As I detailed in this post, my favorite way to save money on travel is with frequent flyer miles and hotel points. In fact, I think it is the way to save money on travel. A miles currency that is often overlooked is Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Being a Portland based flyer I tend to fly this airline most often and I have earned a few miles over the years. I like Mileage Plan miles a lot. I think they offer great value and a lot of flexibility so you can do a lot of traveling at very little cost.
In this post I am going to discuss Alaska’s partner airlines and Mileage Plan award booking rules. This is just the first post in what will be a fairly extensive series of posts discussing Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. The series is intended to be an extensive look at the Mileage Plan. I am going to write this series from the perspective of a Portland based flyer and how us PDXers can get the most bang for our buck out of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. However, the general principles I discuss in this series will be true for anyone redeeming Mileage Plan miles.
Alaska is partners with 12 different international airlines. A partner airline is an airline where you can use your Mileage Plan miles to redeem flights on those airlines. You can also earn Mileage Plan miles when you fly on those airlines by having your miles flown credited to your Mileage Plan account. These are Alaska’s partner airlines:
A partner airline does not mean you can transfer your Mileage Plan miles from your Mileage Plan account into your frequent flyer account of the partner airline or vice versa. Instead, you use your Mileage Plan miles with Alaska to redeem and book flights on those airlines.
Let me give you an example of how this works and also the potential savings you are looking at. If you wanted to fly round trip from Portland to Tokyo, May 5th to the 19th, a cash ticket will cost just under $1,300.
If you use your Mileage Plan miles that same trip will cost you 60,000 miles and $75.
This is why I love collecting miles. Now, you may be thinking that 60,000 miles is a lot of miles but in my next post we will discuss how you can earn well over 100,000 miles over a 12 month period.
Award Routing Rules
In addition to the variety of partners the other reason I like Alaska Mileage Plan miles is that the award routing rules are pretty flexible. You are allowed a stop over on each one way, you can book open jaws, and Alaska will provide you with connecting flights to your gateway city.
A stopover is any stop that is over 24 hours. If you take advantage of stopping over in an international hub and then continuing on to your final destination, you can visit two cities for the cost of one award. For example, lets say in the above example you want to go to Tokyo and Bangkok. Tokyo is a hub for Delta. You can fly Portland to Tokyo, stay in Tokyo for a week and then continue on to Bangkok for the same 60,000 miles. That is two trips for the price of one!
An open jaw is a term used to describe a roundtrip flight where you arrive at one city and depart from another. Such as Portland to Milan then Rome back to Portland. Open jaws are helpful because you do not have double back to your arrival city, thus allowing you to maximize your time. Alaska books their round trip flights as two one ways. This means you can book a stop over on each direction and fly open jaw. That provides you with a lot of flexibility.
One drawback to Mileage Plan, is that you cannot mix and match partners on a one way. Meaning, I cannot fly Portland to Tokyo on Delta and then Cathay Pacific to Bangkok on a single award ticket. That being said you can mix partner airlines on round trip flights because awards are booked as two one ways. For example, I could fly Delta to Shanghai with a stopover in Tokyo as my outbound one way. Then on my return one way I could fly American from Shanghai back to Portland.*
Lastly, Alaska will provide you with a connecting flight to your gateway city for no additional miles. The connecting flight must either be on Alaska or on the partner airline.
As you will see over the course of this series Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan provides you with a lot of flexibility. I value that flexibility a lot which is why I think Mileage Plan miles are one of the best mile currencies out there. In my next post I will discuss how you can earn 175,000 – 200,000 miles in 12 months with very little work. In future posts I will discuss how to redeem miles, where your miles can take you, and my favorite award tickets. I’m confident by the end of this series you will have the knowledge to maximize your Mileage Plan miles to take you any where in the world. In the mean time if you have questions feel free to leave a comment or email me.
*Some of you who are familiar with these rules may be thinking “hey, won’t Alaska charge you the full roundtrip price for that one way on Delta?” Generally speaking you are correct, I am only using this as an example of routing, regardless of cost. That being said I discovered a work around to price out a one way on Delta for half the cost of a round trip that I will discuss in a future post.by