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There was a bit of a scare within the miles community last week that the ability to book First Class awards flying Cathay Pacific, one of the highest value awards you can book with Alaska miles, had evaporated.

@CTravelr tweeted the following to catch bloggers’ attention:

If Alaska blocked mileage redemptions within three days of departure, that would pretty much thwart the booking of Cathay Pacific First Class at all, as the majority of premium cabin award space released–at least to partners–becomes available within two or maybe three days of departure max (these days). You’ve seen us write about the patterns of Cathay Pacific First and Business Class availability before. It typically requires either a great deal of foresight or a lot of flexibility.

Screen Shot 2015-03-10 at 11.28.37 AM
Cathay Pacific First Class Caviar

Alaska decided to amend the policy after the Twitter discourse.

Now the 72-hour block only applies to awards booked within Asia flying Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, or Hainan. So don’t worry, that 70k First Class seat across the world on a premium Asian carrier is not a lost dream. And seriously people, if you don’t like something a company does/a policy they enforce/you need customer service help fast, TWEET! It often works. No one else is listening when you call and complain on the phone.

Scott flying Cathay Pacific First between New York and Hong Kong.
Scott flying Cathay Pacific First between New York and Hong Kong. Don’t forget you get a free stopover on Alaska awards. Something like United States > Hong Kong (stopover) > Bangkok is 100% doable.

Japan Airlines has a primo First Class product that also costs just 70,000 Alaska miles to fly from the United States to Japan and beyond! Think big, like United States > Tokyo (stopover) > Delhi.

Why Did Alaska Ban Last Minute Bookings to Begin With?

One Mile at a Time reported that Alaska claims the policy was set to deal with the high fraud associated with award tickets booked on Cathay Pacific, JAL, and Hainan within 72 hours of departure. By fraud they likely meant hackers working their way into someone’s MileagePlan account to book travel for themselves or someone else, taking advantage of the small time window before travel so they have less time to be found out. Or miles brokerage activity.

Thankfully Alaska realized the policy was pervasive and subsequently narrowed it to only apply to award flights on Cathay Pacific, JAL, and Hainan within Asia. Apparently Asia is where most of the fraud is happening, so this solution appears much more appropriate.

How Can I Get Alaska Miles to Fly in a Premium Cabin to Asia?

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Cards are the easiest ways to bump your balances quickly. Bank of America issues two credit cards co-branded with Alaska Airlines, the:

  • Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card
  • Alaska Airlines Visa Business Card

Both come with 30k bonuses of Alaska miles. For years, people have been churning these two cards as an easy way of garnering lots of Alaska miles. While I still think they are churnable to an extent, I would proceed with caution and educate yourself on the best practices first. Read the following posts before applying for a second personal or business card:

Starwood Preferred Guest points also transfer 1:1 to Alaska. American Express issues both a personal and a business SPG card, both of which come with 25k bonuses (and note that SPG points transferred to airline partners earn a 5k bonus with that airline partner).

You’ll want to start looking for Cathay Pacific award space (on, you won’t find it on 11 months out from your travel date if possible. That’s when they typically release the first batch. If you can’t plan that far ahead, then you likely will have to wait until much closer to departure to book. At least we still have that 72 hour window!

Bottom Line

You can still book Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, and Hainan award flights with Alaska miles within 72 hours of departure.

Miles and points enthusiasts had a minor freakout last week when they realized the ability to book one of their favorite, super high-value redemptions–Cathay First from North America to Asia–was swiped. Alaska, in my opinion, did the right thing to give that ability back.

Hat tip One Mile at a Time