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You can get a ton of value by booking these domestic awards with Alaska miles

Jan. 19, 2022
9 min read
Alaska Airlines 737 in the sky over Anchorage
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The best award values don't have to be the most difficult to book. They're not always buried in award charts or at places with impossible-to-find availability. Sometimes you can find and reserve great value easily with just a few clicks online — and even bring your whole family along.

One of those great values is using Alaska Airlines miles — and no, it's not one of their partner airline sweet spots. In fact, one of the best uses for Alaska miles is to fly on Alaska Airlines itself within the great state of Alaska. Let's take a look.

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Prices for Alaska Airlines domestic awards

Alaska miles can be surprisingly valuable for intrastate flights, especially in the state of Alaska. (Photo by Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

Unlike some other airlines, Alaska publishes an award chart with set price ranges based on origin, destination and distance flown.

For trips within the continental U.S., Alaska and Canada that are operated by Alaska Airlines (versus its partners), the shortest flights start at 5,000 miles one-way in economy and the longest begin at 12,500.

(Screenshot from alaskaair.com)

Each band technically spans a range in prices rather than a single flat rate, but in my experience, you can find awards at the lowest published price more often than not if you're looking specifically at routes wholly within Alaska. Most intrastate routes fall in the "hop" or "skip" travel band (5,000 or 7,500 mile price points).

(Screenshot from alaskaair.com)

Any award you can book for only 5,000 miles catches my eye, but within Alaska, they are even more intriguing. Cash fares within the state can be surprisingly high — at least if you're thinking beyond the standard Anchorage-Fairbanks route on many travelers' itineraries. It's not hard to get a lot of value even when booking domestic economy awards.

(Screenshot from google.com/flights)

Related: Everything you need to know about booking a trip to Alaska on points

Alaska Airlines redemption values

Compared to most other economy awards, Alaska Airlines shines for consistently offering strong redemption values. That means you can take an extraordinary vacation even with a small balance of miles.

Daybreak in Adak, Alaska. (Photo by Michael Pokora, used with permission)

Most recently, I booked my husband on a round-trip ticket costing 15,000 miles from Anchorage to Adak, a route that consistently prices out at over $1,000 for an economy seat, even in low season. (Oh, who are we kidding? There is no high season in Adak.)

15,000 miles round-trip or $1135 cash. That's about 7.5 cents per mile. (Screenshot from alaskaair.com)

Before you think this is a particularly specific example, hear me out. You'll find strong values on other routes, too:

  • Anchorage to Sitka (5,000 miles one-way) works out to about 4.5 cents per mile in high season.
  • Fairbanks to Utqiaġvik (5,000 miles one-way) works out to about 3.7 cents per mile in high season.
  • Anchorage to King Salmon (5,000 miles one-way) works out to about 5 cents per mile in high season.

Commonly, economy redemptions for more than 2 cents per mile are considered a strong value. These are double or triple that on a consistent basis.

Plus, it's not unheard of to find huge amounts of availability. For example, the below screenshot shows seven award seats every single day for an entire week in July on the Anchorage to King Salmon route (for access to Katmai National Park during peak grizzly viewing). Of course, whether you can still find lodging or camping reservations is a different story.

Secen award seats open per day in high season. (Screenshot from alaskaair.com)

For what it's worth, first-class awards on many intra-Alaska routes are also widely available, including in the above example (seven of the 12 first-class seats are available as low-priced awards). On a one-hour flight, first class isn't too exciting, but in some cases, you may find it worth the upcharge for the checked baggage allowance alone. In Alaska, it's easy to fill a few bags with camping, fishing or photography gear.

Adding additional segments

You can search and book reservations right on the Alaska Airlines website, including segments from the lower 48 (for example, if you're traveling right from home), on a single, ticketed itinerary.

For itineraries operated solely by Alaska Airlines, ticket prices will range from 5,000-12,500 miles one-way in economy, depending on the distance flown.

Domestic awards that also include segments operated by Alaska's partner, American Airlines, cost a flat 12,500 miles per person in economy. This can still be a fabulous deal compared to paying cash, but finding award availability can be trickier. You can also get a better deal on many flights by booking with other Oneworld programs, like British Airways Avios.

If you're traveling from outside the U.S. to Alaska, you can include one partner airline on your ticket, with prices varying based on your exact itinerary.

(Screenshot from alaskaair.com)

Related: How to redeem miles with the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program

Why you should care

To hit the award redemption trifecta, an award should:

  • Provide strong value.
  • Offer reasonable availability.
  • Get you to somewhere you actually want to go.

If you think these Alaskan routes don't hit the third point, it might be time to reconsider. There's so much more to Alaska than Anchorage and the cruise ports. The state is larger than Washington, Oregon, California and Texas combined -- meaning there are a lot of options for your next trip.

Here are a few places Alaska Airlines services that may appeal to travelers:

Gustavus

Though most travelers visit Glacier Bay National Park by cruise ship, you can also fly to the small community of Gustavus and spend a few nights at Glacier Bay Lodge. The park runs 150-passenger tour vessels through the park (which take you much closer to glaciers and wildlife than a standard ship) and the Huna Tribal House occasionally hosts wonderful presentations to share the rich Tlingit culture.

Nome

Nome is best known for hosting the finish line to the Iditarod (and you can still find award seats to get to the event). However, the rest of the year, you can go for its gold town history or check out more recent history at some of its Cold War relics. Alternatively, drive some of the "roads to nowhere" in search of musk ox, moose, caribou and other large game.

Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow)

Cross the arctic circle to visit the northernmost town in the U.S. This is the high arctic, with some rare birding opportunities as well as the chance to see large species like beluga whales, walruses and polar bears. Or, you can skip the wildlife entirely and try for spotting the aurora borealis each winter.

Of course, if you're outdoorsy, you may already know that practically everywhere in Alaska is a fantasy spot for hiking, camping, fishing and other backcountry activities.

Related: 8 activities to try on your next visit to Alaska

Earning Alaska Mileageplan miles

(Photo by David Slotnick/The Points Guy)

Like with most frequent flyer programs, you can earn Alaska miles through any combination of flying or partner activity including select hotel stays, car rentals or online shopping. However, credit card spending remains one of the fastest ways to rack up your miles — and with awards starting at 5,000 miles each, you'll reach your reward thresholds quickly.

Alaska Airlines has partnered with Bank of America to offer both personal and business credit cards that earn miles with every purchase. The cards are more similar than different and include benefits like an annual companion fare and free checked bags as well as discounts on inflight purchases and lounge day passes.

Currently, both cards are also offering sign-up bonuses that would fund a few round-trips within Alaska. Here are the details:

  • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card: Earn 50,000 bonus miles plus Alaska's Famous Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) with this offer. To qualify, make $2,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.
  • Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card: 70,000 bonus miles after you make at least $4,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account.

Related: How to save hundreds on airfare with the Alaska Visa companion ticket

Bottom line

Booking awards within the state of Alaska doesn't often rise to the top of aspirational award lists, but Alaska Airlines makes it both easy and affordable. Travelers looking to add national parks, wildlife watching or outdoor activities to their 2022 plans will love the options these awards offer, not to mention the fantastic value you'll get for every mile.

Feature photo by mixmotive/Getty Images.

Updated on 9/7/22.

Featured image by (Photo by mixmotive/Getty Images)
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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    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