Free First Class 2014: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Basics

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This is the eighteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program.

Why Collect Alaska Airlines Miles?

Alaska Airlines miles are great for booking Emirates First Class and Cathay Pacific First Class. These are two ultra-luxury cabins, and Emirates First Class is not part of any airline alliance. Check out my trip report!

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Emirates First Class Suite

Collecting Alaska Airlines miles is easy. Both the personal and business cards from Bank of America are churnable, meaning you can get the same bonus over and over.

Alaska Airlines partners with 14 airlines from SkyTeam, oneworld, and outside the three alliances.

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  • What airlines can you fly with Alaska Airlines miles?
  • What are the routing rules for Alaska Airlines awards?
  • What are the special features of the Mileage Plan program?
  • How can you book an Alaska Airlines award?

Mileage Price

Alaska Airlines has a different char for every partner to every region. Here are the charts to Europe, and you can choose different regions along the left hand side of the page. All of Alaska’s charts are region-to-region charts.

A region-to-region chart means that instead of having to calculate the number of miles for an award from your origin city to your destination city, say Atlanta to Rome, you merely figure out how many miles you need for an award from your origin region to your destination region, in this case North America to Europe.

Partners

Alaska Airlines is not a member of any of the three alliances. It has partners from oneworld, SkyTeam, and other non-allied airlines.

Unfortunately you cannot freely combine partners onto a single ticket. Alaska awards now allow you to use one partner in one direction, and another partner coming back., though you can combine Alaska flights and a single partner’s flights.

As an example, you can combine Alaska and Cathay Pacific flights on a one way award, and you can fly Cathay Pacific one way and Emirate for the return on a roundtrip award. However you cannot combine American Airlines and LAN–or any other two partners’–flights in a single direction.

Routing Rules

You cannot combine two partners’ flights on a one way award or in one direction on a roundtrip award.

Some Alaska Airlines partners allow one way awards, and some do not. Each type of partner is clearly indicated on the award charts at alaskaair.com.

Alaska Airlines awards can have one stopover per one way award or two per roundtrip.

Special Features

There are three main special features of the Alaska Airlines program:

1. You cannot freely mix partner flights on an award. All the other US-based airlines allow you to mix as many partners on a single award as you’d like. Alaska lets you use one partner plus Alaska flights.

2. You can’t start your award anywhere you’d like. Most airlines have a price on their chart for any possible origin and destination region, but Alaska generally only lets you start or finish awards in the United States.

Plus there’s no way to use Alaska miles to get to certain destinations with certain partners like Australia with Emirates.

3. Alaska has the most diverse collection of partners. You are not constrained by Alaska’s alliance because it is not in one.

Taxes, Fees, and Fuel Surcharges

Taxes

Alaska Airlines awards require you to pay the government taxes associated with the itinerary.

These start at $5.60 each direction for domestic awards and go up to $300 if you fly to a high tax country. Generally international awards have roundtrip taxes of $50 to $150.

Fees

Award Processing Fee: Alaska Airlines charges a non-refundable $12.50 per one way partner award just to book the award.

Phone Fee: Alaska Airlines charges a non-refundable $15 fee per ticket for awards booked over the phone.

Changes/Cancellation: There is a $125 fee per person to change or cancel an Alaska Airlines award within 60 days of departure and no fee if more than 60 days before departure.

Full details on Alaska Airlines’ award fees can be found here.

Fuel Surcharges

Alaska Airlines only collects fuel surcharges on British Airways flights. These can be up to $500 per flight, so avoid British Airways.

How to Book Alaska Airlines Awards

All Alaska Airlines partners are bookable at alaskaair.com except LAN and Cathay Pacific.

LAN and Cathay Pacific flights can be booked by calling 1-800-654-5669.

If you can’t seem to find the award you want for your dream trip, you can hire my Award Booking Service to search and book your Alaska Airlines awards. We have the expertise to search every US Airways partner to maximize convenience and luxury while minimizing out-of-pocket cost.

Bottom Line

Alaska Airlines miles are fantastic to fly any of Alaska’s 14 partners. I’m specifically saving my Alaska Airlines miles to book Cathay Pacific and Emirates First Class.

Alaska Airlines miles are easy to earn from churnable sign up bonuses on their personal and business credit cards from Bank of America.

Any questions? What did I leave out?


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

The comments section below is not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all questions are answered.

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15 COMMENTS

  1. I will soon have the opportunity to fly infrequently on Alaska Air. I think I will do better accruing the miles on a partner airline rather than Alaska Air. If this is possible, what airline do you suggest?

  2. Scott,

    Thanks for the great post.

    You wrote “Alaska generally only lets you start or finish awards in the United States.”

    So why does the alaska chart show pricing for Between Hong Kong and Europe for CP?

    • Generally. There are exceptions like the one you noted.

      But just the other day I wanted to book DXB-CPT with Alaska miles on Emirates. No dice.

  3. Can you discuss the logistics of churning? How long must you hold on to the Bank of A Alaska Airlines credit card prior to canceling it? How long do you wait before applying for the card again?

    Are there other credit cards that are able to be churned?

  4. Can you make dates changes (free or for a fee) to an award ticket once travel has commenced? For example, a one way ticket where there is stopover..

  5. Just got around to reading this great post and the comments but it would be nice to see responses to the comments from August.

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