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Best sweet spots with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Aug. 12, 2022
13 min read
A Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 aircraft seen at the gate in Hong Kong
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The Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan frequent flyer program is an absolute powerhouse of value thanks to individual airline partnerships. Alaska Airlines joined Oneworld nearly a year ago, but it still possesses partners that other Oneworld airlines don’t have — and its award pricing is altogether unique.

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Alaska Airlines miles are the most valuable airline currency in TPG’s monthly valuations — but also some of the hardest to earn. You can earn 40,000 Alaska miles when you sign up for the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card and spend $2,000 in the first three months of account opening. But how can you be sure you’re getting the most value from your awards?

Let’s look at some of the best sweet spot redemptions in this program to ensure you make the most of your hard-earned Alaska miles.

Add stopovers with Alaska miles

Add a stopover to partner tickets and see a second city on your Alaska award tickets. (Photo by Eric Rosen/The Points Guy)

Alaska Airlines gives you a free stopover on international award tickets — even on one-way itineraries.

Your stopover is typically limited to the hub city of whichever partner airline you’re flying. That’s because Alaska does not permit you to mix partners on an award ticket. If you’re flying internationally, it must be with one partner, as well as Alaska Airlines-operated flights. For example, you can tack on a connecting flight on Alaska Airlines to get to an international gateway.

This means that if you’re flying from San Francisco to Tokyo on Japan Airlines, you can stopover in Tokyo for as long as you’d like. If you have a connecting ticket from Chicago to San Francisco on Alaska, you can use your stopover in San Francisco instead of Tokyo if you’d like.

Why it’s valuable: Despite these setbacks, reserving a free stopover with each international one-way flight is a lucrative benefit that can turn one vacation into two. This is a rarity among airline loyalty programs.

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How to book: Thankfully, Alaska Airlines has one of the most intuitive methods of booking a stopover.

Step 1. Search Multi-city on the Alaska Airlines website

Use the Multi-city search option to manually input your stopover. Make sure you’ve also checked the “Use miles” box.

(Screenshot courtesy of alaskaaair.com)

Step 2. Choose your itinerary

You’ll then see your one-way flight — including your stopover — as one price.

(Screenshot courtesy of alaskaaair.com)

Related: How to book free stopovers with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Business/first class to Africa or Asia on Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific first class is one of the best premium cabins in the sky. (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)

One of the best uses of Alaska miles is to book Cathay Pacific’s incredibly luxurious premium cabins.

You can go a long way in a lie-flat Cathay Pacific seat for relatively few Alaska Airlines miles. For example, a one-way business class flight from the U.S. to Asia is only 50,000 miles in business class or 70,000 miles in first class.

(Screenshot courtesy of alaskaaair.com)

Or, you could fly to Africa for 62,500 miles in business class and 70,000 miles in first class.

(Screenshot courtesy of alaskaaair.com)

All of Asia and Africa are eligible at these prices. And because Alaska Airlines also offers the ability to build a stopover into your journey, you could stop in Hong Kong for free before continuing on to somewhere like Tel Aviv or Johannesburg. Just note that this redemption will have to wait until after Hong Kong reopens its borders to tourists, as the region still requires visitors to quarantine upon arrival.

Related: Maximizing Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan award routing rules

Why it’s valuable: Cathay Pacific is one of the top-rated airlines in the world, and its lie-flat seats are a bucket list item for many points and miles collectors. The ability to fly these seats for 27+ hours for as little as 50,000 miles is ludicrous.

Depending on your route, you could redeem 70,000 miles for an itinerary that easily retails for $15,000+. That would give you a value of 21 cents per mile. TPG estimates that Alaska Airlines miles are worth 1.8 cents each, on average. This means you’d get a value of more than 11x the average value for your rewards — making this one of the best sweet spots in existence.

How to book: You cannot book Cathay Pacific award flights through the Alaska Airlines website. Here’s what you need to do.

Step 1. Find which dates Cathay Pacific operates

This step isn’t entirely necessary, but I find that it makes life easier.

Cathay Pacific doesn’t fly every day from all of its U.S gateways. To quickly find out which dates they operate from your desired airport, head to Google Flights and search each segment you plan to fly. I’ve searched flights between San Francisco and Hong Kong and then flights between Hong Kong and Tel Aviv.

As you can see, the airline appears to only operate between Hong Kong and Tel Aviv on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.

(Screenshot courtesy of google.com/flights)

Step 2. Search British Airways for award availability

The British Airways award search is a great tool for finding Oneworld award space.

Search any dates you found on Google to see if there’s available award space. I easily found business class flights on Cathay Pacific, but first class seats were extremely tough to locate.

Remember to search both segments. Again, you can build a stopover into your itinerary with Alaska Airlines miles, so I spaced my flights about five days apart.

Here’s a business class flight from San Francisco to Hong Kong on Nov. 6, 2022.

(Screenshot courtesy of britishairways.com)

And here’s a business class flight from Hong Kong to Tel Aviv on Nov. 13, 2022.

(Screenshot courtesy of britishairways.com)

Step 3. Call Alaska Airlines to book

Note the dates, times, and flight numbers of the available seats you found on the British Airways website. You’ll have to then call 800-252-7522 and feed that information to an Alaska Airlines representative who will book the flight for you.

Related: 8 amazing first class seats you can still book with points and miles

Business class to Fiji and Australia on Fiji Airways

You can get a great value redeeming Alaska miles for Fiji Airways flights. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Alaska Mileage Plan miles can be a great tool for getting you to the remote tropical paradise of Fiji. One-way business class seats on Fiji Airways cost 55,000 Alaska Airlines miles in business class.

(Screenshot from alaskaair.com)

And get this — award prices are the exact same when going to Australia.

(Screenshot from alaskaair.com)

Why it’s valuable: Many airlines charge 40,000+ miles just to get to Australia in coach. The fact that it’s possible to book a business class flight to the South Pacific and Australia for 55,000 miles makes this route a steal for Alaska Airlines miles collectors.

How to book: Fiji Airways flies from Nadi to both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Since Alaska Airlines has a large presence at both of those airports, you should be able to tack on connecting flights from dozens of other U.S. cities.

Premium-cabin award space on Fiji Airways is extremely tough to come by — and that’s because it’s such a good deal. You can use ExpertFlyer (owned by TPG’s parent company, Red Ventures) to set alerts for when available award seats become available.

You can book Fiji Airways directly from the Alaska Airlines website. Below are flights from San Francisco to Nadi. Remember, you can build a stopover into Fiji to turn one vacation into two if you want to continue to Australia.

(Screenshot courtesy of alaskaaair.com)

Note that you may see partner business class availability, but once you click on it you may see “mixed cabin.” The above business class availability is mostly in coach.

Related: Booking a half-priced award to Australia — a reader success story

Business class to South America on LATAM

LATAM may have left Oneworld, but it’s still an Alaska partner. (Photo by John Milner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

LATAM is a partner you can use for booking flights to South America. One-way economy flights start at 25,000 miles, and business class awards only cost 45,000 miles.

(Screenshot courtesy of alaskaaair.com)

Why it’s valuable: Flights to South America are all priced the same, whether you’re going to Santiago, Chile or Bogota, Colombia. That’s rare for an airline program, as northern South America and southern South America are often priced differently. For example:

  • United Airlines charges 60,000+ miles one-way for a business class flight to southern South America.
  • American Airlines charges 50,000+ miles one-way for a business class flight to southern South America.
  • Air Canada Aeroplan charges 50,000+ miles one-way for a business class flight to southern South America.

You’ll pay 45,000 Alaska Airlines miles to fly these same routes in business class seats — plus, you can get a free stopover when connecting through Either Lima or Santiago on your way to another destination. That sharply raises the value you’ll get from your miles.

How to book: You cannot book LATAM flights via the Alaska Airlines website. Instead, you’ll want to peruse the LATAM website for award availability. Note the travel dates and times, as well as the flight number. Then call 800-252-7522 and tell an agent what you want.

LATAM flies to the following U.S. cities

  • Boston
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New York
  • Orlando

Especially if you’re flying from an East Coast airport, you’ll want to make sure you search from those airports. You’ll have the most success that way.

Related: How to search award availability for the major airlines

How to earn Alaska Airlines miles

Alaska miles are hard to earn, but well worth it. (Photo courtesy Alaska)

Now for the bad news. Alaska Airlines are some of the hardest rewards to collect, as there simply aren’t many avenues to earn them. Alaska Airlines isn’t a transfer partner of flexible currencies like Chase Ultimate Rewards points and Amex Membership Rewards points.

There are really only two sensible ways to accrue them quickly.

First, you can open one (or both) of the Alaska Airlines credit cards:

  • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card: 50,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card: 40,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare from $121($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer after making $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

If you want enough miles to book a one-way business class ticket to Asia, Australia or South America, now's the time to apply for the card.

Alternately, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points at a rate of 3:1 (3 Marriott points = 1 Alaska Airlines mile). Plus, when you transfer in increments of 60,000 points, you’ll receive a bonus 5,000 Alaska Airlines miles. In other words, 60,000 Marriott points will net you 25,000 miles.

Related: How to earn miles with the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program

Bottom line

Redeeming Alaska Mileage Plan miles for maximum value isn’t as simple as logging in and searching for any old destination. Because of the unique way Alaska has built its loyalty program, you need to know which individual routes and partners offer the best value.

No matter where you choose to travel, the free stopover on award tickets is an incredibly generous perk and can effectively give you two vacations for the price of one. And Cathay Pacific flights to Asia and Africa are some of the most outsized values you can receive in the points and miles world.

Feature photo by Geovien So/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images.

Updated on 10/26/22

Featured image by LIGHTROCKET/GETTY IMAGES
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023