Sweet Spot Sunday: Fly business class to Asia for just 50,000 miles — and even add a free stopover
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Sweet Spot Sunday is a weekly series highlighting the best-value award redemptions across loyalty programs.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles are undeniably some of the most valuable on the market. They typically clock in at 1.8 cents apiece in TPG’s monthly valuations, which is much higher than most other airline miles. The reason for this is not necessarily the Alaska flights that you can redeem for, but rather the program’s generous partner award charts.
Today we’re going to focus our attention on a sweet spot for booking award flights to Asia. Specifically, we’re going to discuss how you can fly Cathay Pacific business class to Asia for just 50,000 miles each way. Plus, you’ll get to add a free stopover in Hong Kong (HKG), even on one-way tickets. Although much of Asia remains off-limits for Americans, knowing these tricks can save you lots of points and miles once it’s time to book.
Why it’s special
Business-class flights to Asia can get pricey. Cash rates usually start at $2,000 each way, while most loyalty programs charge at least 70,000 miles each way for award tickets. So, being able to book these flights for just 50,000 miles each way through Alaska Mileage Plan is a great deal. It’s the same rate regardless of your departure city in the U.S. — whether you’re flying from the East Coast or West Coast — and destination in Asia. Most other programs, on the other hand, price awards either by distance or zones.
Aside from a low rate, another perk of booking through Alaska is that the program allows you to enjoy a free stopover in Hong Kong (HKG), including on one-way tickets. This way, you can spend a few nights and explore a new city before continuing on to another destination in Asia — essentially getting two free vacations for the price of one award.
Cathay Pacific is known to have one of the best business-class products around. It consistently offers excellent service, delicious food and comfortable seats. Plus, the lounges are fantastic, especially in Hong Kong.
How to book this award
Now for the not-so-fun part: actually booking these awards. Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific awards are not bookable through Alaska’s website. You’ll have to find award space through another Oneworld search engine first and then call to book your ticket. But don’t worry, the process isn’t as difficult as it might seem.
Step 1: Find award availability
Some of the best websites for searching Oneworld award availability include American Airlines, British Airways and Qantas. I personally like American and Qantas in particular as they allow you to search with a calendar view that shows all available flights. The inventory you see on these sites should match what Alaska can access. Unfortunately, you can’t search for Cathay Pacific award space on ExpertFlyer (which is owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures).
If you plan on taking advantage of the free stopover benefit, make sure to search for all of your flights separately. Also, keep in mind that Alaska doesn’t let you mix partners on an award ticket, though you can add a connecting flight operated by Alaska to get to an international gateway.
Step 2: Call Alaska to book
Once you find availability for the flights you want, call Alaska Mileage Plan at 800-654-5669 to book. To expedite the process, it’s best to have the flight numbers and departure times at hand when calling. Also, note the department’s hours of operation before calling.
Alaska’s phone agents tend to be quick and knowledgeable. Since these awards aren’t bookable online, they should also be able to waive the $15 phone booking fee. Unfortunately, there’s no way around the $12.50 partner award booking fee, though. All in all, the entire call should take 15 minutes or less.
How to earn miles for this award
Aside from being some of the most valuable, Alaska miles are also among the hardest to get.
The easiest way to quickly earn a large chunk of Alaska miles is by signing up for one of Alaska’s cobranded credit cards. For instance, the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card is currently offering 50,000 bonus miles and a companion fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) for any Alaska Airlines flight after you make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account. Note that the companion fare (from $121) is also an annual benefit rewarded each year on your account anniversary.
If you’re a business owner, you can pick up the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card and get 60,000 bonus miles plus Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22) after you make purchases of $3,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account. (There’s a $50 annual fee for the company plus $25 annual fee per card).
Both the personal and business cards earn 3x miles on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and 1x miles on all other purchases.
Of course, you can also earn Alaska miles through flying, booking rental cars and hotels through travel partners, using the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Shopping portal and taking advantage of Mileage Plan Dining.
The only transfer options come from hotel programs. You can transfer points from Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred. Based on our tests, these transfers take around four days to process.
Again, the easiest way to boost your points balance is with Marriott Bonvoy credit cards. Here’s an overview of the current offers available for new Marriott Bonvoy cardholders:
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant™ American Express® Card: Earn 150,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points and a bonus free night award (redemption level worth up to 85,000 Marriott points) after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. Resort fees may apply. Offer expires 11/3/2021. ($450 annual fee, see rates and fees)
- Marriott Bonvoy Business™ American Express® Card: Earn 125,000 Marriott bonus points & two bonus free night awards (each worth up to 50,000 points) after you use your new card to make $5,000 in eligible purchases within the first three months of card membership. Certain hotels have resort fees. Offer ends 11/3/21. ($125 annual fee, see rates and fees)
- Marriott Bonvoy Boundless Credit Card: Earn 125,000 bonus points + 1 free night (valued up to 50,000 points) after you spend $5,000 in the first three months from account opening (total of up to 175,000 bonus points). ($95 annual fee)
- Marriott Bonvoy Bold Credit Card: Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. (No annual fee)
If you’re looking to fly to Asia in style, then redeeming Alaska miles to fly Cathay Pacific is a terrific option. Not only does Alaska charge fewer miles than most other Oneworld airlines, but you can also add a free stopover in both directions. Although these awards can’t be booked online, it’s still fairly easy to book them over the phone. The only hard part is earning the Alaska miles you need.
Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
Updated on 9/08/21
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