What are the best sweet spots for Alaska Mileage Plan miles now?

Cashing out your Mileage Plan account after Alaska's latest no-notice devaluation? Here's the best sweet spots from Singapore.

Earlier this week, Alaska Mileage Plan carried out what in bird culture is considered a “dick move”, by devaluing Japan Airlines awards without notice. 

You could certainly argue that the writing was on the wall back in December, when Alaska published its unified award charts– or rather, didn’t. While there was a published award chart for travel between USA/Canada and the rest of the world (albeit with “starting from” prices), there was no award chart for point-to-point travel outside USA/Canada.

This meant all pricing would effectively become “whatever we say it is”, with no guarantee as to the future value of your miles. Make no mistake: this wasn’t the first time Alaska has devalued without notice, and it won’t be the last. 

👎 Summary: Mileage Plan JAL Award Devaluation
 PreviousCurrentIncrease
Singapore to Japan
(Economy)
15K25K⮝10K
(+67%)
Singapore to Japan
(Business)
25K50K⮝25K
(+100%)
Singapore to USA
(Economy)
35K57.5K⮝22.5K
(+64%)
Singapore to USA
(Business)
65K100K⮝35K
(+54%)

So what should you do if you still have Alaska Mileage Plan miles? Burn them ASAP, is what I’d advise. Alaska has shown they have no qualms about pulling stunts like this, which makes it extremely unwise to hold on to them. 

And if you still choose to buy Alaska Mileage Plan miles during one of their many sales, you should be redeeming them straight away. Not tomorrow, not after breakfast, now!

Here’s some ideas (from the perspective of someone in Singapore). 

JAL hack: Fly Singapore to Tokyo for 30,000 miles

Book a pseudo Singapore to Tokyo award for 30,000 miles in Business Class

One quirk about Alaska’s repricing of JAL awards is that not all intra-Asia routes were affected equally. While Singapore to Tokyo in Business Class doubled from 25,000 miles to 50,000 miles, other routes like Taipei/Manila to Tokyo had much milder increases of “just” 5,000-10,000 miles. 

There’s a way to make this work to your advantage. 

First, navigate to the book a flight page and select the multi-city option. Put Singapore and Tokyo (use TYO so it searches both HND/NRT) as the first pairing, and Tokyo and Jakarta (or Manila) as the second pairing. Make sure both flights are on the same date (you can’t build a stopover into a one-way JAL award, ever since October 2019). 

If you’re lucky with award space, something like this may appear.

Look at the first option (JL38/JL729), SIN-HND/NRT-CGK. 

This costs 30,000 miles + US$79 in taxes, and involves an airport change in Tokyo. If a passenger were so inclined, they could terminate their journey here, effectively flying from Singapore to Tokyo for only 5,000 more miles than before. And since Haneda and Narita don’t send luggage to one another, passengers will be able to collect their bags on arrival at Haneda.

Alternatively, if they have no bags to check, then the second option (JL712/729), SIN-NRT-CGK, would also work- simply skip the next flight.

A word of warning: this “throwaway ticketing” is frowned upon by airlines, to put it mildly. Do it too often, and your account could be shut down, with remaining miles confiscated. The only people who should consider doing this are those who wish to empty out their Alaska Mileage Plan account and walk away from the programme.

Fly Cathay Pacific within Asia for 22,500 miles

Fly Cathay Pacific Business Class within Asia from 22,500 miles

If you’re travelling within Asia and don’t mind a one-stop flight, then Cathay Pacific Business Class awards still cost a reasonable 22,500 miles + US$86 via Alaska Mileage Plan (or Economy Class for 12,500 miles).

Award space is plentiful, and I can find connection times in Hong Kong as short as one hour, which won’t add too much inconvenience to your trip.

Fly Cathay Pacific to the USA for 50,000 miles

Cathay Pacific awards between Asia and the USA remain at 50,000 miles + US$77 in Business Class, so assuming you can find award space, you could book a good value SIN-HKG-SFO/LAX itinerary. 

The problem is that award space is close to non-existent. I couldn’t find anything out of Singapore, but here’s an example starting from Jakarta (thanks to MileLion reader Eric for hunting it down).

It might be easier to find award space starting from Hong Kong. 

Fly Korean Air to the USA for 120,000 miles (RT)

Fly Korean Air to the USA for 120,000 miles

Korean Air only allows the booking of round-trip awards via Alaska Mileage Plan, but if you can find the space, then 120,000 miles + US$84 for a return Business Class ticket isn’t terrible.

Be advised, however, that flights from Singapore are on the B777-300ERs- while I’m quite sure they use the newer APEX suites (shown in the photo above), there’s a remote chance an equipment swap might land you with the older Business Class seats which are far from ideal. 

Fly Finnair to Europe for 60,000 miles

Fly Finnair Business Class to Europe from 60,000 miles

Finnair awards between Singapore and Helsinki (or Europe for that matter) cost 60,000 miles + US$59 in taxes, which looks like very good value to me. 

This would be an opportunity to try Finnair’s new non-reclining Business Class seat, which per the reviews is a lot more comfortable than it sounds. 

Conclusion

Despite the JAL nerf, Alaska Mileage Plan still offers some good value sweet spots. Here’s the thing though- there’s no guarantee how long they’ll stick around.

There can simply be no trust in a programme that makes unannounced devaluations, so I certainly wouldn’t buy miles in anticipation of redeeming these.

Buyer beware.

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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CSS

I have 28k left with Alaska… guess i can top up a bit to hit the JL 30k or use 22.5k on Cathay and burn the rest.

Matthew

Also, option to redeem first class on Cathay HKG to TYO for 27.5k

CChan

Cathay PE from Sin to Japan is not bad too. Just did that last week. Only 15K one way.

John3288

Just book SIN/HKG/NRT on CP biz for 22.5k miles.

DrRespect

That one way Finn air flight would be around 1.6-1.7k if you were to buy miles in their sale. That’s not good value at all.

jkk

the jl 30k only works one way, you still need to pay 50k to return

jkk

i doubt booking the reverse of the 30k method works if you do not check-in and board the cgk-tokyo leg.

Mark

It doesn’t, but you can book the return leg on CX, or other metal via other FFPs.

MileCat

You publish all these hacks of course the airlines will shut them down

Ben

It’s not a hack. Everybody is writing about it… there’s another website publishing them as well

https://mainlymiles.com/

No hidden secret. So don’t blame him

QFFlyer

In fact, AS themselves publish it – it’s not even meant to be a secret!

Christian

Love the Shawshank Redemption quote.

Raymond

Not tomorrow, not after breakfast, now!

QFFlyer

I’ve always thought that CX HKG-Australia for 30k in J is insanely generous, and given this latest move I can’t see it lasting forever, so I topped my balance up to (annoyingly just over) 30k and booked exactly that.

There were two dates available, CX has definitely tightened up on award space, everything else was SQ (almost every day) at I think 68k points (still reasonable value, compared to SQ/VA/QF/BA/QR).

They’re near impossible to earn, other than by purchasing, in Australia anyway (QF flights, of course, but I credit them to QFF).

QFFlyer

Actually, with US carriers all heading down the same path, I burned my remaining 60k AA miles late last year too…used to be such a good program (Europe-Pacific for 80k in F!), and arguably still is, for now.

Still, MEL-SYD-BNE-APW & NAN-MEL-SYD all J, all A330/A350 on QF/FJ (except MEL-SYD, which was B737) for 60k was an excellent use of points (I flew APW-NAN on a separate QF redemption on FJ).

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