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Alaska Airlines is raising the cost of some awards by over 35%

Feb. 05, 2022
4 min read
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The hits keep coming for Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members.

Just days after the airline announced plans to begin dynamically pricing award flights on its major U.S. partner, American Airlines, the Seattle-based carrier has also quietly released new award charts for its own flights with higher mileage costs that will go into effect March 1, 2022.

In particular, Alaska is raising the maximum number of miles for first-class award tickets on its own flights by more than 35% in some cases. The stealthy changes were discovered by Loyalty Lobby and later confirmed by TPG.

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Starting next month, the maximum number of miles required for Alaska Airlines first-class awards on flights covering distances between 1,401-2,100 miles will go up from 60,000 miles to 70,000 miles, a 17% jump. On "leap" flights that are longer than 2,100 miles, the mileage ceiling will likewise leap from the current 70,000 miles up to an eye-popping 95,000 miles, a whopping 36% increase. The 95,000-mile price ceiling will also apply to flights to Central America and Hawaii.

On the (very slight) bright side, there's no increase to the minimum number of miles required or to main cabin awards.

Here's a look at the new award chart for flights within the Continental U.S., Alaska and Canada with the changeover date denoted:

(Screenshot courtesy of alaskaair.com)

For some context, here are some popular routes between 1,401 and 2,100 miles in length:

  • Seattle (SEA) to Dallas (DAL)
  • Seattle (SEA) to Anchorage (ANC)
  • San Francisco (SFO) to Austin (AUS)
  • Portland (PDX) to Chicago (ORD)

And here are some over 2,101 miles:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Newark (EWR)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
  • Seattle (SEA) to Boston (BOS)
  • San Francisco (SFO) to Washington D.C. (DCA)
  • Seattle (SEA) to New York-JFK

In practice, you should only encounter the peak rates during busier travel periods or when booking one of the last available seats on a flight. When there’s saver-level availability, you should be able to book awards at the lowest award rate. But there is no guarantee.

For some more context, consider that you can sometimes book saver-level business-class awards from the U.S. to the Middle East in Qatar Airways Qsuites for just 85,000 miles each way. Would you really want to pay 10,000 more miles to fly Alaska Airlines first class between Los Angeles and Newark? Or, you could redeem 60,000-70,000 Alaska miles each way for American Airlines business class awards from North America to Asia...versus Alaska Airlines first class from Portland to Chicago.

Although these new amounts are price ceilings that should hopefully not apply in too many cases, the fact that the airline has put them into effect with almost no notice to Mileage Plan members and that they represent such enormous increases over the current levels is surely a bad sign. Does this mean that we can expect similar devaluations to partner awards sometime soon, too? Possibly. But only time will tell.

An Alaska Airlines spokesperson told TPG that it's been several years since the airline made any adjustments to Alaska award pricing. They explained, "pricing adjustments are sometimes necessary as demand and market conditions change, and in this case, these changes better allow us to continue to balance the mix of awards, revenue passengers, and upgrades in our first class cabin."

Related: Your complete guide to earning and redeeming with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Bottom line

Overall, this is a painful devaluation on its own, but it could portend much worse for Mileage Plan members.

Also coming into effect on March 1, Alaska Airlines is removing its published caps for American Airlines award flights in the U.S. and Canada and will only list a starting price for awards, effectively making them fully dynamic based on demand and other factors.

The airline also recently introduced dynamic pricing for certain awards booked on Aer Lingus, Icelandair, LATAM on Qatar Airways.

While we hope the program's slow move to dynamic pricing doesn't signal a larger devaluation, it's something to keep an eye on if you have a stash of Alaska miles in your account. And if you have upcoming plans to redeem on Alaska or American flights, consider booking now to lock in current prices.

Featured image by (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)
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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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases