Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Explained: Part 2 – Redeeming Miles
If you haven’t already checked it out, make sure to read Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Explained: Part 1 – Elite Status.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles can be redeemed for Alaska flights, of course, as well as for flights on partner airlines. Most casual Alaska passengers would think to redeem miles for other Alaska flights. Those that are addicted to points (like your humble author) know that there are more valuable rewards to be redeemed. Redeeming for Alaska flights is pretty simple, so I’m going to devote this post to partner award tickets.
Alaska Airlines is not part of an alliance (Star Alliance, SkyTeam, Oneworld). Instead, they have a patchwork network of individual airlines from across alliances.
The complete list of international partners: Aeromexico, Air France, American, British, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Emirates, Fiji, Hainan, Icelandair, JAL, KLM, Korean Air, LAN, and Qantas. PenAir and Ravn are also partners; however miles earned on these airlines are NOT Elite Qualifying.
Redeeming Miles for Award Tickets
Many blog posts (including my own) have been written about Emirates First Class. While purchasing a ticket on Emirates with cash can easily cost in the $20k+ range, the same ticket can be purchased for 150,000 Alaska miles. As late as this year it only cost 90k miles which was too good to last.
Redeeming miles for flights is quite easy. Just go to the booking page on the Alaska Airlines website. Before anything, else click “One-way” and “Use miles”. There is no benefit to booking a round-trip award ticket as all are priced out on a one way basis. If you don’t click “Use Miles” before beginning the search, it will error out if you are searching for destinations not served by Alaska (Dubai, for example).
If there are any award seats available, they will show up when you click “Find Flights”.
If there are no flights available on the airline you desire, try a different date. Sometimes there will not be seats in the class you want on the day you want. You need to be flexible. I have also had luck trying again later as the partner airline sometimes releases more award seats.
One thing to be aware of is the rascally little “Mixed cabin” notification.
When you see this on a multi-flight itinerary it means one of the flights is not actually in the class specified. In this case, you may think you are flying Emirates Business class, but in reality you are flying First class on the SEA-ORD leg but Economy the ORD-DXB leg. The good thing is that Alaska will alert you that you are about to make a huge mistake.
Most partner airline flights are available to book online. Cathay Pacific, one of the best redemptions in my opinion at 70,000 miles for a First class ticket, is NOT available online (neither is LAN I believe). You must call in to Alaska’s partner award help desk at 1-800-252-7522. There are various ways to check for available space online — this is a good guide that can help you out — but you will need to book on the phone.
You can see how much award flights cost on Alaska’s website.
Typically partner award flights need to begin or end in North America. Meaning you can’t book an award flight from Dubai to Cape Town. You could book Seattle to Dubai to Cape Town since you are starting in the US. There are a few exceptions (for example you can book some flights within Asia on Cathay Pacific) but I won’t get in to those here.
For all things nuanced, I have found the forums at FlyerTalk are a great resource.
Free Stop Overs
Another perk of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan award tickets are free stop overs. What this means is that you can do a multi-day stopover in one city before flying on to the final destination. A good example would be if you want to fly to Bangkok. You could fly First class LAX-HKG-BKK on Cathay Pacific for 70,000 miles and spend a few days in Hong Kong for no additional cost. Or if you want to spend a few days in Dubai you could do Emirates First class LAX-DXB-BKK for 180,000 miles with a few days in Dubai.
Another great benefit of redeeming Alaska miles with a partner is you also get an included domestic flight on Alaska. Let’s say you are in Seattle and you want to fly to Bangkok on Cathay Pacific. Well, Cathay doesn’t fly out of SEA. For the same 70,000 miles they will book you SEA-LAX in Alaska First class and then on to LAX-HKG-BKK in Cathay First class. Not bad right?
Here is an example of how to fly from Seattle to Bangkok with a stop in Chicago and Dubai.
There is a limit. You can only fly on ONE Alaska flight + flights on ONE partner. You couldn’t fly LAX-HKG on Cathay and then HKG-BKK on Emirates in the same booking.
As a general rule you also have to be flying internationally to the partner’s hub city in order to get this deal (there are some exceptions I’ll mention below). I don’t think, for example, you could fly New York to Milan on Emirates (which is an actual flight, known as a “fifth freedom” or even “seventh freedom” route), stay for four nights, and then continue on to Dubai and count it as one ticket. Correct me if I am wrong. I could only get this to work if you don’t have a true stop over in Milan (>48 hours).
Interestingly if you were to just fly JFK-MXP on Emirates First you would pay 180k miles. If you really wanted to fly that for some reason it would be cheaper to book through to Dubai and drop the last flight.
You also can’t keep leap frogging. You only get one “real” stop over per one-way trip. Emirates has a Bangkok to Hong Kong flight. Even though Bangkok is not an Emirates hub, you can still do a stop over there. I do not know why they allow this but they do (especially since they don’t allow this in Milan). You could fly SEA-LAX-DXB-BKK-HKG if you really wanted to for one price (180,000 miles) but you could only do ONE real stop over. You might be able to fudge it based on flight times to add a night in Dubai (see example below) but only if the next available flight isn’t until the next day.
What other info would you like to know about booking partner award tickets with Alaska miles? Let me know in the comments and I will continue to update this post.