Prior to a year ago, Alaska Airlines was not really on my radar but it has since proven to be one of the most valuable loyalty programs out there. One of their strongest points was that they have an extensive network of partners that allow award bookings and most of these partners have excellent hard and soft products. Their partners include:
- Air France
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Fiji Airways
- Hainan Airlines
- Japan Airlines (JAL)
- Korean Air
- LATAM Airlines
- Ravn Alaska
I won’t get into redeeming points with Alaska’s partners in this post (I’ll do it soon though!). Today, I wanted to provide you with some great news that Alaska has just announced.
Reward Chart Enhancement
There have been a number of “enhancements” to airlines’ reward charts as of late and these “enhancements” almost always means that it will cost more miles to travel on an award ticket.
Today, Alaska announced an enhancement to their reward chart that actually is an enhancement.
For short haul flights on Alaska Airlines metal (ie Alaska’s own planes), there is now a REDUCTION of miles required for travel. Previously, you were required to use a lot more miles to fly short distances and it often didn’t make much sense for Canadians. Now, with these enhancements, it’s a lot more palatable.
More details can be found here.
What Does This Mean for Canadians?
Well, let’s take a look at some routes and compare them to what they used to cost. The “used to cost” portion for Canadians was easy. It was going to be 25,000 miles on a round trip or 12,500 on a one way. Full stop regardless of distance.
For the purposes of this exercise, let’s look at one way routes.
This one is close to my heart because there are direct flights between the city I live in (YYC) and Seattle, Alaska’s hub. It also serves as a great jumping off point for other international routes.
The new price is 7,500 miles verses the original cost of 12,500 miles. A 5,000 mile savings per direction!
Another great option is to use Alaska to get to San Francisco, which is a hub for a ton of international flights. What’s even better is that there is a TON of availability and the price has been reduced from 12,500 miles to 10,000 miles on a one-way! That’s a savings of 2,500 miles and while that may not seem significant, it adds up quickly when you are a family of 4 (or more). This also represents a much cheaper way to get to San Francisco than what Aeroplan would offer (12,500 Aeroplan on a one way and significant fuel/carrier surcharges).
What the heck? Los Angeles too?
Yes, Los Angeles too. It’s the same price as San Francisco and offers the same level of availability! With these changes, I doubt I will look to Aeroplan for rewards to the West Coast!
How many miles is it from Calgary to Los Angeles you ask?
GOOD GOD! It’s only 1,406 miles. That means we could go even further for the same number of points! In fact, almost an additional 500 miles. Remember, the limit for the 10,000 mile redemption is 2,100 miles!
So wait. That must mean …
Yep. San Diego is in reach as well.
Again, tons of availability and reasonable taxes and fees.
This means that the entire West Coast of the US is reachable one-way for 10,000 Alaska miles!
Okay … this is getting ridiculous.
5,000 miles … where else can you fly ANYWHERE on 5,000 miles?
Okay … so Vancouver to Las Vegas is what? 7,500 miles? Get OUT!
As you can see, the best flight times on this route attract a more expensive mile redemption but the fact of the matter is that you can go from Vancouver to Las Vegas on a round trip ticket for 15,000 miles which is a distance of 1987 miles. That’s the same cost in Aeroplan to go from Vancouver to Calgary (856 miles).
How to Take Advantage
Earning Alaska Miles is easy via the Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard. With the card, you earn 25,000 miles after your first spend and while the annual fee is $75, you can sign up through Great Canadian Rebates and receive $60 cash back, making this card only $15 in the first year. That’s a GREAT deal for 25,000 miles, especially now that you can stretch those points a REALLY long ways on domestic travel.
If you are in Vancouver, you could redeem the sign up bonus for 5 one way flights to Seattle!
With these new rules, you can actually add a stopover in Seattle for an indefinite period of time and still use the same number of points. That’s bonkers!
In the example above, we stop in Seattle for 2 weeks before going to Los Angeles and the cost is still 10,000 miles!
In the current environment where airlines are continually devaluing their reward charts, it is a breath of fresh air that Alaska is actually increasing the value of their points and providing a lot of flexibility for their loyal customers. I will be looking more into these changes and providing you with more ways to take advantage of these enhancements if I find any.