Best sweet spots with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
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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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In fact, Alaska Airlines miles are the most valuable airline currency in TPG’s monthly valuations. But how can you be sure you’re getting the most value from your awards?
Let’s take a look at some of the best sweet spot redemptions in this program to ensure you’re making the most of your hard-earned Alaska miles.
Add stopovers with Alaska miles
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, the ability to reserve 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.
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.
Step 2. Choose your itinerary
You’ll then see your one-way flight — including your stopover — as one price.
Business/first class to Africa or Asia on Cathay Pacific
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.
Or, you could fly to Africa for 62,500 miles in business class and 70,000 miles in first class.
Al 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 has effectively banned Americans from visiting and transiting at the time of writing.
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.
Step 2. Search British Airways for award availability
Search any dates you found on Google to see if there’s available award space. I quite 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.
And here’s a business class flight from Hong Kong to Tel Aviv on Nov. 13, 2022.
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.
Business class to Fiji and Australia on Fiji Airways
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.
It’s even cheaper if you book by March 31, 2022, as you’ll get a 27% discount. That’s just 40,000 miles to fly business class between the U.S. and Fiji.
And get this — award prices are the exact same when going to Australia.
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 Los Angeles to Sydney via Nadi. Remember, you can build a stopover into Fiji to turn one vacation into two.
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 actually mostly in coach.
Business class to South America on LATAM
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.
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
- Los Angeles
- New York
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.
How to earn Alaska Airlines miles
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: Buy one ticket, get one for just the taxes and fees ($0 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) and receive 40,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 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 CompanionFare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
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.
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 Eric Rosen/The Points Guy
Updated on 6/28/22.
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