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Miles in Alaska Airlines' Mileage Plan program are among the most valuable travel rewards currency. The primary reason is that even though Alaska is not part of any of the three major airline alliances, they have an extremely impressive set of partners. This lineup includes Oneworld members American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Qantas, and LAN.
At first glance it might make sense to book awards on any of these Oneworld members with American AAdvantage miles instead of Alaska miles considering American is part of the alliance and Alaska is not, there are many instances when redeeming your miles with Alaska's program provides a much better value. Here are five situations where we'd consider using miles in Alaska' program over American:
Any Award on Which You Would Like to Include a Stopover
When it comes to awards, a stopover, a connection of 24 hours or longer between your origin and destination, when traveling internationally typically doesn't come free. Not only does Alaska allow you to add complimentary stopovers on awards, but they permit you to add a complimentary stopover even on a one-way award. The flexibility allows you can spend a week in Hong Kong on a redemption of a one-way Cathay Pacific award to Africa or Australia.
American does not allow complimentary stopovers on any award. As such, if you want to stop somewhere for 24 hours or longer between your origin and destination on an American award, you will have to book two separate awards.
Cathay Pacific Awards to Africa
With American, it isn't to book a single award ticket between the U.S. and Africa traveling on Cathay Pacific due to American's award routing rules. The rule states that you may only route across the Atlantic ocean for flights to Africa from the United States on a single award.
Alaska has no problem allowing you to fly over the Pacific with Cathay on your way to Africa and, better yet, the premium cabin rates, 62,500 in business class and 70,000 in first class, are exceptional. For comparisons sake, an American award to Africa requires 75,000 miles in business class and 120,000 miles in first class. This is one of the sweetest sweet spots in all mileage redemptions!
Cathay Pacific Awards to Asia
One of the hardest-hit areas, when American implemented changes to their award charts earlier this year, was the Asia 2 Region, which for the most park includes all Asian countries except Japan and South Korea. If you want to book a business class or a first class award to any Asian country outside of those two with American, you will have to redeem 70,000 miles and 110,000 miles, respectively.
With Alaska, the same awards on Cathay will require 50,000 miles and 70,000 miles, respectively. The fact that you can book a first class Cathay award with Alaska for the same amount of miles needed for a business class award with American does not even make sense.
One other aspect to keep in mind about Cathay awards with Alaska is that you can connect in Hong Kong to travel to Japan and South Korea. Due to their award routing rules, American does not allow such connections.
Qantas and Cathay Pacific Awards to Australia and New Zealand
If you are lucky enough to find Qantas business or first class availability to Australia, make sure you book your award with Alaska instead of American. The difference between the two is 25,000 miles in business class (55,000 miles vs. 80,000 miles) and 40,000 miles in first class (70,000 miles vs. 110,000 miles). The same rates apply for travel to New Zealand.
In the case of Cathay travel to Australia and New Zealand, the rates are much better with Alaska as well, but the key here is that Alaska will allow you to connect in Hong Kong if travelling to Australia and New Zealand from the U.S. American will not.
American Airlines Awards to Europe
This is an extremely interesting situation. You are much better off booking Alaska awards for American premium cabin travel to Europe (50,000 miles in business class and 62,500 miles in first class) than you would be if booking the same award with American's miles (57,500 miles in business class and 85,000 miles in first class).
Marriott Points Transfer to Alaska
If you are short of the Alaska miles you need to book any of the awards discussed in this article or any other Alaska award, keep in mind that Alaska is a Marriott Rewards transfer partner, so even if you have never flown with Alaska, you likely have access to thousands of Alaska miles. This is one of the main reasons we love Marriott Points.
In many cases in which you have the option of booking Oneworld awards with either Alaska miles or American miles, you are better off booking the award with Alaska. Not only are the rates better with Alaska, but the routing restrictions are almost non-existent, and you have the chance to add stopovers as well.
The downside of this is that a major Alaska devaluation is almost inevitable. We have already seen one such devaluation for Alaska awards with partner Emirates. It is only a matter of time before they do the same with at least some of their other partners, so book these awards at extraordinary rates while you can!
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