Until 17 March, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is offering an up to 40% bonus when purchasing miles, so log in your account to see if you can access the offer.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is one of the few ways of purchasing miles cheaply to then redeem on partner airlines like Qantas and Cathay Pacific, and can be useful for cheaper Business Class travel on Qantas to the US and domestically.
Buying Alaska miles is a great way to fly Cathay Pacific Business Class
Note that, effective January 2019, Alaska has introduced a new calendar year purchase cap of 150,000 miles, which may begin to limit their use, especially for families looking to travel abroad when multiple award seats are available. Alaska elite members are not affected by this cap.
Remember that Alaska accounts need to be ten days old to be able to buy miles, so sign up for one in advance if you like the look of a deal.
The current Alaska Airlines ‘buy miles’ promotion
With the current promo, you can purchase a total of 84,000 Mileage Plan miles (including the bonus) for US$1773.75, equating to ~2.11 US cents per mile.
Buy miles offers can be targeted, so you may find your offer may be different from others’. Here are the tiers that I received (which may differ to yours):
- Buy 1,000-19,000 miles = no bonus
- Buy 19,000-60,000 miles = 40% bonus
You can purchase a total of up to 150,000 miles per calendar year (unless you are an elite member, in which case there is no limit).
However, note that there is a limit of four transactions in 30 days on the same credit card which is applied from points.com who processes the transaction, so use a different card number for more transactions, but with your same Mileage Plan account, and you should be fine.
Also note that buying Alaska miles does not code as travel spend on a credit card and that these miles expire after 24 months of inactivity in your account although with an option to reinstate for a fee.
Example uses of Mileage Plan miles for travellers from Australia
These are my favourite redemption opportunities for cheap Business Class travel from Australia with Mileage Plan redemptions:
|Example itinerary||Cost of miles in USD when maximising current promotion|
|Cathay Pacific: 30,000 miles one-way from Australia to Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific Business Class||$633|
|Fiji Airways: 45,000 miles one-way from Australia (or New Zealand) to Hawaii in Fiji Airways Business Class||$949.5|
|Qantas: 55,000 miles one-way from Australia to the US in Qantas Business Class||$1160.5|
|Cathay Pacific: 60,000 miles one-way from Australia to the USA in Cathay Pacific Business Class||$1266|
|Korean Air: 125,000 miles return (no one-ways) from Australia to the USA in Korean Air Business Class||$2637.5|
- These costs don’t include airline taxes for this route applied by Alaska
- The costs above are in USD and based on the current promotion with a best case cost at the highest tier
- The costs assume you maximise the promotion and buy chunks of the maximum amount of miles, redeeming strategically to get the most value
For more prices, check out the Mileage Plan award chart.
As many have found on those previous posts (just read the comments), it’s an easy winner to take advantage of for long-haul Business and First Class travel on Alaska Airlines partners such as Cathay Pacific to North America. You can also get great value out of longer intra-Australia or NZ redemptions in Business Class on Qantas.
Keeping an eye on the rhythm of mileage purchase offers can help you be more informed about when to buy.
|Date||Bonus offer (%)||Notes|
|August-October 2018||50||highest and targeted but widespread|
|October 2017||30% discount, not bonus||Point Hacks exclusive offer, limited to first 2000 buyers|
|August-October 2017||50||highest but targeted|
|May-July 2017||50||highest but targeted|
|August 2016||50||highest but targeted|
|May 2016||50||highest but targeted|
|November-December 2015||50||highest but targeted|
About Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
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 NZ 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
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Fiji Airways
- Hainan Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- Ravn Alaska
- Singapore Airlines
We have some more information in our quick introduction to the program.
Points redemption opportunities from Australia & NZ
The best starting point is the award chart on the Alaska website which details the costs for miles use from Australia and New Zealand 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 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.
First Class on Qantas’ A380
Opportunities for travel on Cathay Pacific
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:
A one-way Premium Economy ticket from Australia routing through Hong Kong to the US comes in at 47.5k miles.
You could also redeem Mileage Plan miles for travel in Cathay’s excellent Business Class
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 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 an award chart, which then creates a stopover opportunity possible on that routing. The second is on domestic flights with Alaska only, i.e. if you are flying Qantas from Sydney to Perth and want a stopover in Melbourne, that is not possible.
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 Starpoints 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 an headstart on snapping up awards
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.
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 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.