Is It Time to Abandon Alaska Mileage Plan?

Alaska Mileage Plan has long been one of my favorite frequent flyer programs. There is a lot to like, starting with the variety of international airline partners. But the most important factors supporting my opinion are:

  1. The ability to have a free stopover on one-way awards. This opens up a number of travel hacking opportunities, especially if you live near a major hub airport 😉
  2. The relatively low cost of First and Business Class awards to/from Asia on Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines in particular

But in the time since Alaska joined the Oneworld alliance, we have seen Alaska implement changes that are very worrying. The latest almost-no-notice changes involve awards on Alaska and American.

Alaska First Class Devaluation

Alaska Mileage Plan has increased the upper limit of First Class award flights.

This might not seem hugely relevant, especially if these higher prices only co-incide with expensive, peak date travel. But should a one-way flight in domestic First Class between Seattle and Chicago cost the same number of miles as a one-way flight in First Class between New York and Hong Kong or Tokyo???

American Airlines Dynamic Pricing

Perhaps we shouldn’t fault Alaska Mileage Plan for something that might be driven by American Airlines, but the idea of dynamic award pricing is rarely beneficial for consumers, especially for members of a PARTNER’s frequent flyer program.

Even if this opens up additional AA award space for Alaska Mileage Plan members, does anybody truly believe that American Airlines will allow a partner airline to charge fewer miles than AAdvantage charges to its own members?

New Partners Award Pricing is Atrocious

Alaska Mileage Plan has been slowly adding various Oneworld partners to its award options. We have written about a couple of the major additions, such as:

Other airlines have also been added recently, such as Royal Air Maroc and Royal Jordanian.

With no exceptions that I am aware of, the award charts published for these airlines are SUBSTANTIALLY worse than alternative booking options such as American Airlines AAdvantage or the operating airline’s own frequent flyer program.

Bottom line

Alaska Mileage Plan used to have nice little customer-friendly business model. Earn miles from travel and day-to-day activities – or even buy them – and redeem them on aspirational long-haul partner airlines. With the added bonus of a free stopover to allow you to visit more than one city on your Asian or European holiday…

It was easy to place a high value on your Alaska miles when you didn’t need too many to fly to Asia in First Class. But how long until that sweetspot disappears?  And with it a substantial percentage of the value of your Alaska miles?

Luckily I’ve already reduced my 6-figure balance of Alaska miles down to zero, as I think the good times are ending sooner rather than later…

What do you think about Alaska Mileage Plan? Let us know in the comments section…

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