I have dealt with multiple airlines in my Travel Hacking career and to be honest, many leave a LOT to be desired. I’m sure many of you have dealt with Aeroplan’s unbelievably long wait times and automated message stating they cannot accept any more calls at this time. It’s oftentimes so frustrating that you ask yourself why you even bother with collecting miles and points.
Alaska Airlines brings a breath of fresh air to the conversation.
I’m reminded of the last time I flew on Alaska. We had to turn back half way between Seattle and Calgary due to icing on the wings. Not only did Alaska do a stellar job of having another plane ready to go as soon as we deplaned, but when I arrived back in Calgary an hour and a half late, I received a proactive email from Alaska for a $100 travel credit for the inconvenience. Now that’s customer service.
Yesterday, I put their customer service to the test again.
Alaska’s New Mileage Redemption Chart
If you read my latest post about Alaska’s new enhancement to their distance based redemptions, you will recall that the new program significantly improves the value of an Alaskan Mile.
After Further Review
When I initially wrote about the new redemptions and what it mean to Canadians, I neglected to actually look at the distances between the Canadian cities I reviewed.
For example, when I looked at Calgary to Seattle (YYC-SEA), the points required came to 7,500 each way.
However, if we look at the actual distance between the two city pairs, we see that it is well under the tier threshold of 700 miles.
Upon realizing that the Canadian routes were not pricing correctly, I made a few calls to Alaska to have them try to explain why there was a discrepancy. Because my calls came on the same day as the introduction of the new redemption chart, answers were hard to come by …. not because they weren’t willing to find out … just that there wasn’t sufficient time for all the bugs to be worked out.
While my calls didn’t yield a satisfactory concrete result, I did receive confirmation from 3 separate Line Supervisors that in their opinion, the YYC-SEA route should price at 5,000 miles.
A Reason to Fly to Seattle
I had been eyeing the FTU Advanced – Seattle Conference for a while but just got the a-okay from my daughter to go (the conference is on her birthday but she’s having an all girls’ slumber party thus dad isn’t required).
Now that I had an actual reason to put Alaska’s Customer Service to the test with an actual redemption, I made the call to “fight” for the correct mileage redemption of 5,000 miles each way rather than the 7,500 each way.
Call to Alaska
After waiting about 23 seconds to get to an agent (I’m staring right at you Aeroplan), I reached Alaska Agent Jordan and I explained the routing that I had in mind for an award redemption as well as my issue with the points that they system priced the award at. While Jordan was unable to provide an explanation as to why the award was pricing at 7,500 miles instead of 5,000 miles, he suggested that we escalate the call to a Line Supervisor.
This is one of the things that I LOVE about Alaska. Their CSRs are not afraid to escalate the call if a resolution isn’t available on their end. They don’t take it as a mark against their record but rather, they are more interested in getting the right result for the customer.
The call was escalated to a Line Manger named Kris out of Boise, ID.
Initially Kris told me that the redemptions at 5,000 miles depended on both distance and fare class and while that was a reasonable explanation, it didn’t sit right with me because I had checked the award redemption for the YYC-SEA route through the next year (2017) and did not find a single 5,000 redemption. When I asked her what fare class needed to be available, she replied that it was a W class fare. Luckily, I was prepared with my ExpertFlyer account and could see that there were 7 available W fares on the routes that I was after. When Kris heard that, she asked me to hold because she wanted to escalate the matter to a special Fare Agent that would be able to explain why the 5,000 redemption wasn’t available.
After a few minutes on hold, Kris came back and told me that I was right and that the redemption should have been for 5,000 miles rather than the 7,500 the system was quoting. After confirming this, Kris made a manual adjustment to the system for the redemption I was after.
I will admit that the call took an hour and I saved a total of 5,000 Alaskan Miles for my effort but that isn’t the point. The point here is that Alaska not only admits fault but also gives its staff the authority to correct the mistake.
Now that we are able to get the ticket correctly priced at 5,000 miles, we can do the math and figure out if it’s a good deal.
First off, the retail price of the ticket isn’t that much:
On the award ticket, I paid $59.16 USD in taxes which at the time of booking is equal to $79.53 CAD. Let’s round that up to $80 for simple math.
So the calculation here is:
CPM = (Retail Cost of the Ticket – Taxes Paid) / Points Used * 100
CPM = ($292.32 – $80) / 10,000 * 100
CPM = $212.32 / 10,000 * 100
CPM = 2.12
So even though the revenue ticket is inexpensive, I still get a decent redemption for an domestic economy flight because I only needed to redeem 10,000 miles.
When I concluded the call with Kris, I asked her the likelihood of this issue being fixed by Alaska’s IT department. She told me that this is something that Alaska will address in the near future and in her opinion, this shouldn’t happen to customers trying to redeem using the new distance based chart. She was very apologetic for the time it took to resolve the issue but to be honest, I couldn’t have asked for better customer service.
If Alaska Airlines isn’t on your radar, it should be. Partner redemptions are excellent, customer service is off the charts good, their elite status provides actual benefits and their new redemption chart is very, very generous in comparison to the other loyalty programs out there.
If you need a kick start to get into the Alaska Mileage Plan program, get signed up for the Alaska Airlines World Elite MasterCard. Read my review post on how you can get 25,000 Alaska Miles for only $15!