Everyone talks about the amazing trips you can take by redeeming frequent flyer miles, but just how much value do they really provide? This article takes a closer look at ten great ways to redeem miles through Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. What, you’ve never flown on Alaska? It doesn’t matter. They have almost a dozen international partners, including American Airlines and Delta Airlines, which makes it easier than you’d expect to earn and redeem miles.
Alaska’s miles are worth 2 cents per mile (CPM) or more on average, which is more than most program’s miles in part because of their inexpensive award chart and flexible rules. But you don’t want average. The aspirational awards presented here provide several times more value. You might not actually be in a position to pay thousands of dollars for a ticket, but these ideas may still provide you with a sense of just how rewarding frequent flyer miles can be.
We looked at real flights at least six months in the future (to avoid the higher prices you might find just a few weeks before departure) and compared them to the number of miles required to book the same itinerary. You can likely originate in a different city within North America without redeeming any more miles, and you can choose to fly a different partner on the return journey.
However, the cardinal rule of booking Mileage Plan awards is that each direction of travel can only include one partner, plus connecting flights on Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air. If you don’t live near a city with flights operated by Alaska, you may need to buy a separate ticket to get you to your international gateway.
Note: All sample itineraries were found using the Matrix search engine, a free service of ITA Software.
1. Add a Stopover to Most One-way Awards
Besides often lower prices for the same award ticket, one of the best values of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is that you can book a complimentary stopover on one-way award tickets. Most competing airlines require round-trip travel or don’t allow them at all. With one-way awards you can actually book two stopovers on a round-trip itinerary, letting you visit three cities for the price of one!
A few flights don’t allow stopovers, such as intra-Asia and intra-Europe itineraries that don’t involve travel to or from North America. However, you can add a stopover to domestic award tickets wholly within the United States. This is a great way, for example, to arrange a stopover in Seattle on your way from New York to Honolulu.
2. Cathay Pacific First Class — New York to Hong Kong
One of Alaska Airlines’ best partnerships is with Cathay Pacific. Service on the ground and in the air is excellent, and award space, although scarce in advance, is very reliable when booked close to departure. Redemption costs are also surprisingly low given recent increases by American AAdvantage and British Airways Executive Club, Cathay’s two main partners in the oneworld alliance.
A sample first class itinerary between New York and Hong Kong is nearly $30,000. Enjoy Krug Champagne, a comfortable lie-flat bed, pajamas designed by PYE, and an exquisite selection of lounges at Cathay’s Hong Kong hub. By redeeming 140,000 miles for a round-trip flight you’ll get a value of 20.8 CPM.
3. Cathay Pacific Business Class — San Francisco to Johannesburg
Although first class is lovely, business class is certainly easier to find on Cathay Pacific. The Cirrus business class seat from Zodiac Aerospace was heavily customized to Cathay’s exacting standards and is now seen as an example to other carriers.
Here’s the best part: you can travel in business class all the way to Johannesburg, South Africa, for a minor premium over flying to Hong Kong. The 125,000 mile trip would normally cost $17,628 — a fantastic return of 14.1 CPM. Don’t forget about your stopover in Hong Kong! This route avoids the hefty surcharges on British Airways and takes about the same time.
4. Cathay Pacific Business Class — Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur
Finally, here’s one last example of redeeming Alaska miles for great values on Cathay Pacific. For example, you might use miles from another program to book an open jaw to Tokyo and returning from Kuala Lumpur. Use a few thousand miles from Alaska Mileage plan to get yourself between cities. Business class is just 22,500 miles one-way and often includes the same lie-flat configuration you’ll find on transpacific flights. First class, if you can find some of the few routes that offer it, is only 27,500 miles.
This itinerary between Tokyo-Haneda and Kuala Lumpur routes via Hong Kong and provides a redemption value of 17.1 CPM. You could arrange to go into the city for a day, but remember that stopovers longer than 24 hours are not permitted on regional flights.
5. Qantas First Class — Los Angeles to Sydney
One of the best first class experiences — if you can find award space — is on Qantas, the primary carrier in Australia. Everything is top-notch from the immaculate first class lounge in Los Angeles to the spacious onboard suite. However, a round-trip flight would normally cost $15,528. You can book it through Alaska for just 140,000 miles, a value of 11.1 CPM.
6. Fiji Airways Business Class — Los Angeles to Auckland
Everyone dreams of visiting the South Pacific at some point, but how to get there? Alaska Airlines is one of the few domestic partners of Fiji Airways, so you can use Mileage Plan to get yourself from San Francisco to Nadi. Even better, use that as a stopover and continue your journey to Auckland for just a few thousand miles more. This 110,000 mile journey provides good value to a remote destination for 3.8 CPM.
7. American Airlines Economy Class — Chicago to Paris
Many people were disappointed when American Airlines placed new restrictions on its off-peak award tickets. What they don’t realize is that Alaska Airlines continues to offer off-peak awards for travel on American Airlines-operated flights without those new conditions. Enjoy lower prices and a longer period of eligible dates when you redeem the same award through Alaska Mileage Plan instead of American AAdvantage.
Off-peak awards from the U.S. to Europe, for example, now cost 45,000 miles round-trip in economy class through American AAdvantage and are only valid for a few months from late January to March and again from November to early December, completely excluding the holiday season. Alaska Mileage plan charges just 40,000 miles and allows you to book anytime from October 15 through May 15. A spring break in Paris like the one above would net you 3.2 CPM as an award redemption.
8. American Airlines Economy Class — Dallas to Buenos Aires
As with travel to Europe, Alaska Airlines continues to offer access to discounted prices even after American Airlines made changes to its own loyalty program. American AAdvantage completely eliminated off-peak awards to “deep” South America, defined as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Venezuela. These can still be booked through Alaska Mileage Plan for 40,000 miles round-trip or 20,000 miles one-way. Eligible dates are from March 1 through May 31 and August 16 through November 30. This award to Buenos Aires is worth 4.7 CPM when booked using miles.
9. Delta Air Lines Business Class — Minneapolis to London
Even though they’re “frenemies,” Delta is probably the best choice for using Alaska Airlines miles to reach Europe for just 125,000 round-trip. Other options often don’t pan out, such as British Airways (high surcharges) and American Airlines (limited award space). But Delta has a very competitive international business class called Delta One, with direct aisle access and custom bedding.
One catch is that you must book a round-trip itinerary. You don’t need to fly Delta in both directions, but you do need to book the entire journey at once even if it means flying a different carrier in the other direction. Alaska prices one-way and round-trip awards on Delta at the same level, so don’t get stuck paying double! This itinerary from Minneapolis to London would offer a decent return of 3.5 CPM.
10. Icelandair Economy Class — Denver to Amsterdam
Have you ever dreamed of visiting Iceland? This small nation isn’t very easy to reach by air since most carriers force you to connect first in Europe. However, Icelandair offers a more direct and less expensive option. Alaska Airlines is one of their few partners, so you can redeem miles instead of paying cash.
Again, take advantage of Alaska’s stopover rules. Connecting itineraries to Europe cost only 5,000 miles more than non-stop flights to Reykjavik. Icelandair will even pair you up with one of their local employees for a free tour of Iceland! Go hiking or visit a hot spring before continuing your trip. The only downsides are seasonal pricing (award travel in economy can cost up to 90,000 miles during peak season) and carrier surcharges of roughly $330 round-trip.
That means this award really isn’t a great value; you’d end up redeeming 55,000 miles to save about $500. However, it’s definitely a unique travel experience, and that’s one of the best reasons to use your miles.