This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Yesterday, Alaska Airlines added Aer Lingus, a Dublin-based airline, as an award booking partner, and Aer Lingus awards are now bookable on the Alaska website. There’s lots to unpack here — good, bad, and … interesting.

Aer Lingus business class for 60,000 Alaska miles (Zach Honig / The Poihts Guy)

The Good: Use Alaska Miles to Fly Aer Lingus to Europe

First, the good news. You can now book business class awards on Aer Lingus from North America to/from Dublin from 60,000 Alaska miles each way, plus work in a free stopover if you like. (Here’s how we would spend a Dublin layover.) This means you can fly from North America to Dublin, see the sights for a few days, and then continue on to London or wherever you wish to visit in Europe (to which Aer Lingus operates) for 60,000 miles and very minimal taxes/fees. You can do the same in economy from 30,000 miles each way.

Should you wish to simply explore Europe utilizing Aer Lingus as your carrier for flights within the continent, you can now do that from 8,000 Alaska miles each way — and again, you can add on a stopover if you like. For example, you can travel from Amsterdam (AMS) to Dublin (DUB), stop for however long, and then continue onto Milan (MXP) or wherever Aer Lingus flies from just 8,000 total miles (plus taxes and fees which would be under $70 on that example).

Related: Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card: 40,000 bonus miles after spending $2,000 in the first 90 days

The Bad: Business Class Saver Availability is Pretty Terrible

Now the bad news. Business class availability on Aer Lingus from the US to Europe is almost non-existent via Alaska Airlines at the moment, and the appears to be discrepancies between award seats that ExpertFlyer sees and those that Alaska can access. We’re finding that if ExpertFlyer has one business class award, it can’t be booked using Alaska miles. Since you’ll see several dates with only one business class award seat to start with — at most — this means there’s usually nothing available at the saver level in business class via Alaska. We searched many US to Dublin routes and found multiple months with zero 60,000-mile business class awards.

On the flip side, we found a few instances instances where there were actually four business class awards from the US to Dublin (or vice versa) via Alaska miles at 60,000 miles each, when according to ExpertFlyer there should have only been two. Note that United provides a disclaimer of this possible discrepancy during the award booking process:

Alaska provided no such warning.

As a result, we highly recommend you search using Alaska’s site to see exactly what Aer Lingus space they have access to. We have booked business class awards at 60,000 miles for more than two travelers as a test to be sure it is truly bookable space.

Related: Review of Aer Lingus Business Class on the A330

The Ugly: Alaska Award Pricing Varies

The bad-for-consumers trend in frequent flyer programs for 2019 has unquestionably been the spread of dynamic or variable award pricing. This is bad for all cabins of travel, but it hits business and first class cabins especially hard when the price of the award is tied in some way to the cash selling price of the ticket.

As far as Aer Lingus operated business class awards to Europe go, the pricing in our tests is either 60,000 miles each way or an astonishing 280,000 miles each way. More on that in a minute.

Frequent flyer programs have long had a saver and a non-saver rate for some types of awards, so that two-tiered system by itself isn’t terrifying. More worrisome is that Alaska economy awards on Aer Lingus have at least three pricing tiers that we could find — 30k, 60k and 80k miles each way. When multiple award pricing tiers are utilized, that raises warning flags that a program is pricing awards dynamically.

This has not been the historic norm for most Alaska Airlines partner awards, so the fact that the newest partner has different award pricing tiers is concerning on some levels.

TPG had a chance to speak with Erik Smith, Director of Alliances at Alaska Airlines, and we took the opportunity to ask all about these different rates. He told us that the higher pricing tiers (60,000 and 80,000 miles in economy or 280,000 miles in business) are essentially buy-up fares that exist to allow Alaska’s members the ability to redeem miles on higher-demand dates, in some cases with near last-seat availability. He emphasized that they have members with lots and lots of miles who simply want the opportunity to redeem miles for flights, almost regardless of cost, and the biggest frustration for partner award flights is lack of availability. According to Smith, these higher-priced awards exist so members can fly when they want using miles, not just when there happens to be saver availability.

We also asked whether this model will expand to other carriers and were reminded that Icelandair and Condor already use this approach. Smith also said that they intend to expand this model to other partners in the future, though it obviously must overcome some IT and logistical challenges before implementation. He also stressed the following:

“This approach is an additive option to fill out the award calendar. Rather than having no availability, members will now have the ability to redeem their miles on additional options, even if the price point is higher.”

Finally, it’s worth noting that while the booking class for the 280,000-mile business class award books into the “I” fare class, Alaska was clear that it will not earn redeemable miles, even though paid I class tickets do earn miles.

Bottom Line

Alaska Airlines adding Aer Lingus as an award redemption partner should have been solely good news across the board, especially since awards are bookable online. However, very limited 60,000-mile business class availability from the United States and the introduction of partner award pricing tiers results in this development being much more of a mixed bag than an across-the-board win. Alaska states that the high priced awards will solely supplement saver awards, not replace them, but at TPG history has taught us to view these variably priced developments with a questionable eye.

That said, if you can find the award you want on Aer Lingus using your Alaska miles, then cheers — have a pint of Guinness for us.

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images

Know before you go.

News and deals straight to your inbox every day.

Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card

Alaska miles are extremely valuable because you can book awards on partners like Emirates, Icelandair, Korean Air and Japan Airlines. The current bonus of 40,000 miles can book you a roundtrip ticket on Alaska Airlines from Boston to San Diego or New York to Seattle, for example.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Now - 40,000 Bonus Mile + Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ Offer.
  • Get 40,000 bonus miles and Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make purchases of $2,000 or more within the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • Save with a free checked bag on Alaska flights for you and up to six other guests on the same reservation.
  • Get Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ every year! Each year on your account anniversary get a companion fare from $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22). Valid on all Alaska flights booked on alaskaair.com with no blackout dates.
  • Earn unlimited 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases and unlimited 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases. And, your miles don't expire on active accounts.
  • New! Enjoy 50% off day passes at the Alaska Lounge and 20% back on all Alaska Airlines inflight purchases when you pay with your new card.
  • Redeem miles with no blackout dates on any of Alaska's 1,200 daily flights or choose from over 900+ destinations with more than a dozen global airline partners. Plus, get exclusive access to discounted redemption levels when you redeem miles for hotel stays at over 400,000 properties using Alaska Airlines Hotels.
  • Plus, no foreign transaction fees and a low $75 annual fee.
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.24%-26.24% Variable APR on purchases and balance transfers
Annual Fee
$75
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $10 or 3% of the amount of each transaction, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.