I’ve received several requests to write about Alaska Airline’s MileagePlan in light of several great mile selling promos they’ve had. To be frank, I knew very little about MileagePlan despite having seen it frequently feature on Boardingarea and FT, assuming that it would have little relevance to someone based in Singapore.
But I spent some time reading up about the program and I’m glad I did, because I believe it offers a good alternative to Lifemiles for booking cheap first and business class tickets.
First, the cost- till 31 March 2016, Alaska MileagePlan is offering a 40% bonus on the purchase of miles. This bonus is tiered as follows
- Buy 10,000-19,000 miles, get a 20% bonus
- Buy 20,000-39,000 miles, get a 30% bonus
- Buy 40,000-60,000 miles, get a 40% bonus
The maximum number of miles you can buy in a single transaction is 60,000 (before bonuses), but you can make as many transactions as you like in a year (unlike Lifemiles, which limits you to buying 150,000 miles (including bonus miles) per annum).
So if I buy 60,000 miles, I get a 24,000 miles bonus for a total cost of US$1,773.75 for 84,000 miles, or 2.1 cents per mile. This is not the biggest promotion they’ve ever offered (I’ve read about targeted promotions of 50%, making the cost per mile 1.97 cents) but it’s still good value.
Your account must have been open for 14 days before you buy miles, so unfortunately I can’t take advantage of the promotion this time, but here’s why you might want to open an account and wait for the next sale. Let’s analyse a few possibilities that MileagePlan opens up…
Cathay Pacific First/Business Class Tickets
This is the partner chart that Alaska has for Cathay Pacific award tickets. There are some really sweet deals here
Suppose you want to head from Singapore to San Francisco/ New York. Here’s how this will price out under Lifemiles and MileagePlan (all prices in USD)
|One-way||Lifemiles* (Various)||MileagePlan (Cathay)|
|Business||78,000*1.375=1,073||50,000 * 2.11=1,055|
*The cost of your Lifemiles varies depending on when you bought them because different promos exist. I’m pricing mine at 1.375 cents per mile, based on a purchase I made on 28th November 2015.
As you can see, MileagePlan offers comparable value to Lifemiles for these routes. What’s more, MileagePlan doesn’t charge fuel surcharges either, just like Lifemiles.
In my opinion, Cathay’s business class is nowhere as nice as SQ’s. But it’s still a real solid full flat seat. I’d say it’s on par with Eva, another airline that I really like.
Or maybe you just want the experience of using Cathay Pacific’s new First Class lounge in Hong Kong.
Here’s how a Singapore to Hong Kong ticket will price out on Lifemiles vs MileagePlan (all in USD)
|One-way||Lifemiles* (Various)||MileagePlan (Cathay)|
The price of first class is 15% cheaper than Lifemiles. This creates an opportunity for you to try Suites and TPR on SIN-HKG (on SQ) and the Pier on HKG-SIN (on CX). Not a bad trip if you’ve got the miles!
Again, I don’t think Cathay’s first class seat is as good as SQ’s, but it’s still a chance to try a new, extremely good product
Cathay Pacific tickets are the exception to the rule in that they can’t be booked online, you need to call up the award centre to see if they’re available. You can, however, check Cathay award space via British Airway’s Avios FFP (create a dummy account and do a search, it’s fairly intuitive).
Emirates First Class
EDIT (1/4/16): Alaska has raised the cost of miles required to purchase a one-way first class ticket on Emirates by 80%, without notice. Safe to say that this deal is 80% less attractive now.
I have never been naked at 30,000ft. This is an unacceptable state of affairs that must change immediately
My best chance of ever getting to shower in mid-air comes from getting an Emirates A380 first class ticket. Mileageplan has some answers here
When I do a search, I can find the following possibilities for Singapore to JFK
|One-way||Lifemiles* (Various)||MileagePlan (Emirates)|
*Note: don’t bother with Emirates Business class. I know people think of Emirates as luxurious and fancy, but if you’re not on their A380s you don’t even get full flat business.
Which is ridiculous for this day and age. And although Emirates is replacing their angled flat business seats shortly, they’re replacing them with 2-3-2 configured full flat seats. 2-3-2 is unacceptable in international business class in this day and age.
It’s clearly more expensive to pick MileagePlan in this case, but remember that you’re paying a premium to experience the Emirates A380 first class product (and their epic ground experience in Dubai- the lounge there is simply massive).
In light of Emirate’s higher mileage requirements and inferior business class product, it is a better idea to route by Cathay if you are looking to head to the USA from Singapore.
Other Reasons to like MileagePlan
- MileagePlan allows for stopovers on one-way awards, unlike Lifemiles, which doesn’t allow stopovers at all.
- You can cancel MileagePlan awards online, unlike Lifemiles which requires you to make a very frustrating phone call to their call centre (budget 40 mins for the whole process)
- There is no limit to the number of miles you can buy each year with MileagePlan
But do note
- MileagePlan was still created with residents of the USA in mind- therefore there are some routings that are not easy to do from Singapore (eg SIN-LHR is not possible, but HKG-LHR is possible. You’ll have to position yourself in HKG first)
- The cancellation policy of MileagePlan awards is stricter than Lifemiles. Lifemiles charges you a $50 fee to cancel, regardless of how far in advance. MileagePlan has no fees for cancelling up to 60 days before departure, after which it costs $125 per person
- Your account needs to be open for at least 14 days before you can buy miles. This means, like Lifemiles, you should open an account today just so you have the option in the future
I think the biggest value that MileagePlan has for Singapore based residents is the prospect of buying discounted First/Business class tickets on Cathay to North America, or for those who have showering in the air on their bucketlist.
I’ve already opened a MileagePlan account, and if the sale happens again I’m definitely jumping on it.
cover photo by insapphowetrust