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Alaska to add online awards for Cathay Pacific and LATAM — but it's not all good news

Sept. 30, 2022
4 min read
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There's news from Alaska Airlines this morning, and while some is positive, there's a lot to be worried about. The carrier posted an update to its award chart page this morning, and it may mean some significant changes are on the way later this year.

Here's what we know so far.

Online awards coming for Cathay Pacific and LATAM

Let's start with some positive news. According to the update, Alaska Airlines will soon add the ability to book Cathay Pacific and LATAM award flights online. Specifically, this functionality will go live "in October" for Cathay Pacific, while LATAM awards "will be available before the end of 2022."

Previously, you needed to call Alaska to book any awards on these two airlines, whereas all other partner redemptions could typically be booked online (aside from technical issues, like we've seen with Iberia-operated award tickets as of late).

ERIC ROSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Adding online redemptions for additional partners is generally a positive development, though some point out that making it easier to book awards can lead to fewer seats.

However, it's the second part of the update that's raising eyebrows.

New award chart coming in December

Here's the full text of the second portion of the update on Alaska's site:

"Starting late December, the way you view award charts online is changing. We’ll have a simplified award chart to show you where award levels start based on which regions you’re traveling from and to. With this change, similar to awards on Alaska, partner award levels may vary depending on multiple factors including route, distance, or demand. You’ll continue to be able to enjoy great value for your miles. As always, the best way to view pricing and availability for the routes you’re interested in flying is to search for your specific travel dates and destinations."

We already know that Alaska uses dynamic pricing for its own flights, and it went this same direction for American-operated awards earlier this year. It's also used varying award prices for a number of other partners. This update indicates that it'll soon more all of its partners to a similarly dynamic model.

Of course, an optimist could look at the first sentence and counter that this change only applies to how "you view award charts" on Alaska's website. Further, the phrase "partner award levels may vary" could indicate that this won't impact all of the carrier's partner airlines.

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Nevertheless, if past history is any guide, a move toward more dynamic pricing frequently leads to less value for a given program.

What does this mean for Alaska miles?

What this ultimately means for your balance of Alaska miles is unclear at this point. The Mileage Plan program has some fantastic sweet spots, and these are largely based on having fixed, published award levels. For example, you can use Alaska miles to:

  • Fly business class on Cathay Pacific from the U.S. to Asia for 50,000 miles.
  • Fly business class on Fiji Airways from the U.S. to Fiji or Australia for 55,000 miles.
  • Fly business class on LATAM from the U.S. to South America for 45,000 miles.

In addition, Alaska allows you to add free stopovers on international award itineraries — including one-way tickets. This can be an incredibly valuable tool when using your Alaska miles, and one would hope that it would stick around. Unfortunately, we just don't know the full impact of these changes.

That said, if you've been eyeing a partner redemption with your Alaska miles, you should strongly consider ticketing it in the next few months. The update indicates that this new award chart will launch in late December, so you still have time to use the current pricing.

Bottom line

Alaska Airlines is adding online ticketing functionality for Cathay Pacific and LATAM, but it's also announced upcoming changes to its partner award chart. While we don't know the true impact of this shift, it will likely mean additional variability in the price you pay for your partner award tickets.

For now, you still have until late December to utilize the award charts in their current form, so this isn't an unannounced devaluation. Nevertheless, until we have more details on the changes, it's worth preparing for what may come.

Featured image by PHOTO COURTESY OF ALASKA AIRLINE
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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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

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  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
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  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023