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

Feb. 23, 2021
4 min read
Alaska Airlines Airplane Landing at LAX
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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%.

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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/A75%

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 image by (Photo by Michael Rosebrock/Shutterstock)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more