How to Redeem Miles With the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Program

Dec 30, 2018

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Alaska miles are some of the most sought-after in the miles and points game — but not because of redemptions on its own flights. Despite not belonging to a major alliance, the West Coast-based airline has an extensive list of international airline partners. This means that Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles have a huge amount of flexibility and can be used on prestigious airlines like Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Korean Airlines and more. Unfortunately though, not all of these partner airlines show in Alaska’s online booking engine, so you need to be creative in how you search.

So with that, today I’ll show you how to redeem your Alaska Airlines. I’ll take a look at how to book both Alaska Airlines and partner award flights, and I’ll also look at some other redemption options.

Redeem on Alaska Flights

(Photo by 400tmax / Getty Images)
(Photo by 400tmax / Getty Images)

As you’d expect, you can redeem your Mileage Plan miles for flights on Alaska Airlines. The airline has a huge flight network on the West Coast, with hubs in Anchorage (ANC), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), Portland (PDX), and Seattle (SEA). Flyers based in those cities can fly just about anywhere in the United States as well as to some cities in Central America and Canada.

Unfortunately, Alaska Airlines doesn’t utilize a fixed mileage award chart. Instead, the carrier breaks its award levels into four distance-based bands, creatively called Hop, Skip, Jump and Leap. Each type of trip then has a published range of how many miles you need for the flight:

As you can see, you could use just 5,000 miles for a one-way, short-haul flight (<700 miles) but could spend up to 70,000 miles for a one-way first class “Leap” flight (>2,101 miles). Unfortunately, these ranges allow Alaska to adjust award flight prices within each one, and we’ve found that most Alaska-operated flights require more than the 5,000-mile minimum, so you’ll have to be flexible if you want to get the most value from your Mileage Plan miles.

Do note that Alaska Airlines does not fly to any destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa, or the South Pacific. This means that you have to rely on the airline’s various partners when planning a big trip overseas. Additionally, Alaska Airlines is one of the few airlines that doesn’t have lie-flat seats on premium transcontinental flights, so keep that in mind if you’re flying across the country.

You also have the option to use your Alaska miles to upgrade paid tickets to first class, though you’ll need 15,000 miles each way to do so, regardless of the length of your flight. This may be more expensive than a one-way economy class redemption. Further, Alaska Airlines offers paid upgrades to first-class starting at just $29 one-way. If you have a massive surplus of miles and frequently cross the country, it may be worth using your miles in this way, but I’d recommend saving your miles for the next option…

Redeem on Partner Flights

Interested in Cathay Pacific first class? It’s just one of the terrific partner awards available using Alaska miles.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has an incredible set of international airline partners. Currently, the list is 16 airlines long, and some of the world’s most prestigious carriers make the list. Here’s Alaska Airlines’ full list of airline partners:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Condor
  • Emirates
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Icelandair
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • LATAM Airlines
  • PenAir
  • Qantas
  • Ravn Alaska
  • Singapore Airlines

However, there are some quirks you should know when redeeming Mileage Plan miles for partner flights. One of these quirks is that each Alaska partner has its own award chart—so a business class ticket from the United States to Asia will cost a different amount of miles on Cathay Pacific and American Airlines. In order to price out your award, I’d suggest using Alaska’s helpful online award charts. Simply input your origin and destination regions to see the applicable award prices.

In addition, you can’t redeem Alaska miles on every single flight operated by its partner airlines. If the carrier you want to book isn’t listed when you input your origin and destination into Alaska’s award chart, it’s not eligible for awards using Alaska miles.

For example, Emirates offers nonstop flights from Dubai (DXB) to various cities in Australia, but when you search for award prices from Asia to Australia, only Cathay Pacific appears. This means that you can’t book those Emirates flights using Alaska miles. However, if you search from the US to Australia, Emirates does show up, so as long as you include an initial flight from the US to Dubai, you’ll be able to redeem Alaska miles for those flights.

Alaska also has another big restriction when you’re using miles for partner award flights. You can’t combine more than one partner on a single award itinerary. If you’re looking to fly from Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Hong Kong (HKG), you can’t fly American to Los Angeles and then connect to a Cathay Pacific flight. However, you can include an Alaska-operated flight to connect to an international partner. That same itinerary would be fine if your ORD-LAX leg is an Alaska flight.

There’s only one thing to look out for when booking an Alaska partner award ticket: mixed cabin awards. Oftentimes, Alaska will show business and first class availability despite only having first or business class availability on short domestic legs. To make matters worse, if you book a multi-segment award ticket and at least one of the segments is in first or business class, the entire itinerary will price at the higher-cabin mileage rate and appear in the premium cabin column of the search results:

Keep an eye out for mixed cabin award tickets.

Thankfully, mixed cabin awards are denoted by a small recliner logo to the right of the mileage cost. Keep an eye out for these when booking your next partner award ticket; otherwise, you may be greeted with a not-so-fun surprise at the airport.

Finally, you can’t book Cathay Pacific and LATAM flights online, so if you’re wanting to redeem Alaska miles on these flights, you’ll need to call. I’d recommend first finding award space on a Oneworld search engine like British Airways’ website and then call, as Alaska should have access to the same award space that Oneworld partners do.

Redeem for Rental Cars or Hotels

In addition to flights, you can redeem your Alaska Airlines miles for hotel rooms and magazine subscriptions. However, we almost never recommend using your Alaska Airlines miles for anything but flights. As you may expect, redeeming your miles for magazines and hotel rooms generally yields a not-so-great return on your points.

For example, we priced out a one-night stay at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles. A one-night stay in September costs roughly 42,300 Mileage Plan miles for the most basic room. However, a one-night paid stay costs just $286 for the same night, giving you a value of just 0.7 cents per mile. This is drastically lower than TPG’s latest valuations, which pegged Alaska miles at 1.8 cents each. We always recommend using your miles for their maximum value, and in the case of Mileage Plan miles, this can almost always be found on flights.

Bottom Line

As you can see, you can make some seriously valuable redemptions with your Mileage Plan Miles. Even better, nearly all of the carrier’s travel partners show up in its online booking system, so it’s easy to book award flights on the airlines you want to fly when you want to fly them. When you combine this flexibility with low taxes and fees, the Mileage Plan program is a terrific one for your next international trip.

Featured image by 4kodiak / Getty Images

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