Alaska Airlines - Redemption Loophole

Alaska Airlines - Redemption Loophole

If you keep up to date with the blog, you’ll know that I am in LOVE with Alaska Airlines because of their excellent customer service, amazing gestures of appreciation for their loyal clients, the ease of point accumulation for Canadians, and their incredible distance based award chart.

Even with all those things taken into account, I have managed to find an even more incredible value for Alaska Mileage Plan redemptions.

I have researched Calgary because I live in the city but in theory this loophole will work for any destination.

A Quick Refresher

A while back, Alaska introduced a new redemption plan based on distance travelled.

as-new-chart

This lower mileage redemption allows for people to travel on Alaska metal much more economically.

For example, Calgary to Seattle (Alaska’s hub airport) is only 453 miles so it qualifies for the 5,000 mile redemption for a one way flight.  I actually booked this flight a couple of weeks or so ago and had to enlist the help of a supervisor but they have fixed their system so you can book online now.

yyc-sea-distance

Now Alaska services the West Coast very well but you always have to connect through Seattle because it’s their hub.  Going East presents a bigger problem because you have to get to Seattle before you can journey east.  Regardless, connecting through Seattle reduces the amount of miles you can fly within a certain redemption bucket.

Think of it this way.  If you needed to go from your upstairs bonus room to your basement, it would always be faster if you could take a firepole straight down.  Instead, you are forced to use your stairs, which takes more time and effort.  Same thing, except instead of effort, it takes more miles if you want to redeem for an award flight.

Sample Routes

To help illustrate this example, let’s look at a couple of routes from Calgary and see compare the distances.

Calgary to San Diego

In order to get from Calgary to San Diego on Alaska Air, you need to connect through Seattle, so the distance would be 1,503 miles.

YYC-SEA-SAN Distance

Now, if we are able to go directly from Calgary to San Diego, the distance would be 1,279 miles. 224 miles shorter than the connection through Seattle.
YYC-SAN Distance

Calgary to Chicago

Calgary to Chicago is a much more demonstrative difference in distance.  Again, in order to get to Chicago, we need to connect through Seattle so the route would be YYC-SEA-ORD, giving us a total flown distance of 2,173 miles.

YYC-SEA-ORD Distance

I think any grade schooler would realize that going West to go East is a longer distance than going straight East.

Let’s look at the miles required to go from Calgary direct to Chicago.

YYC-ORD Distance

As we can see, the distance to Chicago direct from Calgary is 1,385 miles versus the connection through Seattle which brought the total up to 2,173 miles.  A significant difference.

Now I didn’t pick these two cities randomly.  Keep that in mind as we discuss the loophole in the next section.

The Loophole

Remember that distance based chart that Alaska Airlines has?  If you don’t, here it is again (I’ve highlighted the section that is important).

7500 Mile Focus

Now, we know that for distances of 701 – 1,400 miles, you need to redeem 7,500 Alaska Miles to qualify for a reward flight.

In all situations, this distance will include any connections required to get to your destination.

EXCEPT …

For whatever reason, Alaska is NOT considering the connection in Seattle as part of the equation.  At least in some instances.

Let’s look at the example routes again.

YYC-SEA-SAN

The distance between these cities is 1,503 miles which should mean that you need to redeem 10,000 miles

10000 Miles Focus

However …

YYC-SEA-SAN Award Result

This ticket should price at 10,000 Alaska Miles … WHAT’S GOING ON HERE????

It looks like Alaska is NOT considering the connection in Seattle as part of its distance calculation.

Let’s look at a more obvious example.

YYC-SEA-ORD

The distance between these cities is 2,173 miles.  There is no map in the world that would have these cities closer than 2,000 miles apart, so it should most definitely fall into the 10,000 mile redemption bucket.

10000 Miles Focus

However …

YYC-SEA-ORD Award Result

As you can see, this award is pricing at 7,500 miles so the only logical conclusion is that Alaska is NOT counting the Seattle connection as part of its distance calculation because Calgary direct to Chicago is 1,385 miles … just short of the 1,400 miles allowed in the 7,500 mile redemption bucket.

7500 Mile Focus

What Does This Mean?

To me this is absolutely bonkers.  This means that most of the continental US opens up to cheaper redemptions keeping this loophole in mind.

Obviously I got curious about this and tried different city pairs like New York, Boston and other East Coast cities.  Unfortunately, it only seems to work for the 5,000 mile and 7,500 mile buckets.  Even still, this means that it opens up a LOT more cities for cheaper redemptions.

700 Mile Radius from YYC

Due to the fact that we don’t need to consider the connection in Seattle as part of our distance calculation, we can simply draw a 700 mile radius from Calgary (or your city) to determine cities that are reachable for a 5,000 mile redemption.

700 miles from YYC

You can click the map to see more detail but you can reach all of Washington and most of Oregon with 5,000 miles.  Included in this is Seattle and Portland.

1,400 Mile Radius from YYC

This is where it gets exciting because a TON of cities open up for redemption using only 7,500 miles one way.

1400 miles from YYC

With this reach we can get to the following big cities:

  • San Francisco
  • San Jose
  • Los Angeles
  • San Diego
  • Las Vegas
  • Phoenix
  • Tuscon
  • Albuquerque
  • Denver
  • Oklahoma City
  • Kansas
  • Omaha
  • Milwaukee
  • Chicago

Savings Compared to Aeroplan

Aeroplan’s Short Haul Redemption is 7,500 Aeroplan Points on a one way and from Alberta, you can get to Alberta, BC, the Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Washington and Oregon.

Alaska’s redemption for those same destinations (except the Northwest Territories) is 5,000 miles.

If we compare Alaska’s 7,500 mile redemption cities to Aeroplan, we would see that it would take 12,500 Aeroplan Points for a one way flight.

Also consider that Alaska charges no fuel surcharge and only airport taxes, you are WAY further ahead with Alaska than if you used Aeroplan, especially if you are out West.

How to Get Alaska Miles

Take a quick read through my review of the Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard to find out how you can get 25,000 Alaska Miles for a paltry $15.

That means that if you live in Calgary, for $15 you can get a free (not including taxes) return flight to Seattle AND Chicago.  That is absolutely mind boggling value.

Conclusion

I made this discovery last night and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it ever since.  This is an incredible value and it’s even better because you can find very good availability for reward flights on Alaska Airlines.  If you haven’t already signed up for Alaska Airlines Mileage Club and the Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard, you need to get on it right away!

Now keep in mind that this may be a programming error on Alaska’s part so if I were you, I would book right away to avoid disappointment.

 

 

 

10 Comments
    1. Hi Stephen,

      It definitely is possible that this loophole only works for Canada to US routes. I’ll try playing some more as well but if you could post what you find, that would be appreciated as well. Cheers

      Jayce

  1. Great stuff Jayce! I’m out of YEG but don’t see any 5k options to SEA or Portland. I may need to call in like you did when it comes time to book. Thanks for the info. I appreciate all the tips.

    1. Hey Dave,

      No problem at all! I LOVE this stuff!

      As far as the YEG-SEA goes, you’re right, it should price at a 5,000 mile redemption as the distance between YEG-SEA is 559 miles, well below the 700 mile requirement. The lowest award flight I am seeing for YEG-SEA is 12,500, which seems very wrong. I would definitely call to get a manual adjustment to 5,000.

      They may claim that there are two criteria, distance and fare class. Get yourself a free Expert Flyer account and make sure that the fare class is available. I believe W is the lowest fare class for Alaska. Good luck.

      Jayce

  2. I’m guessing fare class availability is under the Pro subscription (there is a free trial for 5 days)? Thanks for the tips.

    1. The 5 day free trial allows for the full use of the site so just use that.

      You can see where you need to go to enter your information at http://i.imgur.com/1G2IkIr.png and the result should look like http://i.imgur.com/IIG970Q.png

      You can sign up for the trial with any (wink wink) valid email address. Maybe give it a look now to see if you can find W class availability. You should be able to tell if there is a reason why the award is showing up as 12,500 miles if there aren’t any W class seats available.

  3. Is the loophole closed? Seems I can find for 7500 miles award for YVR – ANC, as per GCMapper it’s 1330 miles.

    1. Paul, the award availability is also based on fare class. I believe the lowest fare class is W so look to see if that’s available. I would also recommend using the calendar view to see if you see any 7,500 redemptions.

      AFAIK the loophole is valid

  4. any idea how to get a magazine subscription using alaska air miles, that will deliver to Canada. seems they will only deliver to the US

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