August seems to be the month of mileage purchase promotions – I wrote about the US Airways deal a couple of days ago, then I sat down to write about the latest American Airlines deal then this surfaced in my inbox and piqued my interest.
About Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
I haven’t written much about Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program before, but it’s one of the most flexible of the US frequent flyer programs out there, given their partnership with both American Airlines and Delta for mileage earn, of course along with, Alaska Airlines themselves who service the West Coast, Hawaii and over to New York as well. If you find yourself flying on a range of carriers in the US, banking your miles to Mileage Plan is a fairly savvy strategy.
The Promotion – up to 40% bonus miles
MileagePlan are now running a promotion with up to a 40% bonus on purchased miles through to the end of September 30th.
Buy 1,000 – 19,000 miles: get a 20% Bonus
Buy 20,000 – 29,000 miles: get a 30% Bonus
Buy 30,000 – 40,000 miles: get a 40% BonusAt the top end, 40,000 miles will yield a 16,000 mile bonus, for a total of 56,000 miles for a total of $1182.50 USD including taxes.
Outside of the airlines mentioned above, the real opportunity for us in Australia and NZ is to redeem Mileage Plan miles for travel on Qantas, Cathay Pacific or Fiji Airways. In full, Mileage Plan partners are:
- American Airlines
- Air France
- British Airways
- Delta Air Lines
- Era Alaska
- Fiji Airways
Award chart opportunities from Australia & NZ
The best starting point is the award chart for the South Pacific region on the Alaska website which details the costs for miles use on Qantas, Fiji Airways (previously Air Pacific) and Cathay Pacific. From this page, you can use the navigation on the left hand side to look at costs for other regions too.
Alaska Airlines is a bit spotty at allowing / documenting award redemptions and costs for travel outside of North America. In some cases it’s allowed, in others it’s not. If the award chart doesn’t show your route, or the booking engine does not yield a result, you’ll need to call Alaska via Skype or similar, and try and research or book over the phone.
Opportunities for travel on Qantas
The Qantas award chart looks like this:
You’ll note that all Australia and NZ travel is marked at one price – 12.5k miles one way in Economy, 20k miles one way in Business, and return at twice the cost. This makes purchasing miles for longer Business Class class redemptions such as East / West coast hops, or across the Tasman, awesome value.
You could purchase 30,000 miles with a 12,000 mile bonus for enough miles for a return Business Class redemption at a cost of $887 USD.
Opportunities for travel on Cathay Pacific
The Cathay Pacific award chart looks like this:
Alaska do publish mileage costs for travel on Cathay Pacific outside of the US, and you can net a one way Business Class ticket between Australia and Hong Kong for a rather ridiculous 30,000 miles, which can be purchased in the current promotion for ~$710 USD.
A one way Premium Economy ticket routing through Hong Kong to the US comes in at 47.5k miles, which in the current promotion would cost just over $1000 USD.
For your interest, the Fiji Airways award chart is below:
The opportunities here aren’t so marked, but you may still consider them if you’re keen to include Fiji on your itinerary.
Taxes and fees
An example of the fees charged for booking a Qantas domestic redemption are below:
$24.10 USD isn’t too problematic. Update: I realised I forgot to mention that a $25 fee is payable per person for each award redemption ticket to Alaska as well; I believe this is $12.50 for one way and $25 for return. Again, not going to break the bank.
Research and Booking techniques
You can search Alaska Airlines partner availability on their own website, however some partners require a call to Alaska directly to research and book. Once again, awardnexus.com is my preferred place to research. Having said that, you can usually research award availability with the partner directly, e.g. via Qantas Frequent Flyer, and then use that info to then book with Alaska as it’s generally the same award seat inventory used between the airlines.
You can’t put tickets on hold with Alaska and then purchase the miles and get them ticketed – unlike for US Airways. However miles usually credit very quickly so assuming you have researched availability in advance, have checked with Alaska over the phone, you should be able to go ahead and buy miles and then call up again shortly after to book the ticket (assuming noone else grabs it in the meantime).
Stopovers are generally possible on international redemptions, including for one ways, as noticed by Ben earlier this year. Ben also put a useful general guide to Mileage Plan redemptions on Travelsort which is worth checking out too.
I’m not buying miles to hold and use at a later date with this promotion. However, for tickets I know I want to buy, with specific dates and routes in mind, I am now researching cost and availability through Mileage Plan as this is a great lower cost option for securing Business Class redemptions on a range of familiar carriers.