How to get to Alaska with points and miles

Mar 4, 2020

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Whether you’re looking to experience the northern lights or simply want to explore the final frontier, Alaska is a wild and wonderful place to visit. Though it’s not as easy to access as other spots in the U.S., there are still several domestic airlines that service our northernmost state. Winter or summer, the best time to visit Alaska depends on the activities you’re planning — and there’s something there for everyone.

From Alaska Airlines to United, let’s take a look at the best ways to use points and miles to get to Alaska.

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Airlines that fly to Alaska

The three largest airports in Alaska are located in Anchorage (ANC), Fairbanks (FAI) and Juneau (JNU), though the former two serve the most cities. These include destinations like Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN), Seattle (SEA) and even Hawaii. Keep in mind that Alaska is a highly-seasonal destination, so you may find additional routings during the summer.

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Unsurprisingly, Alaska Airlines is the dominant airline servicing these airports, though you can also find nonstop flights from United, Delta and American. Other regional carriers fly often, and Condor even offers a single nonstop routing from Frankfurt. While you can find moderately-priced options via all four carriers, you’ll likely find best availability due to Alaska Airlines’ overwhelming majority of flights.

Ultimately the best mileage options for flying to Alaska will depend on where your trip originates and what airline you choose to fly, but given Alaska Airlines’ massive presence in its home state, we’ll start by looking at your top Alaska Airlines redemption options.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines offers several nonstop routes to Alaska (with many more connecting options). To Anchorage, you can fly nonstop from:

  • Honolulu (HNL)
  • Kona (KOA)
  • Los Angeles
  • Maui (OGG)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • Portland (PDX)
  • Seattle

From Seattle, Alaska also offers nonstop flights to Fairbanks and Juneau. From these major cities, you can connect onward to more far-flung Alaskan destinations like Nome (OME), Kodiak (ADQ) and Ketchikan (KTN). It’s easy to get around within Alaska using Alaska Airlines miles as well if you decide to travel within the state.

Related: How to redeem miles with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Unlike the big three domestic carriers, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan still has a distance-based award chart. This means you’ll be able to check how many miles you’ll need for your flight ahead of time.

For example, one-way economy awards from New York-JFK to Anchorage during November range from 12,500 miles on the low end to the more expensive 20,000 miles each way.

Related: The best airline credit cards of 2019

This award chart even extends to Hawaii, which means you can find some very good redemptions between the two states for just 15k miles:

One unique aspect of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program is you can book a free stopover on award tickets (even one-way). So you could fly from New York-JFK to Seattle, spend a few days, then continue on to Anchorage at no extra cost.

Unfortunately, Alaska is not a transfer partner of any flexible bank currencies, though you can transfer over from Marriott at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points you transfer.

If you need to bulk up on your Alaska Airlines miles stash, you can take advantage of a limited-time offer on the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card to earn a welcome bonus of 40,000 bonus miles, a $100 statement credit and Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from just $22) after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. Small-business owners can also consider the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business credit card, which has the same welcome bonus (minus the $100 statement credit) and spending requirement.

Related: How to earn miles with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

American Airlines

American Airlines doesn’t have as many nonstop flights to Alaska, but with its vast North American route network you can usually get there in one stop. AA flies to Anchorage from Dallas (DFW), Chicago O’Hare (ORD) and Los Angeles, and to Fairbanks from Chicago O’Hare and Dallas, all on a seasonal basis.

Related: How to redeem miles with American Airlines AAdvantage

With American’s introduction of dynamic Web Special pricing, you can find a variety of prices for these flights depending on your dates:

8,000 miles for a one-way ticket from Dallas to Fairbanks is a downright steal, but if you’re traveling during peak dates you can expect to pay more.

Related: Maximizing redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

Like Alaska Airlines, Marriott Bonvoy is the only transferable points program that partners with American Airlines. You can move points at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for each increment of 60,000 points you transfer. Be sure to check out our guide to earning Marriott Bonvoy points.

If you’re looking to earn more American Airlines miles, there are several cobranded cards that can boost your account balance quickly, including:

The information for the Citi AAdvantage Platinum card and CitiBusiness AAdvantage Platinum card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

United Airlines

You can redeem United Airlines miles for nonstop flights to Alaska year-round between Denver and Anchorage, and seasonally between Anchorage and Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, Newark (EWR) and Houston (IAH). The carrier also offers seasonal service between Fairbanks and Chicago O’Hare and Denver.

Related: How to redeem miles with United Airlines MileagePlus

Because United has eliminated its award chart for its own flights, the price you’ll pay in miles varies depending on the date:

Pricing between Denver and Anchorage using United miles.

It’s worth comparing the award cost through Avianca LifeMiles to fly United, because you can often save miles. Avianca is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One miles, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy, so it’s easy to earn their miles if you have access to those transferable points currencies.

The same Denver to Anchorage route using Avianca Lifemiles.

Earning United miles is easy with cobranded credit cards from Chase.

  • United Explorer Card: Earn 40,000 United MileagePlus miles after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening
  • United Business Card: Earn 100,000 United MileagePlus miles after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening

You can also transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to United at a 1:1 ratio when you have any of the following cards:

  • Chase Sapphire Reserve: Earn 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months.
  • Ink Business Preferred Credit Card: Earn 100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points once you spend $15,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening

Related: The best ways to use Chase Ultimate Rewards points

Delta Air Lines

Delta was the first legacy carrier to move to dynamic award pricing, which means you can find a variety of prices for any given flight on any given day. Delta also operates few nonstop flights to Alaska, though like the other airlines above you can find connecting flights available all throughout the country.

Related: How to redeem miles with the Delta SkyMiles program

Delta operates year-round nonstop service to Anchorage from Seattle, and seasonal service from Atlanta (ATL), Minneapolis-St.Paul (MSP) and Salt Lake City (SLC). You can also fly Delta to Fairbanks from Seattle (year-round) and Minneapolis (seasonal), and on a seasonal basis to Juneau from Seattle.

Generally speaking, these flights will be more expensive than your other options unless Delta is running one of their frequent award sales, but the upside is that with dynamic pricing you can almost always find an available seat.

Related: How to earn Delta SkyMiles

Delta SkyMiles are easy to accumulate, with American Express Membership Rewards offering transfers to the airline at a 1:1 ratio. It’s easy to earn Amex Membership Rewards points from cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express and American Express® Gold Card.

Delta also has a suite of cobranded credit cards from which to choose (terms apply):

Personal cards:

Business cards:

Related: Choosing the best credit card for Delta flyers

Bottom line

So what’s the best way to use miles to fly to Alaska? It depends. But, you certainly have options with major North American airlines offering service to Alaska’s three main airports, and in the case of Alaska Airlines, within the state itself.

Alaska Airlines has the largest footprint of the four main carriers, but you can also use your points to fly Delta, United or American Airlines, depending on your departure airport. If you’re planning on redeeming transferable points, make sure you check the cash cost of the ticket first to see which would be a better deal and check bank portals like the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal to see if you can save points.

Featured photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

Jasmin Baron contributed to this post.

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Gold Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Reserve Business Card, please click here.
For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles Platinum Business Card, please click here.

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