Alaska Airlines has announced a huge shakeup of its Mileage Plan loyalty programme that takes effect from March 2024, and while there are some things to cheer, these changes will ultimately eliminate a large number of sweet spots.
In short, Mileage Plan will be simplifying its pricing. While the current programme features prices that can vary wildly depending on partner and region of travel, the new programme will feature harmonised pricing across three distance-based award charts.
Mileage Plan will also open up global award redemptions, add multi-airline awards, run partner award sales, and introduce new types of redemptions.
There’s a lot to dig into, so let’s get started.
Alaska Mileage Plan new award charts
Alaska Mileage Plan’s award pricing is currently all over the place, with the price you pay dependent on partner and route. For example, a Business Class award flight from Singapore to Japan would cost 50,000 miles on Japan Airlines, 60,000 miles on STARLUX, and 90,000 miles on Malaysia Airlines.
From March 2024, Alaska Mileage Plan will harmonise pricing according to three distance-based award charts:
- The Americas (covers travel from the USA to the Americas, and within the Americas)
- Europe, Middle East, Africa (includes travel from the USA to EMEA and within EMEA)
- Asia Pacific (includes travel from the USA to Asia Pacific, within Asia Pacific, and between Asia Pacific and EMEA)
Alaska claims that with these new award charts, 60% of partner nonstop routes in economy class and 64% of routes in business class will start at a lower price point. All bookings made before March 2024 will follow the existing pricing, regardless of when the actual travel dates fall.
To put things into perspective, here’s how some of the key sweet spots for Singapore-based readers will change from March 2024.
|Current||From March 2024|
|STARLUX: Taipei to North Asia (Business)||15,000 miles||15,000 miles|
|Japan Airlines: Singapore to Japan (Business)||50,000 miles||60,000 miles|
|Cathay Pacific: Singapore to Japan (Business)||22,500 miles||50,000 miles|
|Cathay Pacific: Singapore to USA (Business)||50,000 miles||85,000-130,000 miles|
|Cathay Pacific: Singapore to USA (First)||70,000 miles||130,000-195,000 miles|
|Korean Air: Singapore to USA (Business RT)||120,000 miles||170,000-260,000 miles|
|Finnair: Singapore to Europe (Business)||60,000 miles||75,000 miles|
|All award pricing is one-way unless otherwise stated|
As you can see, with the exception of STARLUX Business Class awards between Taipei and North Asia (which remain excellent value at 15,000 miles), everything else is going up in price.
Some of the changes look brutal, like what’s happening to Cathay Pacific awards where prices are more than doubling in some cases. But then again, it’s also true that some of these sweet spots are more theoretical than anything else, since award space on Cathay Pacific has been virtually non-existent for months. What’s the use of a sweet spot you can’t actually redeem?
For what it’s worth, even though prices are quoted as “starting at”, these are the actual prices you’ll pay if there is saver level award availability. Moreover, all partners, whether oneworld or otherwise, will have the same pricing assuming saver award availability.
Alaska will also open up global partner redemptions, versus the current system where Mileage Plan awards can only be issued for travel within and between select regions.
Multi-airline awards will be added
Alaska Mileage Plan currently does not permit the mixing of partners on a single one-way award ticket.
This will change from March 2024, when members can book up to two partners on a single one-way ticket. For example, you could book a single SIN-HND-JFK award, with SIN-HND on Japan Airlines and HND-JFK on American Airlines.
Partner award sales
In 2024, Alaska Mileage Plan will run limited-time promotions and discounted pricing for specific routes, partners and/or destinations.
No details have been released yet, other than the pricing could be “up to 50% off”.
New redemption options
Alaska Mileage Plan members will soon be able to book additional types of rewards, such as Premium Economy redemptions on American Airlines and Japan Airlines, as well as non-saver award options on more partners.
I’m relatively indifferent about these though, since I generally redeem miles for either Economy or Business Class- Premium Economy is neither here nor there in comfort and pricing. Moreover, the non-saver awards may have better availability, but this will surely come at an elevated price. And with most Singapore-based readers paying out of pocket for Alaska Mileage Plan miles, every additional mile represents pure incremental cost.
No changes to stopovers
Alaska Mileage Plan will maintain its current stopover policy, which allows a free stopover of up to 14 days on a one-way award.
While this is considerably less useful to us in Singapore now that the JAL trick has been nerfed, it’s still a nice feature to have for those who want to explore two cities on one vacation.
From March 2024, Alaska Mileage Plan will dramatically simplify its pricing for awards. While this is good for the average user, those who took the time to study the award charts and hunt for pockets of value will find those sweet spots gone. Moreover, pricing is quoted as “starting from”, which gives the programme scope to carry out unannounced devaluations- something Alaska has an unfortunate track record of doing.
My sense is that Singapore-based readers who have been buying most of their Alaska miles will find far fewer use cases going forward, outside of the limited-time award sales (though how generous these are remains to be seen).
If you’re sitting on a pile of miles, be sure to compare the current award pricing to the upcoming distance-based rates and decide if it makes sense to lock in travel now ahead of the March 2024 changes.
What do you make of the Alaska Mileage Plan changes?