Alaska gears up to dynamically price awards for American Airlines flights

Jan 30, 2022

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Editor’s note: This story will be updated with more details as they become available.

There’s troubling news from Alaska’s Mileage Plan frequent flyer program.

The Seattle-based airline appears to be gearing up to launch dynamically priced awards for American Airlines flights. Alaska added a new disclaimer to its website this weekend, which states that:

“Effective March 1, 2022, while the current award prices will continue to be available, note that award pricing on American Airlines flights in the US and Canada may vary depending on demand.”

Until now, Alaska has priced American flights booked with miles according to the Alaska award chart. In the contiguous U.S., Alaska and Canada, these one-way rates have been at 12,500 miles for the main cabin and 25,000 miles for first class.

Alaska’s domestic award chart now states that American awards “start” at the aforementioned levels, which implies that the rates could be increased based on demand and other factors.

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We’ve reached out to the carrier to learn more about the implications of the change, and we’ll update this story when we hear back.

(Screenshot courtesy of Alaska Airlines)

With this move, Alaska appears to be transitioning to a pricing model similar to the one that American has implemented for its own flights in recent years.

For most AAdvantage awards on American metal, the carrier offers a “Web Special” fare across all cabins. These dynamically-priced awards are available on AA’s website, and cannot be changed (but they can be canceled and redeposited).

We’ll have to wait to see the details of the changes, but it appears like Alaska is going to be doing something similar for American’s domestic and Canadian flights starting on March 1.

This isn’t unprecedented for Alaska. The airline has recently introduced dynamic pricing for certain awards booked on Aer Lingus, LATAM on Qatar Airways.

One big question about this change is how it will impact award availability.

Previously, Alaska only had access to saver-level awards on American flights. The availability of these specific fare classes (T, U and Z for economy, business and first class, respectively) has been sporadic at best, so it’s possible that the shift to dynamic pricing will mean that Alaska gets access to additional award space on American flights.

For now, we have more questions than answers, but it’s definitely an alarming development.

Perhaps most irksome is that Alaska promised TPG when it joined the Oneworld frequent flyer alliance that it would “strive to give at least 90 days’ notice if changes are coming to any current partner awards.” In this case, Alaska is giving members just around a third of what it promised.

Interestingly, this move could be a harbinger of what’s to come for American’s Northeast Alliance with JetBlue.

To date, American has launched reciprocal award redemptions for JetBlue tickets, but JetBlue still hasn’t unveiled the details of redeeming TrueBlue points for American flights.

It’s possible that American is working with its two U.S.-based partners on introducing dynamic award pricing for its flights, but Alaska is getting around to launching it first.

Either way, mark this one as developing.

Featured photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy

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