Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan program is one of the most flexible of the US frequent flyer programs out there.
If you find yourself flying on a range of carriers in the US, banking your miles to Mileage Plan is a fairly savvy strategy.
Outside of the airlines mentioned above, the real opportunity for us in Australia and New Zealand is to redeem Mileage Plan miles for travel on Qantas, Cathay Pacific or Fiji Airways. In full, Mileage Plan partners are:
- Aer Lingus
- American Airlines (partnership ends 29 February 2020)
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Fiji Airways
- Hainan Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- Ravn Alaska
- Singapore Airlines
Note that Alaska Airlines is joining the oneworld alliance in mid-2021, opening up more redemption opportunities.
Points redemption opportunities from Australia & New Zealand
The best starting point is the award chart on the Alaska website, which details the costs for miles to use from Australia and New Zealand on Qantas, Fiji Airways (previously Air Pacific), Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. 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 is not. If the award chart doesn’t show your route it’s probably not going to be allowed.
And if the booking engine does not yield a result for a search, you’ll need to call Alaska via Skype or similar to confirm availability and try and research or book over the phone.
Opportunities for travel on Qantas
The Qantas award chart for Alaska Mileage Plan looks like this:
You’ll note that all intra-Australia 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 good value.
Opportunities for travel on Cathay Pacific
Alaska does 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:
A one-way Premium Economy ticket from Australia routing through Hong Kong to the US comes in at 47.5k miles.
Opportunities for travel on Emirates
The Alaska Airlines Emirates award chart, unfortunately, does not allow for Australia to Dubai redemptions, but you can use miles for travel between the US and their Dubai hub, then beyond within the Middle East and to India and Africa.
Here’s the Emirates Mileage Plan award chart (note that the pricing for the Middle East and India is the same):
Opportunities for travel on Singapore Airlines
The ability to redeem Alaska Airlines miles on Singapore Airlines flights was only introduced in October 2019. It’s possible to use miles to go from Australia to South East Asia at these rates:
The miles needed remains the same no matter where you start your journey in Australia, and covers travel to Singapore and onwards to another city within South East Asia. Free stopovers in Singapore are also permitted, making this a much better option if you want to visit multiple cities while paying the same number of miles overall.
Another sweet spot is for flights within South East Asia. Business Class and First Class is priced at a reasonable 25,000 and 35,000 Alaska miles each.
For that rate, you could go from Bangkok to Singapore to Hong Kong in a premium cabin, all for just 25k or 35k miles!
Opportunities for travel on Fiji Airways
Finally, 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. Note that redemptions are not allowed between Australia and the South Pacific (including Fiji), so you would have to be flying via Nadi to another region to take advantage of a stopover/visit there.
Taxes and fees
An example of the fees charged for booking a Qantas domestic redemption are below:
US$24.10 isn’t too problematic. 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—this isn’t going to break the bank.
Generally, surcharges on Alaska redemptions are very reasonable compared to Asia Miles, Qantas and other programs we are used to here (with the exception of British Airways).
However, keep in mind that if you decide to change or cancel your booking, this will incur a $125 fee if you’re not a Gold member or don’t hold a refundable First Class ticket.
Can you add stopovers to an award?
A stopover is where you can break one ticket into two or more flights across different days by stopping in a city that you would fly to anyway along the way. One stopover in an intermediate city is allowed for most one-way awards.
The first eligible situation is when Alaska shows the cost between two regions on its award chart, which then creates a stopover opportunity possible on that routing. Put more simply, if you are flying between two countries, you can have a stopover in a hub city of the airline you’re flying, e.g. Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane for Qantas.
The second and only other eligible scenario is when you are flying between Alaska and the 48 mainland US states. Then you can have a stopover in Alaska’s hub of Anchorage.
To clarify, if you are flying Qantas from Sydney to Perth and want a stopover in Melbourne, that is not possible. That’s because this is a purely domestic itinerary.
If you are booking a roundtrip, book as two one-ways and you can get stopovers in both directions.
- Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines release less award space to Alaska Mileage Plan than they do to American Airlines AAdvantage and British Airways Executive Club, so you may find it harder to book a First or Business Class redemption on those airlines
- As of February 2018, it has become a lot harder to redeem Alaska miles for Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines First Class seats on intra-Asia flights—your efforts are best directed to flying First Class to/from North America and Europe
- Mileage Plan made redemptions on Emirates much more expensive in a devaluation in 2016—now the best-value way to get on those flights are with Qantas Points or Marriott Bonvoy Points transferred to JAL (Japan Airlines) Mileage Bank
- Mileage Plan opens its award calendar 330 days prior to departure, which means that Asia Miles (360 days), British Airways (354) and AAdvantage (351) have a headstart on snapping up awards
Research and booking techniques
You can search for 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 or Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, and then use that info to then book with Alaska as it’s generally the same award seat inventory used between the airlines.
Cathay Pacific availability is notoriously flaky to confirm through many online sources—such as searching through qantas.com or ba.com. Even Cathay’s own website shows incorrect availability for external partners, as they make more seats available to their own Asia Miles members.
The best way to get a view on accurate space online is by using the JAL website, by signing up for a membership of JAL Mileage Bank or through Award Nexus. Alternatively calling Mileage Plan directly should do the trick.
You can’t put tickets on hold with Alaska and then purchase the miles and get them ticketed, unlike for American Airlines. 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 no one else grabs it in the meantime).
I rarely buy miles to hold and use at a later date without planned travel.
However, for tickets I know I want to buy, with specific dates and routes in mind, I would definitely research cost and availability through Mileage Plan as this is a great lower-cost option for securing Business and First Class redemptions on a range of familiar carriers.