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Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has been one of my favorite airline loyalty programs for ages. The program has a lot of potential, due to the excellent elite status benefits, high earning rates for miles flown, and the high value received when you redeem miles. However, the move to a combined award chart for partner carrier awards is an unfortunate recent development. In fact, it is a development that will likely result in a loss of value as some of the “sweet spot” awards disappear.
Still, not all hope is lost. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan remains a solid frequent flyer program. In this guide, we'll cover every aspect of the program. This includes the best ways to earn miles, how to achieve elite status, and all the best Alaska Mileage Plan redemption opportunities.
- Overview of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
- How To Earn Alaska Airlines Miles
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan co-branded credit cards
- Other credit cards that earn Alaska miles
- Earning miles by flying Alaska and its partners
- Hotel and car rental partners
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan shopping portal
- Earn miles through Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Dining
- Buying Alaska Airlines miles
- Can you transfer Mileage Plan miles to other people?
- Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Rules
- Redeeming Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles
- How To Earn Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Elite Status
- Pros/Cons of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Overview of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Alaska Airlines joined the Oneworld alliance in 2021; the airline is headquartered in Seattle, Washington. It has additional hubs in Anchorage, Portland, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The carrier is a predominantly West Coast airline with extensive route coverage in California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Alaska, and Hawaii. Its international network coverage includes western Canada, Mexico, and Costa Rica.
Compared to other major U.S. airlines, Alaska falls short of a nationwide network. American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and Southwest Airlines all have significantly more capacity and network coverage than Alaska's typical 115 destinations and approximately 1,200 daily flights.
The good news is that recent changes have substantially increased Alaska's network and loyalty program opportunities. Alaska's membership in the Oneworld alliance deepened its relationship with American Airlines and gave the carrier a more prominent national and global reach. Beyond the Oneworld airlines, Alaska has several other exciting partners, providing Alaska with a truly worldwide network and codeshare opportunities. Non-alliance partners include Aer Lingus, Hainan Airlines, Condor, Singapore Airlines, LATAM, El Al, and Starlux.
Alaska also recently added a new top-tier elite status level in 2022: MVP Gold 100K.
How To Earn Alaska Airlines Miles
The traditional way to earn Mileage Plan miles is by flying an Alaska Airlines or partner revenue (paid) ticket. Flying Alaska Airlines or crediting partner flights to Mileage Plan is an excellent way to earn miles. However, you can increase your Mileage Plan balance in several other ways. These include Alaska Airlines co-brand credit cards, transferring hotel points to Mileage Plan, earning through shopping portals, and simply purchasing miles.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan co-branded credit cards
Alaska Airlines has both personal and business co-branded credit cards issued by Bank of America. Both cards sport excellent welcome offers. Plus, both cards give you a chance to get an Alaska Airlines companion fare each year, which is good for a companion on any Alaska Airlines flight. You'll pay just $99 plus taxes and fees (starting at $23) for a companion booked on the same reservation as the cardholder. The cards also offer perks such as a free checked bag when flying on Alaska Airlines, no foreign transaction fees, and 3x miles per $1 spent on Alaska Airlines flights.
- Earn unlimited 3 miles for every $1 spent on eligible Alaska Airlines purchases
- Earn unlimited 2 miles for every $1 spent on eligible gas, EV charging stations, cable, streaming services and local transit (including ride share) purchases
- Earn unlimited 1 mile for every $1 spent on all other purchases
Bank of America has a 2/3/4 rule for card applications, and the issuer also has stricter credit card application rules if you don't have a Bank of America bank account. Keep these in mind if you plan to apply for either card.
Other credit cards that earn Alaska miles
Unlike many airline programs, Alaska does not partner with any transferable bank rewards program. Points currencies such as Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards do not convert to Alaska Airlines miles.
However, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Alaska Airlines miles at a ratio of 3:1. It's best to transfer in batches of 60,000 Bonvoy points, as you receive a bonus of 5,000 miles for a total of 25,000 Alaska miles. Several Marriott Bonvoy credit cards earn points you can convert to Alaska miles. These include the four Marriott Bonvoy cards currently issued by Chase and American Express.
- 3X points for every $1 spent at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
- 2X points on other travel purchases (from airfare to taxis and trains)
- 1X point on all other purchases
- Earn 6X Bonvoy points per $1 spent at over 7,000 participating Marriott Bonvoy hotels
- Earn 3 Marriott Bonvoy® points for every $1 on the first $6,000 spent in combined purchases each year on gas stations, grocery stores, and dining
- Earn 2X Bonvoy points for every $1 spent on all other purchases
- Earn 95,000 Marriott Bonvoy bonus points after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
- $300 Brilliant Dining Credit: Each calendar year, get up to $300 (up to $25 per month) in statement credits for eligible purchases made on the Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card at restaurants worldwide.
- With Marriott Bonvoy Platinum Elite status, you can receive room upgrades, including enhanced views or suites, when available at select properties and booked with a Qualifying Rate.
- Earn 6X Marriott Bonvoy points for each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. 3X points at restaurants worldwide and on flights booked directly with airlines. 2X points on all other eligible purchases.
- Free Night Award: Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Award can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 85,000 Marriott Bonvoy points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
- Each calendar year after spending $60,000 on eligible purchases on your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card, you will be eligible to select a Brilliant Earned Choice Award benefit. You can only earn one Earned Choice Award per calendar year. See https://www.choice-benefit.marriott.com/brilliant for Award options.
- $100 Marriott Bonvoy Property Credit: Enjoy your stay. Receive up to a $100 property credit for qualifying charges at The Ritz-Carlton® or St. Regis® when you book direct using a special rate for a two-night minimum stay using your Card.
- Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®: Receive either a statement credit every 4 years after you apply for Global Entry ($100) or a statement credit every 4.5 years after you apply for a five-year membership for TSA PreCheck® (up to $85 through a TSA PreCheck official enrollment provider) and pay the application fee with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
- Each calendar year with your Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card you can receive 25 Elite Night Credits toward the next level of Marriott Bonvoy® Elite status. Limitations apply per Marriott Bonvoy® member account. Benefit is not exclusive to Cards offered by American Express. Terms apply.
- Enroll in Priority Pass™ Select, which offers unlimited access to over 1,200 lounges in over 130 countries, regardless of which carrier or class you are flying. This allows you to relax before or between flights. You can enjoy snacks, drinks, and internet access in a quiet, comfortable location.
- No Foreign Transaction Fees on international purchases.
- With Cell Phone Protection, you can be reimbursed, the lesser of, your repair or replacement costs following damage, such as a cracked screen, or theft for a maximum of $800 per claim when your cell phone line is listed on a wireless bill and the prior month's wireless bill was paid by an Eligible Card Account. A $50 deductible will apply to each approved claim with a limit of 2 approved claims per 12-month period. Additional terms and conditions apply. Coverage is provided by New Hampshire Insurance Company, an AIG Company.
- $650 Annual Fee.
- Terms Apply.
- Rates & Fees
- 6X points on purchases at Marriott Properties
- 3X points at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery
- 3X points on flights booked directly with airlines
- 2X points on all other eligible purchases
- Welcome Offer: Earn three Free Night Awards after you use your new Card to make $6,000 in eligible purchases within the first 6 months of Card Membership. Redemption level up to 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points for each bonus Free Night Award, at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
- Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly through Marriott. Terms and Conditions Apply.
- 6x Marriott Bonvoy points on each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
- 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
- 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
- Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
- Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card.
- Terms apply.
- Rates & Fees
- 6x Marriott Bonvoy points on each dollar of eligible purchases at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy™ program
- 4x Marriott Bonvoy points on each dollar of eligible purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping
- 2x Marriott Bonvoy points per dollar on all other eligible purchases
The Marriott co-branded cards all earn Marriott Bonvoy points, plus they offer an array of perks and benefits with Marriott hotels. The earning rate on Marriott cards is less than ideal if your goal is to accrue Alaska Airlines miles. However, the welcome offers can provide a significant boost to your Mileage Plan account.
Earning miles by flying Alaska and its partners
Alaska Airlines is one of the few remaining programs that still awards redeemable miles based on miles flown. For example, flying from Los Angeles to Seattle will earn you 954 miles. This is the flight distance between LAX and SEA. Alaska awards a minimum of 500 miles per segment, so even short flights still receive at least 500 miles. The exception is Saver tickets on American Airlines-operated flights. On these, you'll travel in American Airlines basic economy and earn 30% of miles flown.
Flying one of Alaska's partners is another excellent way to earn miles. Typically, partner flights receive anywhere from 25% to 200% or more of flown miles as redeemable award miles. The accrual rate depends on the partner airline, the fare class, and the flight number. Alaska has 13 Oneworld alliance partners, 11 non-alliance partners, and four “earn” partners where you can only earn miles but can't redeem.
In some cases, partner flights will not earn Alaska miles. Potential pitfalls include restrictions on the eligible flight number and crediting codeshare flights (which might be sold by a partner but are operated by another airline). Pay careful attention to these details. I've mistakenly credited a partner codeshare flight to Alaska Mileage Plan and earned nothing. As an example, here are the details for crediting LATAM flights to Alaska Airlines.
Premium cabin tickets typically enjoy a significant boost to the number of miles earned. Fares such as full-fare British Airways first class earn 500% of flown miles as redeemable miles. Even discount British Airways business class earns 250% of flown miles as redeemable miles. Premium cabin tickets often earn bonus elite-qualifying miles, as well, helping you achieve Alaska MVP elite status.
Alaska Airlines elites enjoy a bonus of between 50% and 150% on the number of redeemable miles earned, depending on the status tier. For some flights, this bonus can really add up. For example, a $200 round-trip between the West Coast and New York or Boston could earn an MVP Gold 100K elite over 12,000 miles.
Hotel and car rental partners
You can earn Alaska miles by renting a car with one of several Alaska Airlines rental car partners. The typical earning rate is 50 miles per day, though you can find promotions for up to 2,000 miles on certain rentals. These aren't the best earning rates, but it's an option if you have no desire to accrue car rental points or free rental credit. You can search and book rental cars directly through the Alaska Airlines site.
Crediting hotel stays with Alaska Airlines hotel partners is another way to earn additional miles. Offers can be per night or per stay. This is a great option when staying with a chain in which you don't plan to accrue points. However, I would not credit stays from chains I frequent, such as IHG and Marriott. This is because the return for earning hotel points is typically much higher.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan shopping portal
The Alaska Airlines shopping portal allows you to earn bonus miles for online shopping with many retailers. This portal includes major brands like Walmart, Sam's Club, Home Depot, Kohl's, Apple, and Best Buy. In addition, you can find plenty of smaller retailers. The earning rate varies by retailer but is typically in the range of 0.5 to 5 miles per $1 spent.
The portal sometimes offers bonuses. These may include temporarily elevated earning (e.g., 4 miles per dollar instead of 2 miles per dollar) and spending threshold bonuses (e.g., spend $150 to earn 500 bonus miles). Not all products offered at all retailers are eligible to receive miles, so read the terms and conditions for each retailer carefully. And check our guide to airline shopping portal bonuses to see what's currently available.
Earn miles through Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Dining
You can also earn Alaska miles through the Mileage Plan Dining Program. You'll typically get three Alaska miles per $1 spent on dining. If you link a co-brand Alaska card, you'll earn an additional mile per $1 spent at participating restaurants. If you dine 11 times within a calendar year, you'll earn VIP status. This will increase your earning rate to five Alaska miles per dollar through the end of the year.
Occasionally, Mileage Plan Dining offers a limited-time new member bonus. You can currently earn 500 bonus miles by signing up and dining at a participating restaurant within the first 30 days. You must spend a minimum of $30.
In my experience, dining programs can be somewhat hit or miss, depending where you live. Some locations have no participating restaurants nearby. However, most larger cities and urban areas have a good number of participating restaurants.
Buying Alaska Airlines miles
For many people interested in flying premium cabins with Alaska Airlines partners, buying Mileage Plan miles is a great strategy. You can purchase up to 100,000 Alaska miles per transaction, with an annual cap of 150,000 purchased miles. Alaska Airlines elites are not subject to the cap and can buy as many miles as they like.
The typical cost to purchase Alaska miles is $27.50 per 1,000 miles. You'll also pay a tax recovery fee of 7.5% on top of the total price. We don't typically recommend buying miles unless you're looking to fly premium cabins, typically with Alaska's partners. It's often possible to get these flights cheaper by purchasing miles versus paying for a revenue ticket. Make sure to factor in the miles you will forego earning when determining whether it's worth it.
Alaska regularly runs promotions for purchasing miles. We've seen bonuses of up to 60% for buying Alaska miles, but 50% is more common. We recommend waiting until Alaska offers a promotional bonus before purchasing miles. This is the case unless you only need a couple of thousand miles to top off your account for an award. Bonus miles do not count toward the 150,000-mile annual cap.
Can you transfer Mileage Plan miles to other people?
Alaska Airlines allows you to transfer miles between members. The cost of moving miles is $10 per 1,000 miles. However, you're not gaining any value by sharing miles. This is because Alaska allows you to book an award for anyone with your miles. The only time it makes sense to transfer miles to another person is to combine miles for a particular award.
Even then, buying miles is usually a better strategy. For example, imagine you're 7,000 miles short for an award. To transfer those miles from another Alaska account, you would pay $95 ($70 transfer plus a $25 Points.com handling fee). If you can take advantage of a buy-miles bonus, you might be able to purchase the miles you need for a similar cost—without the need to debit them from another Alaska account.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Rules
Anyone can join the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan loyalty program for free. You need to sign up at AlaskaAir.com. The entire process for adults can be completed quickly online.
If you're trying to register a child, you need to call 800-ALASKAAIR (800-252-7522). I set up Mileage Plan accounts for each of my three kids. It was a reasonably straightforward process to have the accounts created over the phone. The agent will provide the Mileage Plan numbers for minors, and then you can use those to set up online access at AlaskaAir.com.
Keeping your account active
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan accounts go inactive after 24 months of inactivity. You can keep your account active by either earning or redeeming at least one mile before the end of the 24 months.
For flights credited to Mileage Plan, travelers can only credit miles to their own accounts. You cannot take a flight as a family and credit all family members' miles to a single Mileage Plan account. Each person needs to create a Mileage Plan account and attach their own Mileage Plan number to their ticket.
To be able to use your miles for an award, you must have enough in your account. Alaska Airlines does not offer the option to lock in an award and earn or transfer the missing miles later. It's also not possible to pull some of the miles from your account and some from another person's account to make an award redemption.
Redeeming Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles
Alaska Airlines miles are arguably the most valuable of any U.S. airline program. With a unique array of alliance and non-alliance partners and some remaining excellent award chart sweet spots, Alaska miles hold a ton of potential. We'll walk through the approximate value of Alaska miles, its global partners, and how to search and book awards. We'll also walk through the best Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan redemption award chart sweet spots.
Value of Alaska miles
While points and miles valuations can be subjective, several criteria go into determining value. These include the cost of different types of awards–from economy to premium cabins–the abundance of award space, and the price at which Alaska itself is willing to sell miles. Alaska's typical price is 2.75 cents per mile. However, you can occasionally purchase miles for around 2 cents apiece.
I try to redeem Alaska miles for at least 2 cents each, which is the baseline value I assign them. I've been able to get far more value booking premium cabin awards. I try to include a stopover for domestic economy awards to ensure I'm getting the best value out of my miles. Data from AwardWallet users shows recent redemption values from 1.17¢ for domestic economy flights up to 4.39¢ for long-haul flights in premium cabins.
In general, Alaska's domestic economy awards and partner economy awards offer some of the worst value. The best Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan redemption choices are typically premium cabin partner awards. At the end of the post, we'll highlight a few sweet spots that offer fantastic value.
Alaska Airlines partners and award charts
Alaska Airlines joined the Oneworld alliance on March 31, 2021. Most of Alaska's current list of partners were already members of Oneworld. But joining Oneworld opened up more international opportunities for members to earn and redeem miles.
However, there's still concern that joining Oneworld will dilute Alaska's unique list of cross-alliance partnerships and redemption opportunities. Members of the Award Travel 101 community also expressed concern that Alaska will devalue elite benefits and slowly bring the Mileage Plan program into line with Oneworld's only other North American partner: American Airlines AAdvantage. This is proving to be true. Alaska has launched a new elite status tier and has made big changes to its award charts.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has said that it will “strive to give at least 90 days' notice if changes are coming to any current partner awards.” This has not proven to be the case. Sadly, some JAL awards were devalued in March 2023 without notice, and it moved American Airlines awards to dynamic pricing in late 2022. This does not bode well. We'll see how the partnership continues to roll out and update the post with new information as it's released.
Alaska Airlines' current partner airlines are:
- Aer Lingus
- Air Tahiti Nui
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- El Al Israel Airlines
Emirates— partnership ended July 31, 2021
- Fiji Airways
- Hainan Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- LATAM Airlines
- Malaysia Airlines
PenAir— partnership ended August 15, 2020
- Qatar Airways
- Ravn Alaska
- Royal Air Maroc
- Royal Jordanian
S7 Airlines— added March 31, 2021, suspended in March 2022
- Singapore Airlines
- SriLankan Airlines
- Starlux Airlines
These 24 partners offer Alaska an extensive global network, including airlines on most continents. The only major hole in its network was Africa, but joining Oneworld includes partnering with Royal Air Maroc. Plus, Qatar and British Airways give Alaska some coverage of the African continent. Oman Air is joining Oneworld in 2024 and will also add to global coverage.
You can continue to earn and redeem miles on Alaska's 17 legacy partners. Check out the Mileage Plan Airline Partners page for more details on crediting partner flights to Alaska.
To determine how many miles you need for an award, consult the Alaska Airlines award charts. For Alaska flights, the chart considers both distance and region for award tickets. Award flights on Alaska Airlines start at just 5,000 miles one way, which can be an excellent deal for short-haul tickets. Awards price out at various levels, depending on the route length and a “starting from” minimum. There is an upper limit on ticket prices, based on performing many searches, but it is egregiously high for most routes. Here is the chart for Alaska award tickets within North America:
For partner airlines, awards are priced based on the origin and destination region. While the new, combined partner award chart with “starting from” prices obscures some of the previous details, some awards take into account peak and off-peak seasons. Example: Awards between the U.S. or Canada and Europe on American Airlines still start at just 22,500 miles one-way in economy.
The previously published off-peak dates were October 15–May 15 for most partners. Peak pricing during the summer is 30,000 miles in each direction. Here is the combined partner chart for awards between the U.S. or Canada and other regions:
A note on the combined award chart
The frustrating aspect of the combined award chart is that pricing is obscured. It used to be based on partner, origin region, and destination region. While the previous pricing is still in place for many partners, Alaska could easily change this moving forward — and already has for some routes. The most recent example is a no-notice devaluation of awards on Japan Airlines.
For awards between regions outside the U.S. and Canada, there is no chart. The note at the bottom of the table states: For award levels to and from points outside of the U.S. and Canada, search for your desired destination and dates to view pricing. Performing searches also indicates the previous region restrictions are still in place. Certain awards aren't available between two non-North American regions. You'll have to search for flights and see if the routing is available to determine your options.
How to search for Alaska Mileage Plan awards
The easiest and best way to search for awards with Alaska Airlines and its partners is at AlaskaAir.com. The vast majority of partner awards show up in the online search tool. You can search for one-way, round-trip, or multi-city awards. The best part is that you don't need to be logged in to perform an award search.
The Alaska award search engine is relatively good at constructing reasonable awards, with some caveats. First, Alaska tends to offer unique routing options on its own flights at times, trying to build an award from available Alaska award space. If you search Orange County, California (SNA — John Wayne Airport) to Sydney (SYD), for example, you might be presented with an option to connect via Seattle and Los Angeles. Alaska is sending you nearly 1,000 miles the wrong way, just to send you back again, before you embark on your overseas flight.
The second issue — which is my biggest gripe about Alaska award searches — is the results include mixed-cabin awards. There is no way to filter the mixed-cabin itineraries. A “Partner Business” award from Seattle to Sydney could include an economy segment between Seattle and Los Angeles. Unfortunate, but bearable. However, it could also be an itinerary where the long-haul Qantas segment LAX-SYD is in economy(!) and the domestic flight is first class.
There is a massive difference between these options. I would be willing to suffer through the former at Alaska's price for Qantas business — but absolutely not for the latter.
Mixed-cabin awards are those displaying the light-and-dark-blue recliner icon. Unfortunately, you have to check every single award to see which segments are in which cabin. I would love it if Alaska launched a feature that would let you filter out all mixed-cabin awards or show a percentage of how much of the trip is in the premium cabin (like Aeroplan does). This would help because most are “false positives” with a short segment in first class and the long-haul segment in economy. These are simply not business-class awards.
For awards that aren't displaying online, you must call Alaska at 800-ALASKAAIR (800-252-7522) to have a representative search for space and book over the phone. Historically, Cathay Pacific and LATAM awards didn't show up online; this has been improving, with nearly all awards available online.
Note on award space availability
Note that Cathay Pacific award space that Alaska agents see may be different than the award space you find through another search engine. I once found three seats at ba.com and called to book. The representative informed me that only one was available. I ended up booking Cathay Pacific premium economy for that segment.
Alaska's online search shows award space up to 331 days beyond the current date. All program members have the same award availability. There is no increase in inventory for elite members or co-brand cardholders, as you might experience with a program such as United MileagePlus.
Booking fees and other rules
Alaska no longer charges change or cancellation fees on either revenue or award tickets. The exception is for Saver fares, where you only have the guaranteed 24-hour window to cancel for free after booking. There are other award fees to understand, though:
- Change/cancellation fee: $0, except on Saver fares (Alaska's version of basic economy; these fares cannot be changed or canceled)
- Partner award fee: $25 ($12.50 per direction)
- Call center booking fee: $15
The partner award fee applies to all award tickets booked on one of Alaska's global partners. There is no way around this, and the fee is non-refundable. This is the case even if you later cancel the ticket and redeposit the miles. The call center booking fee only applies if you book over the phone. For partners where you must book over the phone, you can sometimes have the agent waive the phone booking fee since ticketing is not possible online. Alaska MVP Gold and higher elites do not pay call center booking fees.
You must cancel your ticket before travel in order to receive a refund. If you miss your flight, the ticket will be canceled, and your miles will be forfeited.
A note on refundable award tickets
Alaska is one of the few programs to offer fully refundable award tickets. If you don't know your exact travel plans, this is a way for you to lock in an award. However, this toggle/checkbox does nothing for Alaska-only awards, as tickets are already fully refundable. It does toggle options on/off for some partner awards. Given that there are no longer change or cancelation fees, the airline should get rid of this.
Alaska Airlines does not charge any additional fees for awards on its own aircraft, aside from the TSA fee and any other departure fees for Alaska's international destinations. However, some partner awards include fuel surcharges and other fees, which are sometimes significant.
Awards on both Hainan Airlines and British Airways have notoriously high taxes and fees (e.g., awards with British Airways can have $800+ in fees for a business-class award). Some are more reasonable, such as Cathay Pacific (~$70), with others having no fees, aside from airport and government taxes. In some cases, Alaska is an ideal option for booking awards, as its fees are lower than those charged by other programs.
Routing rules for award tickets
Alaska's routing rules are one of my favorite features of its award program. Why? In one word: stopovers. Alaska has one of the best, if not the very best, stopover policies for award tickets. All my best Alaska Mileage Plan redemptions over the years have included a stopover.
Information on stopovers
Alaska allows one stopover on a one-way award. This means you can have two stopovers on a round-trip award. Stopovers must be in airline hubs or “focus cities,” depending on the partner airline and ticket routing. There are some exceptions to this rule that can prove interesting. In general, though, Alaska holds to this requirement. This means that you can add a stopover in Seattle on your way from Los Angeles to Anchorage. The search engine disallows things like Los Angeles to New York–JFK for a stopover before continuing to Anchorage.
For all practical purposes, stopovers for tickets on partner airlines must be in the partner's hub city. Most of Alaska's partners have a single hub, although there are exceptions to this rule. To book an award with a stopover, you need to use the multi-city search. You need to key in each section of the itinerary, making sure your connection point is in the same city.
In some cases, searching for two one-way awards with a stopover individually will return better results (or simply work), rather than searching for a round-trip award with two stopovers.
Another rule to keep in mind is that Alaska only allows one partner airline per award ticket. You can fly Alaska Airlines and British Airways on the same ticket, but you can't return home with a flight on American Airlines. That would involve adding a second partner to your ticket, which isn't allowed. In this example, booking separate one-way tickets could be a solution.
Best Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan redemption sweet spots
I'm not going to list every Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan redemption that provides top value, but I would like to highlight what I think are the best. In general, Alaska has specific partners with great premium cabin award rates. In my opinion, the top spot goes top Cathay Pacific. It has a high number of regions you can route to or through at incredible prices. You also can find massive value with Qantas and on some Japan Airlines flights.
Here are some of the best Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan redemption options for international travel (one-way prices):
- Cathay Pacific first class from the U.S. to Asia for 60,000 Alaska miles
- Cathay Pacific business class from the U.S. to Asia for 50,000 Alaska miles
- Qantas first class from the U.S. to Australia for 70,000 Alaska miles
- Qantas business class from the U.S. to Australia for 55,000 Alaska miles
- Cathay Pacific first class from the U.S. to the Middle East or Africa for 70,000 Alaska miles (including a free stopover in Hong Kong!)
- Cathay Pacific business class from the U.S. to Australia for 60,000 Alaska miles
- British Airways first class from the U.S. to India for 80,000 Alaska miles (but with massive fees!)
- Fiji Airways business class from the U.S. to Australia (with a stopover in Fiji!) for 55,000 Alaska miles
These are just a few of the best uses of Alaska miles. Most of these are very competitive with the pricing you can find with other programs. In some cases, Alaska offers the best deal of all, such as the rate for Cathay Pacific first-class awards to both Asia and Africa.
One interesting development to note
Singapore Airlines releases some premium cabin award space on its long-haul flights to Alaska Airlines. While I have not found first-class space through Alaska Airlines, business class is a common occurrence. It's not cheap, though, but it's an option if you have tons of Alaska miles.
The price is not the best, as you can fly Cathay Pacific business class for half that number of miles. But it is interesting to know that Alaska is an option for booking these awards.
Other ways to redeem Alaska miles
While I will always say that using miles for award flights is 100% the best Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan redemption choice, Alaska does provide other options for redeeming miles. You can use your miles to book hotels and to redeem for magazines.
You also can redeem miles for first-class upgrades on paid fares. These cost 15,000 miles per one-way ticket, and they must be applied to a paid fare. This is typically not a good deal, but it may be a decent option on longer routes. Alaska offers paid upgrades on the day of departure starting at $23 for first class and $5 for premium class, subject to availability.
The prices are sometimes reasonable, considering the flight lengths. Alaska used to publish set paid upgrade rates based on flight length, but this appears to have gone away. Previously, you could upgrade to first class on a transcontinental flight, such as San Francisco to Newark, for just $199 one-way.
How To Earn Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Elite Status
Alaska Airlines offers a rich elite program with top perks and benefits. Earning Alaska elite status is also easier than earning status in other programs. This is because there is no spend requirement like you have with Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines. Plus, qualification typically requires fewer miles. The status perks and ease of qualification make Alaska an ideal program for those based on the U.S. West Coast.
Alaska Airlines elite status qualification
Alaska has four elite status tiers with the following qualification requirements:
MVP: Two qualifying flights on Alaska Airlines, plus either:
- 20,000 miles earned on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners
- 30 segments flown on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners
MVP Gold: Six qualifying flights on Alaska Airlines, plus either:
- 40,000 miles earned on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners
- 60 segments flown on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners
MVP Gold 75K: 12 qualifying flights on Alaska Airlines, plus either:
- 75,000 miles earned on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners
- 90 segments flown on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners
MVP Gold 100K: 24 qualifying flights on Alaska Airlines, plus either:
- 100,000 miles miles earned on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners
- 140 segments flown on Alaska Airlines and elite-qualifying partners
You can qualify for Alaska Airlines elite status by either total miles or by total segments flown on Alaska Airlines and partners. Alaska requires a minimum number of segments flown on its own flights (including regional flights on Horizon and SkyWest) to qualify for elite status.
Alaska credits 100% flown miles (or more) as elite qualifying miles for all fare classes (except for award tickets) on its own flights. For partner airline elite mileage accrual, there is a separate chart, providing as much as 200% elite qualifying miles in first class or as little as 30% in basic economy.
Benefits of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan elite status
Alaska Airlines' elite status provides its frequent fliers with a vast array of perks. From free checked bags to complimentary upgrades and bonus redeemable miles, earning Alaska Airlines elite status can be well worth it. One of the newest and most lucrative benefits is the ability to earn American Airlines international upgrade certificates!
|Benefit||MVP||MVP Gold||MVP Gold 75K||MVP Gold 100K|
|Elite bonus miles||50% bonus||100% bonus||125% bonus||150% bonus|
|50,000 bonus miles upon qualification||Yes|
|100K Choice Benefit||Yes|
|First class upgrades at time of booking||Y, B fares||Y, B, H, or K fares||Y, B, H, K, or M fares||Y, B, H, K, or M fares|
|Premium class upgrades at time of booking||Y, B, or H fares||Y, B, H, K, M, L, V, S, or N fares||All fares except Saver||All fares except Saver|
|Fist and premium class upgrade on Saver fares||Within 2 hours of departure||Within 2 hours of departure||Within 2 hours of departure||Within 2 hours of departure|
|Companion upgrades to first class||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Companion upgrades to premium class||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|First class guest upgrades (4 per year)||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|International upgrade certificates on American Airlines||1 one-way||2 one-way|
|Complimentary premium beverage or chocolate in Main Cabin||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Complimentary snack or meal in Main Cabin||Yes|
|Priority check-in and boarding||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Free checked bags||2||2||3||3|
|Express security line at select airports||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Standby and wait list for full flights||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Alaska lounge membership discount||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|4 Alaska lounge day passes annually||Yes||Yes|
|$10 off CLEAR Plus membership||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Priority call routing in call centers||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Elite Leave for new parents||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Complimentary same-day flight changes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Corresponding Oneworld status||Ruby||Sapphire||Emerald||Emerald|
The 100K Choice benefits options are:
- 50,000 bonus Alaska miles
- An Alaska Lounge+ membership
- Gifting of MVP Gold status to another member
- Complimentary Wi-Fi every time you fly Alaska Airlines
Of these, the first two are the most valuable.
Best perks of Alaska status
The best perks of Alaska Airlines elite status are the ability to receive complimentary upgrades, additional redeemable miles (especially if you often fly coast-to-coast), and free checked bags. These are pretty standard compared with other programs, but Alaska offers richer bonus mileage earning at upper-status tiers. The one-time bonus of 50,000 miles when hitting MVP Gold 75K is nothing to sneeze at, either.
One-way international upgrade certificates
Thankfully, one of the newer perks includes the ability to earn one-way international upgrade certificates for travel on American Airlines. These are awarded early in the year following qualification. For example, anyone who qualifies for MVP Gold 75K during 2023 for the 2024 status year will receive a single one-way upgrade certificate in early 2024.
These certificates can upgrade you into long-haul business class and can be worth hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in value. Alaska elite members also enjoy corresponding Oneworld priority status. This provides benefits such as access to pre-reserved seating, priority boarding and baggage handling, and access to business- or first-class lounges (depending on your tier).
Standard Alaska Lounge membership costs $500. The price for Alaska elites, no matter your tier, is $400, which is a significant discount. Alaska also offers a Lounge+ membership that offers access to 90+ partner lounges, in addition to the nine Alaska Lounge locations. Standard pricing for this is set at $650, with elites able to purchase this for $550. You also receive this membership as a perk of attaining MVP Gold 100K.
Alaska Airlines lifetime status
Alaska does offer a lifetime status program. And there are two tiers, with straightforward qualification:
- Fly 1,000,000 miles with Alaska Airlines, and you'll be awarded Alaska MVP Gold status for life.
- Fly 2,000,000 miles with Alaska Airlines, and you'll be awarded Alaska MVP Gold 75K status for life
Importantly, you should note that partner airline flights and award flights do not count toward this total.
Compared to other Million Miler programs, Alaska's is pretty lucrative. Obviously, though, it takes a lot of flying. This is because you're restricted to Alaska's route network, which doesn't include any long-haul flights. A frequent flyer who achieves Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K each year will take 12–14 years to attain Million Miler.
Alaska Airlines status match
If you're interested in making the switch to Alaska Airlines, you can ease the pain of qualification by requesting a status match. Alaska Airlines has a dedicated elite status match page, where you can provide info on your current status level with another program. You must be a resident of either the U.S. or Canada, and you can status match from the following airline programs:
- Air Canada
- American Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- United Airlines
If your request is approved, you will receive the corresponding status for three months. Within those three months, you can retain status for the rest of the period (either end of the year, or end of the following year). The requirements depend on the status to which you are matched:
- MVP: 5,000 qualifying miles within 90 days
- MVP Gold: 10,000 qualifying miles within 90 days
- MVP Gold 75K: 20,000 qualifying miles within 90 days
Flights toward this challenge portion of the Alaska status match must be solely on Alaska Airlines. In addition, they must either be operated directly by Alaska or by regional partners/subsidiaries Horizon and SkyWest. Partner flights will not count toward the challenge portion of the status match.
If you receive a status match between January and June and meet the challenge requirements, you will keep your status through the end of the year. If you receive a status match between July and December and meet the challenge requirements, you will keep your status through the end of the following year. The latter is far more lucrative, given the length of time you can keep the status. Status matches can take up to four weeks for verification and approval.
Alaska elite status requirements compared to other programs
Earning Alaska Airlines elite status is substantially easier than earning status with other U.S. airlines. The big difference is that every other elite program has a spending requirement. Alaska Airlines does not.
As an example, consider someone based in Los Angeles who flies across the country routinely. If they visit New York City just nine times during the year, they will earn ~44,000 Alaska Airlines elite miles. This is enough to land you at MVP Gold status.
Someone flying Delta or United, on the other hand, won't even land Gold. Assuming each fare is less than $400 per round-trip, the traveler might not even earn Silver in either of these programs. Considering the bonus miles and other elite perks, I would choose Alaska Airlines over other options if this was the bulk of my travel.
Author's madcap idea:
You can technically achieve Alaska MVP Gold 75K status for just under $3,000. Assuming you're based in either San Francisco or Boston, Alaska often sells Saver round-trips between these cities for only $197. Flying 14 of these will earn you MVP Gold 75K, plus you'll earn enough redeemable miles (~168,000 miles) for a round-trip to Australia in either Cathay Pacific First or Qantas First Class! It looks like the mileage run isn't dead yet!
Pros/Cons of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
The best features of Alaska Airlines are the high value of Mileage Plan miles when redeemed for many partner awards, easier elite status qualification, and the unique network of global partners. The award sweet spots for partner premium cabins and attractive short-haul pricing for domestic U.S. awards are other upsides to using the program. This is not to mention my favorite feature: the ability to add in a stopover on one-way award tickets.
Most other programs do not offer stopovers on one-way award tickets. This is a unique feature of Mileage Plan, and one worth using to maximize the value of your Alaska miles. The best Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan redemption I've ever made included a multi-day stopover in Hong Kong.
If you live in an Alaska hub, it's possible to turn a single award into two by planning a stopover in your home city at the end of your first trip, with the following segment marking the beginning of your second trip. Stopovers are fantastic, as they let you visit two destinations for the same price. Of the other primary U.S. loyalty programs, only United offers the potential for booking a stopover using the Excursionist Perk.
Negative: East Coast gaps
While Alaska's elite program is competitive, it's not an ideal airline choice if you are not based on the West Coast — or if you frequently travel to destinations not served by Alaska. For much of the eastern United States, it is a less-than-ideal choice as a primary airline. The limited route network there is a huge hurdle. The only potential play is if you tend to travel with American Airlines. Alaska's partnership with American Airlines offers some nice reciprocal elite benefits. But, you can be awarded as few as 25% flown miles as elite-qualifying miles. This makes elite qualification much more difficult than qualifying for status with American Airlines.
Negative: Lack of bank transfer partners
Unfortunately, another downside is the inability to transfer bank points to Alaska Airlines miles. This is both a blessing and a curse. Without bank transfer partners, the “market” can't be flooded with miles. You must earn miles primarily through flying and credit card spending/bonuses with Alaska's co-brand credit cards. The only viable transfer partner is Marriott Bonvoy. But, without a bank transfer partner, it can be hard to accrue enough points for the most valuable redemptions.
Even after joining the Oneworld alliance, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is — and will remain — one of my favorite frequent flyer programs. The high value of Alaska miles, the ability to book a unique set of partners, and the potential value from stopovers on one-way award bookings keep me focused on earning as many Alaska miles as possible. I am frustrated, however, by Alaska's recent no-notice devaluation of Japan Airlines awards and massive changes to the partner award charts. This does not bode well for the future of a program that has consistently provided strong value. Moving forward, Alaska needs to do better by members.
A final personal takeaway:
My favorite redemption is when I used 50,000 Alaska miles to fly Cathay Pacific business class home from China with two of my kids. In short, we used the stopover policy to book a 3-day stopover in Hong Kong, with the first flight in premium economy and the flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco in business. This remains one of the best Alaska Mileage Plan redemption options still available!
For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant® American Express® Card (Rates & Fees), and Marriott Bonvoy Business® American Express® Card (Rates & Fees)
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