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
|Singapore to Japan
|Singapore to Japan
|Singapore to USA
|Singapore to USA
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
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
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)
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
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.
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.