This entry is part 1 of 9 in the series Booking Alaska Partner Awards

So now that I’ve convinced you that Alaska Airlines is a great option, especially if you live out West, let’s talk about how you go about booking partner awards.  Because there are so many partners of Alaska, I’m going to turn this into a series so that you can get specifics on how to find award availability with each partner.

I will warn you.  I am going on vacation to Roatan in a few days so I am unsure if you’ll see consistency in posts that you normally do but I’ll do my best.

Refresher

If you haven’t been following along, I would suggest you read some of the my earlier posts on Alaska Airlines so you can familiarize yourself with the amazing airline that many people don’t pay attention to.

Alaska Airlines – Continues to Impress – a post about how Alaska continues to provide more value in their redemptions.
How I Hack – Arbitrage Through Alaska’s Acquisition of Virgin – a unique arbitrage opportunity if you have SPG points and/or Virgin Elevate points.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Redemption Correction and Superb Customer Service – a post on how an error was resolved by Alaska’s superb customer service.
Free 10,000 Alaska Air Miles – another amazing customer service gesture by Alaska for those that had a Virgin Elevate account before December 5th, 2016.
Alaska Airlines Redemption Loophole – a bit on the more complicated side of things but an amazing redemption loophole for Alaska’s Distance Based Chart.
Alaska Airlines Boardroom Lounge Review – a look at Alaska’s lounge in Seattle.

Alaska Partner Airlines

Alaska is not part of an alliance like Air Canada is with Star Alliance or British Airways has with OneWorld.  Rather, Alaska has decided to select strategic partnerships to allow for their frequent flyers to travel around the world even if Alaska Airlines does not fly there directly.

Alaska Partners

As you can see, there are quite a few airlines (18 to be exact) represented and many of them are well known for their excellent hard (seat, aircraft, fit and finish, food, etc.) and soft product (customer service, ground experience, etc.).

It should be noted that while Delta is listed as a partner, the partnership will end as of May 1, 2017.  Until then, you can still book awards with Delta using Alaska miles.

Rules for Award Redemption

Alaska is a bit quirky because it is not part of an alliance so that means there are some very specific rules that don’t usually apply to award redemptions when you are dealing with an alliance airline.

Metal Matters

If you are unfamiliar with the term “metal” as it relates to airlines, it means flying with that airline’s plane.  If I said, you have to fly on Alaska metal, it means that you can only fly on Alaska operated planes.  No codeshares, no partners, no exceptions.

When you book an award with Alaska Airlines Miles, you are limited by only being able to fly with a partner airline and Alaska.  For example, if you wanted to go from Calgary to Hong Kong, you could not fly:

YYC-SEA on Alaska
SEA-SFO on Virgin
SFO-HKG on Cathay Pacific

You are only allowed one partner and Alaska metal.  That means only the following would be allowed:

YYC-SEA on Alaska
SEA-SFO on Alaska
SFO-HKG on Cathay Pacific

Forget about Roundtrips

I know that title sounds like a negative but it’s not.  On most redemptions, you think about a trip as if it is a roundtrip.  With Alaska I almost always view it as two one ways to make a round trip.  This is because of Alaska’s fantastic routing rules.

Free Stopover on One Ways

As far as I know, there are no other major carriers that allow for a free stopover on a one way ticket.  This is why I always think of an Alaska redemption as two one way redemptions.  The thing you need to keep in mind is that the stopover happens at the hub airport(s) of the partner you are flying.

For example, if you were to fly Cathay Pacific to Bangkok, you could stop in Hong Kong (Cathay’s hub) for free.  If you wanted to travel to Perth on Qantas, you could layover in Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne.

The length of the stopover is also quite generous.  The rule is that you must depart your stopover location within 364 days of your original flight.  So if you left Calgary on January 1st, 2017 on route to Bangkok, you could stay in Hong Kong until December 31st, 2017 before you had to jump on your flight to Bangkok.

That’s pretty dang generous if you ask me.

Drew Macomber from Travel Is Free has even more in depth explanations on how to maximize your redemptions by booking what he terms a “legal boomerang”.  If you haven’t heard of Travel Is Free, I would highly recommend you check it out.  Drew is a wizard that puts me to shame.

Award Chart

One of the best things about Alaska is that their rewards are actually quite affordable … with the exception of awards on Emirates.

For example, you can fly from Canada to Asia in First Class on Cathay Pacific for 70,000 miles, which is great in an of itself but you can also go from Canada to Hong Kong (with a free stopover of up to 364 days) and then onto South Africa in First Class on Cathay Pacific for the same 70,000 miles.  That’s Looney Tunes crazy.

Because of the complicated nature of these partnerships and the fact that they aren’t governed by one oversight group, the miles required for redemption are not consistent.

For example, from Canada to Asia in Business Class on Cathay Pacific is 50,000 miles, whereas Canada to Asia on JAL (Japan Airlines) is 65,000 miles.

To get a better sense of how many miles it will take to get to your destination, take a look at Alaska’s official website.

Be Mindful of Routes

One very big caveat on Alaska is that through their negotiations, Alaska has only negotiated redemptions for certain routes.  For example, if you wanted to fly Qantas from Canada or the US to Australia, that’s no problem.  But if you wanted to fly Australia to New Zealand, you don’t have any options.

Now this is a minor inconvenience compared to the low mileage requirements to fly halfway around the world.

Next Up

In the next parts of the series, I will be examining specific partners and how to find awards with those partners.  We’ll look at routes, stopovers, points required and where to look for availability … because it’s not always on the Alaska site.

Wanna Come Play?

If you haven’t already done so, I would recommend that you sign up for the Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard, you should get on it.  The link I just provided gives you a review of the card and an explanation of how to reduce the card’s annual fee from $75 to $15 … plus you get 25,000 miles after your first spend with the card!

Series NavigationBooking Alaska Partner Awards – Cathay Pacific >>
Jayce is the founder of PointsNerd, and avid traveller and a teacher by nature. He prides himself on flattening the learning curve through step-by-step guides because everyone needs to start somewhere.

12 COMMENTS

  1. Great timing! I was about to lookup a flight from YYZ -> TPE -> KUL using Alaska for later this year. Hopefully the info you provide will be useful for me 🙂

    • Hey Kevin,

      I’m sure you’ll infer it from my series but your routing is not possible with AS miles because TPE is not a hub for any of the airlines that are in the AS partnership. The closest you could do is HKG with Cathay Pacific and then HKG-KUL, again with Cathay.

      The only route for YYZ-TPE is with EVA, a Star Alliance member. As an aside, if you have enough Aeroplan points, finding availability on EVA is actually pretty easy and they have an excellent hard and soft product. Cheers

      Jayce

      • Ahh .. I think I typed too quickly > HKG (layover) -> TPE (stopover) -> KUL (destination)

        Would you recommend actually sticking with AP for a trip to SE Asia? The point differences are quite large for economy (90K for AP vs. 60K for AS).

          • Hey Kevin,

            Sorry, I should be clearer. Hard and soft product refers to the quality of the airline and how nice it is to actually fly with them. Hard product is the tangible product that the airline has (age of the aircraft, comfort of the seat, amenity kits, pajamas, etc). The soft product is the stuff that is harder to quantify. You can’t actually touch it but it’s definitely there. Things like whether the flight attendants greet you by name, whether they offer you a snack or a top up of your champagne before you even have to ask, having the captain come back to the cabin and thank you for your patronage. Those are example of soft product and they can make or break the experience.

            If you have a great hard product but the flight attendant treats you like garbage, you are most likely going to hate your flight. On the other hand, if you have an old plane but your flight attendant sees that you love caviar and sneaks you a couple of extra tins so you can share with friends, it can make that flight seem extraordinary.

            Hard and soft products are what help you decide whether to fly First Class in United or Business Class with Cathay … I’ll take Cathay thank you very much.

            Hope that answers your question. Cheers

            Jayce

        • Hi Kevin,

          If you are doing a stopover (longer than 24 hours) as opposed to a layover (less than 24 hours), you will have to book through Aeroplan if you want it all on one ticket. Aeroplan allows for 2 stops and a destination, whereas Alaska only allows for one stop and one destination and the stop has to be in the hub of the airlines, in your case, Hong Kong.

          If you were to do Alaska for the redemption, you would have to go from YYZ-HKG (stop) and HKG-TPE (stop)and TPE-KUL (stop), so essentially it would be 3 one way tickets which would be much too expensive to do.

          Hope that clears it up for you Kevin. Let me know if you have further questions. Cheers

          Jayce

  2. Hi Jayce,

    Besides churning the Alaskan Airline credit card, have you found other meaningful ways to accumulate Alaska miles?

    Keep up the great work on the blog!

    • Hi Adeel,

      You used to be able to have multiple Alaska World Elite Mastercards so you could literally apply for and get approved for 4 cards in a month which would get you 100,000 AS miles. Unfortunately that window has closed so you can only have one card at a time so outside of churning it, I put most of my spend on the card because I value AS miles. I’ll have a few posts in the future about how to quickly gain points with things like mortgage/rent payments, gift card purchases, etc. Cheers

      Jayce

  3. Using Alaska miles for Qantas award, SYD to BNS stop over 3 days then on to CNS. I cannot find this award in multi city, do I look for individual city then call Alaska Air to book it?
    Thanks, Paul

    • Hi Paul,

      Yes, you would need to find the legs and call Alaska directly. I believe what you are trying to do, SYD-BNE(stop)-CNS should be allowed on a one-way redemption because BNE is one of Qantas’ hubs but you would have to verify with Alaska to see if it is allowed. Cheers

      Jayce

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