Alaska Airlines Makes Changes to Award Chart, Adds Cancellation and Change Fees

May 9, 2018

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A few weeks ago we learned that Alaska was devaluing some of its benefits that allowed itinerary changes for free up to 60 days before departure, and the airline also confirmed it would be rolling out basic economy fares.

We now know the details of these changes, which Alaska outlined in an update on its website. Additionally, we found out that the carrier is making some changes to its award chart. Fortunately, it’s just for flights on Alaska metal  — it won’t be devaluing some of the best redemptions in the points and miles game like 50,000 miles for Cathay Pacific business between the US and Asia.

Adjustments to Cancellation and Change Policies

Alaska will be changing its 24-hour cancellation policy. Before, if you bought a ticket within 24 hours of departure, you had the ability to cancel it free of charge. Effective June 5, if you purchase a ticket within 24 hours of departure, the standard $125 cancellation fee will apply.

Additionally, starting on June 5, Alaska will no longer offer free cancellation or changes on tickets more than 60 days out. You’ll now have to pay $125 to change or cancel the fare. So you’ll now only have 24 hours from the original purchase time to change or cancel your ticket without penalty.

Change and cancellation fees won’t apply to Alaska MVP Golds and MVP Gold 75Ks, or to refundable fares that are paid, award tickets or Money and Miles tickets. Finally, change fees do not apply to travel within the state of Alaska on regular paid or Money and Miles tickets, but they do for intra-Alaska award tickets.

Finally, if you want to make any same-day changes to your flight, you’re going to have to shell out out double starting June 5. Prices will increase from $25 to $50, but a positive of this is that you’ll be able to make changes within 24 hours starting at check-in instead of the previous six-hour window. Some routes are excluded from the increase (all routes within the state of California, between Anchorage and Fairbanks, between Spokane and Seattle, and between Portland and Seattle), and MVP Golds, Gold 75Ks and some refundable fares will still be exempt from any same-day change fees.

Changes to the Award Chart When Flying Alaska Aircraft

Alaska appears to have quietly made some changes to its award chart as well. First off, note that they aren’t all negative changes; while some routes will become more expensive, others will go down in price. And keep in mind that Alaska uses peak and off-peak pricing for award flights. All changes go into effect on June 25, 2018.

The airline said this about the award changes:

In addition to these lower award levels, some market adjustments will be made to peak award pricing on longer flights within the U.S., from the contiguous US to Mexico, and on flights from the contiguous US to Hawaii.

This seems to be a bit ominous and you can see it in the award chart rework.

Within the Contiguous US and Alaska

For flights within the contiguous US and Alaska, pricing for first-class awards is lowering from 25,000-60,000 miles to 15,000-40,000 on flights that are 700 miles or less. Economy awards are staying the same.

It’s only good news for trips between 701 and 1,400 miles — first-class awards will lower from 25,000-60,000 miles to 25,000-50,000 miles. Economy awards are staying the same.

On trips between 1,401 and 2,100 miles, first-class awards are staying the same, but it looks like refundable pricing is being increased for economy awards, with rates rising from 10,000 – 30,000 to 10,000 – 40,000 miles.

The real devaluation comes on trips longer than 2,101 miles, aka transcon flights. Base economy pricing is staying the same, but peak refundable pricing is rising from 30,000 to 50,000 miles, with economy awards costing anywhere from 12,500 to 50,000 miles. First-class base pricing is going up from 25,000 to 30,000 miles each way, and refundable pricing is rising from 60,000 to 70,000 — in other words, first-class seats will now range from 30,000-70,000 miles.

Contiguous US/Alaska to Mexico

Flights between the contiguous US and Alaska to Mexico will see some changes, too.

Low-end pricing on journeys between 701 and 1,400 miles will drop for economy from 15,000 miles to 10,000 miles and first-class refundable pricing will drop to 50,000 miles from 70,000 miles.

Journeys between 1,401 and 2,100 miles will see refundable pricing increase from 35,000 miles to 40,000 miles for economy tickets. The high end of pricing will drop for first-class awards, from 70,000 to 60,000 miles. Base pricing is staying the same for both fare classes.

On trips longer than 2,101 miles, peak/refundable pricing will rise from 35,000 miles to 50,000 miles, but base prices will stay the same for economy. First-class award prices will stay the same for these flights.

Contiguous US/Alaska to Hawaii

There’s some good news for flights between the contiguous US and Alaska to Hawaii. Main cabin economy awards will drop base pricing from 17,500 to 15,000 miles — although refundable pricing is rising from 40,000 miles to 50,000 miles. First-class award rates will remain the same.

Bottom Line

These changes appear to be a mixed bag — they represent a devaluation on some fronts, while some awards will have lower rates starting in late June. When it comes to flight changes and cancellations, the changes are mostly negative, and it’s sad to see Alaska do away with its generous policies.

With the merger of Virgin America and Alaska complete — and the costs of the new airline high — it’s possible we’ll see more changes, including more award chart devaluations, to its Mileage Plan program and other benefits. Hopefully the program’s stellar partner redemption options on airlines like Cathay Pacific and Qantas will continue to remain in tact.

Featured image courtesy of Jeroen Stroes Aviation Photography / Flickr.

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