Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan programme is one of the most flexible of the US frequent flyer programmes 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 New Zealand & Australia 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 (until 29 February 2020)
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Fiji Airways
- Hainan Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- LATAM (likely to end)
- Ravn Alaska
- Singapore Airlines
Points redemption opportunities from New Zealand
The best starting point is the award chart for New Zealand on the Alaska website which details the costs for miles use on Qantas, Fiji Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Korean Air, and American 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’s not. If the award chart doesn’t show your route it’s probably not going to be allowed (Fiji Airways a notable exception).
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.
Can you add stopovers to an award?
One stopover in an intermediate city is allowed for one way awards, so book your return as two one-ways and you can get stopovers in both directions.
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. This is only valid where Alaska shows the cost between two regions on an award chart, which then creates a stopover opportunity possible on that routing.
For example, a stopover would be possible on Cathay Pacific from New Zealand to the US via Hong Kong – you’d be able to break the trip free of charge in Hong Kong, when booking a one way award to the US from New Zealand. The same would also apply to flights with Emirates, Fiji Airways, Korean Air, and Qantas.
Opportunities for travel on Qantas
The Qantas award chart to the US 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.
Unfortunately it’s not possible to redeem Mileage Plan miles for Trans-Tasman flights (unless combined with a flight to the US).
Opportunities for travel on Cathay Pacific
The Cathay Pacific award chart to the US looks like this:
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 New Zealand and Hong Kong for a rather ridiculous 30,000 miles:
Opportunities for travel on Emirates
The Alaska Airlines Emirates award chart allows for New Zealand – US redemptions, routed through Dubai.
Here’s the New Zealand to US Emirates Mileage Plan award chart:
Opportunities for travel on Fiji Airways
You can fly Fiji Airways Business Class from New Zealand to the US with a stopover in Fiji for only 55k miles – while this is the same as Qantas, at least you’ll be flying in the right direction, and Fiji is arguably a nicer place to stay for a few nights than Sydney or Melbourne!
Looking to do an island hop? You can have a stopover in Fiji and then head onwards to Hawaii for 45k miles.
You can also redeem your Alaska miles for travel to Fiji, at 17,500 miles in Economy and 32,500 miles in Business.
Opportunities for travel on American Airlines
American Airlines fly over the New Zealand summer months between Auckland and Los Angeles. Their award chart is below:
Not particularly good value when you consider that Business Class on Cathay Pacific will give you a stopover in Hong Kong, and then fly you direct to numerous US cities from there, including Chicago and New York – for 20k miles less. Though American Airlines might have some value for those flying to a more obscure US location that the other airlines don’t fly to.
Opportunities for travel on Korean Air
Fancy a stopover in Seoul? Providing you’re happy to redeem miles for a return trip, you can fly from Auckland via South Korea to the US for only 5,000 miles more than a return trip via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific.
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. Nadi for Fiji Airways.
The second and only other eligible scenario is when you are flying between Alaska and the mainland 48 US states. Then you can have a stopover in Alaska’s hub of Anchorage.
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 Rewards 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 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. Even Cathay’s own website shows incorrect availability for external partners, as they make more seats available to their own Asia Miles members. Cathay Pacific flights are also only available to be booked via the Alaska Airlines phone reservations team.
For Cathay, I recommend that you use the Qantas site as a starting point to first search for availability (on all routes, i.e. AKL-HKG, and then HKG-LAX, for example), and then call Alaska Airlines Reservations on 1-800-252-7522 to confirm that they can see the same seats. Do this before you purchase any miles.
Note that while the Alaska website shows an 0800 number for New Zealand, it does not work. I recommend that you use Skype to call the above US number directly.
Once you have confirmed availability, you can then purchase the miles, and then call back to redeem. Do this straight way as Alaska will not put award seats on hold. Miles usually credit very quickly so assuming you have confirmed availability, this method should work out alright (assuming of course no one else grabs it in the meantime), and has for me at least half a dozen times.
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.