Well, we knew it was coming.
When Alaska Airlines introduced its unified award chart at the end of 2022, Mileage Plan members breathed a sigh of relief, because the much-feared devaluation did not come to pass. Sweet spots for intra-Asia awards on Japan Airlines, and Asia to North America awards on Cathay Pacific remained unmolested.
There was a caveat, however: Alaska didn’t actually publish an award chart for point-to-point travel outside the USA and Canada, and even their published award chart for travel between the USA/Canada and the rest of the world displayed “starting from” prices. This meant the actual prices would be dictated by an unseen algorithm, reducing transparency and opening the door to unannounced devaluations.
While this certainly concerned me, I resolved not to worry about things we couldn’t change, and to make hay until the sun stopped shining.
The sun has now stopped shining.
Alaska Mileage Plan makes no-notice devaluation
Alaska Mileage Plan has just hiked the cost of many JAL awards without any notice.
For example, a one-way JAL Business Class award between Singapore and Japan used to cost 25,000 miles. It now costs 50,000 miles.
Likewise, a one-way JAL Economy Class award between Singapore and Japan used to cost 15,000 miles. It now costs 25,000 miles.
However, it doesn’t mean all intra-Asia routes have increased equally. MileLion reader Eric spotted that one-way JAL Business Class awards between Manila and Tokyo have “only” increased by 10,000 miles.
Elsewhere, a one-way Business Class award between Asia and the USA on JAL used to cost 65,000 miles. It’s now increased to 100,000 miles.
If it’s any consolation, intra-Asia Business Class awards on Cathay Pacific remain at 22,500 miles. This could be the new sweet spot, if you don’t mind a layover in Hong Kong.
Cathay Pacific Business Class awards between Asia and the USA remain at 50,000 miles each way, so I assume that First Class should remain at 70,000 miles as well (it’s very hard to find space to verify- big shout out to Eric for hunting down the following screenshots).
If you’re holding on to an existing award, you’re safe (though you can’t make any changes to it without triggering the new pricing). However, if you’re making a new booking, you will be subject to the new prices. Yes, no notice devaluations suck.
But history has shown that Alaska is not above such shenanigans. While they previously pledged to provide “at least 3 month’s notice of changes, their record doesn’t match the rhetoric. And who can forget the time in 2016 they nerfed Emirates awards without any notice, blaming “travel hackers” in the process?
Since the vast majority of Singapore-based members will be buying Alaska Mileage Plan miles instead of earning them from flying, this devaluation has a direct impact on their cost of travel.
With a 50% bonus, Alaska Mileage Plan miles cost 1.97 US cents each, and a one-way Business Class ticket from Singapore to Tokyo cost US$493. With the changes, you’re now paying US$985.
Alaska Mileage Plan has carried out an unannounced devaluation of partner awards, with intra-Asia Business Class awards on Japan Airlines particularly hard hit. These go from 25,000 miles to 50,000 miles overnight, doubling the cost for anyone who buys miles to redeem them.
This was always a real danger ever since Alaska replaced its award charts with dynamic pricing, and while I had hoped for the best, this can’t come as a big surprise to anyone.
The last time Alaska pulled a no-notice devaluation, they promised to refund all mileage purchases made around that period. Who wants to bet they do something similar this time?