Alaska changes how you earn miles as it prepares for entrance into Oneworld alliance

Feb 23, 2021

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The much-anticipated entrance of Alaska Airlines into the Oneworld alliance happens this spring, on March 31, 2021.

Oneworld membership means the ability for Alaska customers to earn and burn miles across the alliance’s 13 member carriers — in addition to the existing array of Alaska non-alliance partners.

However, come March 31, how you earn miles and get upgraded when flying on Alaska will also be changing.

On its website, Alaska quietly noted that “some fare classes and bonus levels will change” for travel on or after March 31. The complete list — including a new award chart — has now been unveiled.

This takes effect retroactively, so if you purchased a ticket with one of these fare classes by Feb. 23, 2021 for travel on or after March 31, your reservation will change (and so will your earnings).

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First-class fare changes

Several weeks ago, we first saw changes to flights booked in Alaska’s first-class cabin. That shift in fare classes is to closer align with Oneworld partners such as British Airways.

“F” class fares will convert to “J” and receive a 100% bonus; “P” class fares will convert to “D” and receive a 50% bonus. Flights booked in “I” class will receive a 50% bonus.

As you can see from the chart below, two fare classes will lose 25% of their mileage bonus, while the previous “F” fare (soon to be “J”) will get a boost of 25%.

Fare class (for travel before March 31) Fare class now becomes (for travel on or after March 31)  Mileage bonus (for travel before March 31) Mileage bonus (for travel on or after March 31) 
“F” “J” 75% 100%
“P” “D” 75% 50%
“I” “I” 75% 50%
N/A “C” N/A 75%

Implications on redeeming first-class awards

While two first-class fares get their bonuses cut by 25%, there is some good news when it comes to redeeming miles.

With these first-class fare realignments, it likely means cheaper British Airways Avios redemptions for Alaska first class. Essentially, first-class fare codes now become business class fare codes. While you need to call British Airways to book these awards, fewer miles for the same product is always a good thing.

Several years ago, American Airlines similarly realigned its fare classes so first-class on two-cabin flights booked into business instead of first.

Economy fare code changes

As you can see from the chart below, some economy fares are also changing how they’re awarding bonus miles.

However, there are no major customer-facing changes as the fare classes are simply realigned and renamed. Notably, not a single economy fare code earns less than 100% of the base miles flown.

(Screenshot courtesy of Alaska)

Instant upgrade change

Again, changes here are simply in accordance with the restructuring of fare classes, but there is one notable shift.

Previously, fully flexible economy awards booked into the “Z” class and were eligible for instant elite upgrades. Alaska isn’t eliminating those awards, it’s just changing the fare class to “Y.”

The carrier confirmed that award tickets booked into “Y” class are not eligible to earn miles, but they are eligible for instant upgrades.

(Screenshot courtesy of Alaska)

Bottom line

As Alaska is set to join Oneworld, some first-class and economy fare codes are changing, which impacts earning miles and elite upgrade prioritization.

Alaska says that it will convert tickets on February 24 for tickets purchased by Feb. 23, 2021 for travel on or after March 31. That means even if you purchased a ticket before today — for travel on or after March 31 — you will still be locked into the new mileage earning rates. However, Alaska notes that it will not affect previously upgraded flights or your place on the upgrade waitlist.

The Seattle-based carrier is one of only a handful of airlines that allow you to earn miles based on the distance flown. While Alaska has committed to that strategy — instead of switching to a revenue-based earning structure — changes to how you earn miles weren’t off the table and appear to be happening now.

Thankfully, these changes are relatively minor and will facilitate ease of earning and redeeming across the Oneworld alliance come spring.

Featured photo by Michael Rosebrock/Shutterstock. 

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