets.
If you book a multisegment award ticket and at least one of the segments is in a premium class, the entire itinerary will price at the higher-cabin mileage rate and appear in the premium cabin column of the search results. Here's an example of a route from New York to Taipei, Taiwan, showing business-class space:
However, you'll notice a blue recliner seat icon next to the $48 in taxes and fees. This icon denotes that this is a mixed-cabin award ticket with the actual following classes of service:
In this case, you're paying a 25,000-mile premium to fly domestic first class only on the New York-to-Seattle leg, after which you'll spend the long flight from Seattle to Tokyo and then on to Taipei in coach.
When doing your initial searches for award space and again when completing the booking, Alaska makes it clear which classes of service you're booking, so please pay attention.
Related: How to redeem miles with the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program
Utilize Alaska Mileage Plan partners
Essentially anywhere you want to fly, Alaska has a partner or its own service that has you covered.
You probably know you can use Alaska miles on popular partners like American Airlines and Singapore Airlines, but how much do you know about Condor, Hainan Airlines and Fiji Airways? Here are a couple of tips to know when utilizing Mileage Plan partner airlines:
- Just because a partner airline flies a route doesn't mean you can book it with Alaska miles.
- There may be blackout dates for travel on certain partners depending on the zones you are traveling.
Related: Maximizing redemptions with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Book award flights on lesser-known routes to Hawaii
Hawaii continues to be the most popular destination for Americans to redeem their miles. Most people search for award space from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Honolulu.
Availability is always tight on these routes, so instead I recommend searching Alaska's lesser-known routes to the Hawaiian Islands — you may be surprised at the availability you find.
Alaska flies from a number of West Coast cities to nearly every Hawaiian destination, including San Jose, California, and Portland, Oregon. Not only do you have many more routing options to choose from, but award space is generally much easier to come by.
Just note that Mileage Plan is actually not the cheapest way to book these awards, and you'd be better off booking with Alaska's Oneworld partner British Airways. British Airways charges just 13,000 Avios each way in economy for flights from the West Coast to Hawaii, which is one of the best sweet spots you'll find in North America.
Related: Best sweet spots with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
How to earn Alaska Airlines miles
Alaska Airlines doesn't partner with any of the five major programs with transferable points (Bilt Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou and Capital One), making Mileage Plan miles some of the hardest to earn. Thankfully, there are a few good options you can rely on:
- Sign up for an Alaska Airlines credit card. Bank of America issues both a personal and business card. The Alaska Airlines Visa® credit card currently offers $100 statement credit and 50,000 bonus miles, plus Alaska’s Companion Fare from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23), after you spend $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of account opening.
- Business owners can open the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card, which offers 50,000 bonus miles plus a $100 statement credit plus Alaska's Companion Fare from $122 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $23) after making $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.
- Transfer points from Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred. In other words, 60,000 points will get you 25,000 Alaska Airlines miles.
- Buy Alaska miles during a promotion. We’ve seen bonuses up to 60% recently, dropping the cost of miles to 1.85 cents apiece. We don't recommend buying miles speculatively for a redemption, but if you've already found the award space you're looking for, this can be a good deal.
- You can credit paid partner flights to your Alaska account and potentially see larger returns than you'll get crediting to other programs. Each partner has its own earn chart based on the fare class you're flying, so be sure you know what percentage of flown miles you will earn.
Related: How to earn miles with the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program
If you become familiar with the above tips, you'll quickly realize the potential value of Mileage Plan and should strongly consider crediting paid partner flights to your Alaska account. Once you have enough miles for an award ticket, try to use the program's free stopover program to maximize partner award tickets and get two trips for the price of one.