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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!