Best Use of Alaska Miles

Alaska Miles are not only super easy to earn, they are also some of the most valuable miles around. Some of the cheapest international flights (like 20k to Europe) and some of most luxurious flights (Emirates First Class with showers) can all be had with Alaska miles. From economy to First class the redemptions are the cheapest, and it’s one of the few airlines left allowing stopovers on oneways.

Seriously my love for Alaska is ever growing. On our latest AA business class mistake fare to Beijing, I chose to credit all my miles to Alaska instead of crediting to AA. There are huge benefits to Alaska for someone like myself.

If this post doesn’t teach you at least two things awesome and new, then you’ll get your money back. Guaranteed.


Earning Alaska Miles is Easy

This is a post on “best uses” of Alaska Miles, it’s not about earning them, but there are two things I’ll briefly mention.


Alaska Airlines Credit Card

This credit card periodically comes around with a 50,000 miles bonus. And when it comes back, I do plan on getting a few. The Alaska card is with Bank of America and is going to fall under the same overly generous rules that Frequent Miler experienced with the Virgin card. See this post for more details.

Next time the bonus is back we should go for 200,000 miles. Enough for 5 roundtrips to Europe (with the off-peak trick) each.


MVP Gold 75k is awesome

Alaska has one of the best top tier status bonuses of all the mileage programs. You earn 125% bonus miles on all flights. Huge. Plus, if you requalify the hard way for top tier status, you get a bonus 50,000 miles. 125% bonus + 50,000 mile bonus is awesome. We got our status from status matching but the 125% bonus was huge on the last AA flight I mentioned. We earned over 36,000 AA miles on a roundtrip to Beijing because of the class of service bonus and the 125% elite status bonus.


Alaska’s Only Complete Award Chart

I normally don’t put in the entire award chart, especially when it’s this long. However, as far as I know, the award chart I made recently is the only award chart in one place. This will be used a ton for this post.

Note that British Airways is the only one that gets fuel surcharges passed on. Therefore, pretty much any price you see is a good use except for BA flights.

Alaska is unique, because it hasn’t joined an alliance. Instead it kind of just picks partners that make sense and matches some of what they do. For example they completely match AA’s off-peak award chart.


AA’s Off-Peak

For us economy flyers there are few better deals than AA’s off-peak. But I can think of at least one better deal: AA’s off-peak when using Alaska Miles.

Europe for 20,000 miles:

  • Oct 15 – May 15

Asia Zone 1 for 25,000 miles:

  • Oct 1 – April 30

South America Zone 2 for 20,000 miles:

  • Mar 1 – May 30
  • Aug 16 – Nov 30

South America Zone 1 for 15,000 miles:

  • Jan. 16 – Jun. 14
  • Sep. 7 – Nov. 14


One big distinction is that they don’t match all of AA’s off-peak prices, just the ones seen above. This is different than my recent post on the Lesser Known AA Off-Peak Routes.

Still, these prices are awesome.


However, I need to take a minute and explain 2 things about Alaska. Stopovers and using 1 partner at a time. Then I can explain a trick and the disadvantages.


Alaska doesn’t book on multiple partners

First the bad news.

Since Alaska isn’t part of an alliance, and since they just kind of price out depending on which partner you’re flying… they don’t do bookings on multiple partners. This is the biggest disadvantage to practically using their miles. It’s the only thing that’s a slight drawback from the sweet spots of AA’s off-peak or other great partner prices I’ll talk about.

See, with AA’s OneWorld award chart, I can book an off-peak price to Europe on airlines like Air Berlin, Iberia, Niki, or Finnair and still get the 20,000 mile price.

But when using Alaska miles I have to fly AA to get the off-peak price, and AA doesn’t fly very far east. They fly to Milan, Dusseldorf, etc… But they don’t fly to places like Budapest, Prague, etc… You don’t have a full reach of Europe.

And routing with KLM or Air France has its disadvantages besides higher mileage prices. Like a direct flight on AA will have very small airport taxes, like $20. But adding in Paris could get closer to triple digits.

However, they will allow you to connect with Alaska Airlines. So you could fly LA to Seattle on Alaska and then Seattle to Paris on AA and that will still be on the AA price.

But the big disadvantage is when you live on the east coast. There aren’t really any Alaska flights to a hub. And let’s say you live nowhere near an airport that Cathay serves but want to fly to Hong Kong. Well, you’d have to fly on Alaska to connect to a hub or not be able to book the ticket.


Stopovers are allowed on oneways

The good news that outweighs the bad 9 times out of 10 is that they allow stopovers on oneways. This is usable in so many ways and is useful for finding more award availability.

It’s basically two stopovers on a roundtrip. Stopover in Fiji on the way to New Zealand. Then stopover in Sydney on the way back. There are so many incredible uses of stopovers with Alaska miles that it’s hard to start listing them. … Actually, I remember where I was going with this.


Know that stopovers usually have to be in hubs, or at least focus cities that you would connect in. When flying Qantas you could stopover in Sydney. When flying LAN you could likely stopover in Lima, Santiago or a few other cities you can connect in. For Emirates you can stopover in Dubai, and for Fiji Airways, you can stopover in Fiji. … You get the point.


Stopovers are really easy to book.

I just wrote How To Book Stopovers With Miles Online, and this is basically the same thing.

1) Go here.

2) Click “Multi-City” on the left.

It’s that easy. Well, and follow the routing rules, pick regions that are allowed to be booked, and make sure it doesn’t combine partners. But still… that’s pretty easy.


Stopovers on off-peak prices

This will probably look really familiar to those of you who have used stopovers in the past with other airlines.

Basically, when booking stopovers, the computer needs to pick a date of travel to see if it qualifies for off-peak pricing. The way the computer picks the price is completely dependent on when you start your travel.

So if I start my trip to Europe with a stopover in Europe, as long as the first leg of my ticket (which in this case is to New York) begins in the off-peak time, the entire ticket will price out off-peak. Chicago to New York in Winter, and then a 6 month stopover, and then the ticket continues New York to Europe in summer… amazingly the price will still price out as the off-peak winter price of 20,000 miles.

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 8.46.34 PM

And it prices out as:

Screen Shot 2015-05-05 at 8.46.18 PM


Cathay Pacific to Asia

What my Cheapest Miles to Asia chart doesn’t fully show is just how cheap Alaska’s prices are when flying Cathay. AA wins in terms of prices to specific places in Asia closest to us, like Japan and South Korea. But when using Alaska Miles, Cathay flights all over Asia are 30,000 miles each way in economy.

For economy/business/first it’s 60k/100k/140k. I think it’s probably one of the most reasonable prices in all classes of travel and yet, it’s one of the nicest airlines and business or first class products around. The discounted price is hardly a punishment, it’s an upgrade all the way around.

Plus, then throw in the fact that you could definitely build in a stopover in Hong Kong, which is one of my favorite big cities.


Emirates First Class to Africa

I’ve never chased the extremely gaudy Emirates First Class or their 5 minute shower 30,000 feet in the air… but I totally believe that flying it is an awesome experience. And given how highly desired it is, I’m surprised how easy it is for me to find award availability. Another cool thing about Alaska being so unique.

Emirates First Class oneway prices are as follows:

  • Middle East and India = 90,000 miles
  • Africa = 100,000 miles
  • Asia = 100,000 miles

Here’s my opinion on Emirates first class. If you’re going to pay 90,000 miles you might as well pay 100,000 miles and go to Africa. For you weirdos who actually want more time on a plane it’s an extra 9 hours and 40 minutes of flying. But from my perspective, that is how you get to South Africa; with a heck of a lot of flying.

And another thing about a lot of places in Africa is that there aren’t nearly as many ways to get there – especially with OneWorld or Alaska Miles. British Airways hits a lot of locations but is the only airline that forcibly makes other airlines pass on fuel surcharges, even when using AA or Alaska Miles (who otherwise don’t pass on fuel surcharges). And otherwise, many of the airlines aren’t good or don’t even have a first class. This is an opportunity to pay a little bit more to avoid misery and be in luxury.

Check out the Emirates route map here.


Fiji or the Pacific – 40k each way

Another great use of Alaska miles is getting across the Pacific. Let me say that getting across the Pacific can be hard. There are a couple Qantas routes to Sydney from the US, and similar with Air New Zealand but with even less award availability. It’s real hard.

But Alaska has some unique partnerships that could help you get across the Pacific. My favorite option is Fiji Airways simply because you could stopover in Fiji. Fiji is an incredible place and worth the stopover and little bit of airport tax. Fiji Airways isn’t a part of another alliance and doesn’t really show up on other mileage websites. In other words, it’s under used in terms of miles and has more award availability. It’s an actually plausible way to get across the Pacific.

And yet again, Qantas business and first class awards using Alaska Miles are some of the cheapest premium prices around with 55,000 miles for biz, and 70,000 miles for First. I hear Qantas is a great airline, and this would allow you to stopover in Sydney on the way back.


Imagine this route. Let’s say we do economy there and business back (although you can do whatever your want). We’ll book it as two separate tickets.

Flight on Fiji Airways for 37,500 miles:

  • US to Fiji (stopover)
  • Fiji to New Zealand

Then another flight on Qantas business class for 55,000 miles:

  • New Zealand to Sydney (stopover)
  • Sydney to the US

A total of 92,500 miles for Fiji, New Zealand, and Sydney, and the second half in Qantas business class.


Conclusion of Best Uses of Alaska miles?

Despite all the possibilities, I find myself loving cheap economy flights with AA off-peak. 20k to Europe and 25k to Asia 1, both are unbeatable.

Yet, there are tons of great uses. In terms of economy flights there are great deals to pretty much every region. Plus stopovers on oneways.

LAN flights to South America with a stopover in Peru, and perhaps a stopover in Santiago on the return. Or you might also be able to stopover in Bogota, Guayaquil, or Buenos Aires (AEP) as well. This gives you a ton of options, and for only 50k to 60k you could see 3 places.

Flights on Cathay Pacific are an incredible deal. But it’s also an incredible deal for people in all classes of service.

Although perhaps people looking to do first class with Alaska miles are looking to do Emirates First Class. And instead of doing 90,000 miles to Dubai, you can stopover in Dubai on the way to Asia (like Bali or Singapore), or Africa (like Cape Town or Mauritius) for 100,000 miles. I’ve said that the routes to Africa are incredibly good deals because going to Africa is expensive and a heck of lot flying. Not only that it has been some of my most painful flying, especially to South Africa. If there’s ever a time I’ve wanted not to be in Economy, it’s when flying to/from Africa.

Regardless of the class, Oceania is another great deal. Book a stopover in Fiji, because Fiji is awesome, and because they have award availability when otherwise it’s really hard to find seats. But I find Alaska miles a great mix. You could fly Qantas via Australia if you can find the availability, and if you can’t the other way you can fly Fiji.


Now tell me, is Alaska not awesome?

Yes, the downside is that you can’t mix airlines, except for connecting on Alaska itself… which isn’t helpful for us in the southeast. But all the benefits far outweigh the cons.

Who else doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges (except for BA), has amazing prices, and allows stopovers? And not only allows stopovers, but allows them on oneways!

The best use of Alaska Miles is almost endless because nearly everything is a competitive price, no fuel surcharges, and there’s always a stopover opportunity.

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  1. Hey Drew
    Great Post. Normally when you sing paeans of a program, chart devaluation follows. Hopefully that’s not the case for Alaskan :).
    I also got in on the AA mistake and am going to Beijing for a few days end of May. Hoping to see a trip report from you soon.
    Does it make sense to post miles to Alaskan for this trip even though i don’t have status with them seeing that it is hard to earn the miles ?

    • Thanks,
      It’s true that redemptions way better than other programs are on countdown. I think their is a law of miles, a kind of quote by Leff that’s something like: anytime a rewards program is way better than all the others, it will change soon. Something along those lines.

      So with the AA fare I’d probably credit to AA, as you’ll earn slightly more miles with AA if you have no status on either. Plus, you’ll earn a heck of a lot of elite qualifying points due to a promotion with them. So that will set you way closer to EXP if later you decide to go for AA status.

    • Do you need to sign up somewhere specifically for the AA promotion ?

    • Googled the answer. Looks like its automatic for 2015.

    • Correct. There’s two promos for you, and they’re both automatic enrollment.

    • I’ve gone back and forth on my Beijing mistake fare, however I am going to apply it to AS as I am in Seattle and pretty much all of my domestic is on AS metal. It’s tough though with AA’s great promotion.

  2. Hi Drew, a couple of months ago I tried to book GRU-SCL-LIM with a stopover in SCL, both segments on LAN. The segments were available, but agent was having trouble pricing it as a single award — she put me on hold for a while and then came back to explain that based on the routing rules, LAN specifically doesn’t allow stopovers on one-ways. I did not end up doing a HUCA and used Avios instead. Not sure if it was just a made-up excuse or if there’s a legitimate exception to Alaska’s normal rules. Do you have experience booking an all-LAN one-way with a stopover?

    • When agents don’t understand something they always give their best guess. I haven’t personally booked a stopover with LAN, but my guess is that it’s because it’s a one region award according to LAN.

      The rules don’t say much else though. Just says international, but on the LAN award chart it’s just “South America”, and often when routing rules say “international” they mean regions.

      Also, I have a lot of trouble with flights that aren’t starting from the US. No idea if that’s related.

  3. Another phenomenal post, thank you! You really have outdone yourself, this is fantastic content and very extensive overview of this reward program. Thank you! Keep on churning those BofA cards. :)



    • Thanks PedroNY.
      Apparently some of my advice from Stefan was partly from you. So thank you. 😀

  4. Can you fly SFO-HKG, have a stop over in HKG, and then continue onto say somewhere in Japan like NRT/HND/etc. on CX?

    • I don’t think they’ll allow such back tracking. It tends to have similar routing regulations as AA, but sometimes more strict.

    • I guess I was just hoping. Thanks.

    • Oops. Thanks.

  5. Great post as usual! I’m not a newbie so i’m a bit embarassed by my lack of knowledge on using partners. I’ve only used ones that show up on UA and AA sites. Is it a fact that the only way to use miles on a partner is when there is saver space? Is that universal to all airline programs.

    • Yes

    • Correct.

      No worries. Nothing about miles makes sense anyways. I all the time hear new stuff when talking to friends.
      Saver space basically equals award space. And the extra standard space is extra award space added for it’s own members. So if you look at award routes with standard and no saver, it’s the United leg(s).

  6. Nice post.

    Alaska has another advantage, no fee for last minute booking, I think just a $12 booking fee. I had a last-minute family event in Paris, last February and that saved me a bundle.

    • Totally meant to mention that and forgot. But for our lifestyle of constant travel. Close in fees are a huge pain. And what’s the point of charging someone to book with you? Makes no sense.

  7. Thanks for another great post. I’ve been collecting Alaska miles for over a year, but have only seen 25-30k signups from BOA. Any idea how often they come around?

    • I think it comes around once or twice a year. Thought it was just here a few months ago… I don’t know dates though.

    • The last time 50k was offered was 12/10/13. It’s rare and may not happen again, but who knows. Churn the 25k if you can and always apply for the app that offers the $100 credit after spend since you will have to pay the $75 fee off the bat.

  8. First of all, thanks as always for your well-researched and carefully composed posts. Excellent as your loyal readers have come to expect from you…

    Drew, do you know if this Cathay routing would be permitted?


    Of course, they offer HKG to SIN directly, but they also fly this fifth freedom route between BKK and SIN. Would Alaska allow this “not most direct” routing possibility with the stopover in a city (BKK) that isn’t Cathay’s main hub city (HKG)?

    If not, are there any variations of the above that you think would work or do you think they will only allow a stopover in HKG and no other “key/focus” cities that might work?

    I’m open to any ideas if you think the above isn’t feasible.

    • Thank you, Matt.

      Unfortunately Cathay doesn’t show up online, and it has to be called in to try. Therefore I honestly am not sure, as I’ve only ever used the online tool.

      The rules just say something like “stopovers are allowed in certain cities” and is vague. It might have to be a hub, but I’ve had good luck when it’s all on the same airline.

      If BKK doesn’t work with Cathay… I don’t see anything else working beside HKG. But if BKK works, then you could probably do it to CMB as well.

    • update for you – They DO allow BKK to be a stopover city and it prices out correctly without errors. However, you can’t use SIN as a stopover city to reach BKK. E.g. HKG-BKK-SIN (and reverse) are valid but HKG-SIN-BKK (or reverse) are not.

      Basically, the main point established in this recent phone call is that they see BKK as a “key city” like HKG and stopovers are permitted there. Geographically speaking, flying to SIN and then BKK would be a seemingly, slightly nondirect path from HKG as opposed to the more logical HKG-BKK-SIN (north-midpoint-south) routing. HKG-SIN-BKK would be less direct (north-south-midpoint) when plotted on a map. Also, as a side note, there were apparently a couple flights BA shows as available that the Alaska agent didn’t have availability for, although most flights seemed to match up with BA’s CX inventory. I checked many flights on various days. I wonder how common a mismatch is between what BA shows and what Alaska has available on Cathay? Hopefully it is rare and a fluke.

    • ticketed/confirmed as stated above

    • Matt – Thanks a ton for confirming that it’s feasible to use BKK as a stopover city. I’ll give a whirl. I’d like to go SFO-HKG-BKK (stopover)-DEL. I’ll report back if it works. If the blog doesn’t hear from me that means I probably chose a different routing…but doesn’t mean it doesn’t work :)

  9. Another home run, Drew. I’ve been trying to figure out how to get to New Zealand with AAdvantage miles and your example using Alaska miles has put Fiji on my radar. Thanks as always.

    • AA partners with Fiji Airways as well, though you won’t find award availability on Fiji Airways when searching on Need to call or use ExpertFlyer or similar. AA also partners with Air Tahiti Nui, so you can route via Tahiti to get to NZ as well. Though again, you won’t find Air Tahiti Nui availability on AA allows this routing US-NZ for 37.5K but of course no stopover that you would get with AS.

  10. The stopover rules mean that AA’s off-peak is basically available for the entire year. For a summer trip to Europe, this is a phenomenal discount.

  11. My best use of Alaska miles was BCN->JFK->SAN->OGG with a 2 months stopover in SAN (I live in San Diego). I actually ended up not going to Hawaii! But the ticket was awesome. Almost 9k air miles.

  12. Very informative post. I am wondering though I have no status on any airline and am flying in oct international in paid F and Z on Delta. In this case what are the thought about if it would be wise to post the miles to Alaska since I am not going to fly enough to earn status this year? Thanks

    • Sure, better than having Delta miles, I assume. Maybe depends on how much you paid.
      But know that it has to be a Delta marked and operated flight. The bonus on Z isn’t as good as it was, it’s only a 25% bonus on regular miles now. F appears to be 100% bonus.
      See here –

  13. @drew “When agents don;t understand something they give their best guess.”

    Definitely not true of Avianca Lifemiles. They just hang up on you.
    In fact, they hang up repeatedly when they don’t want to deal with your call. I’ve resorted to hiring a neighbors kid to spend a few hours calling and hanging up on them in the middle of a complex revenue booking. It makes me feel better for $7.35 per hour and the tapes of the calls are hilarious because the kid has all sorts of prerecorded famous voices he splices into the conversation.

    In any case, I have flown Emirates A380 first , CX, Qantas, BA, Etihad, Singapore (but not the suites), LH, UA, and I always keep coming back to Cathay. It’s just the best overall experience.

    I’ve decided to take the plunge and buy a revenue first class RTW ticket on One World because I think the number of miles I’d use , factoring in earnings and AA status, would be maybe 60% of the value of the miles, pand you book into F or A ,ease of changes, 4 cities per continent, etc. 3 continents with 4 cities each is $13,500+tax, 4 is $15,500 and 5 is $17,500.
    There’s no mileage limit from my discussion with AA.

    Now, anyone ever figure out how to get your dog on all these flights?

  14. hi Drew,

    Can you elaborate more on your statement “Alaska Miles are not only super easy to earn”? I mean, considering that Alaska credit card sign-up bonus is most the most part only 25k (currently there is 30k targeted offer since i just got one in the mail)–despite being churnable, plus the fact only SPG points (and not Amex MR nor Chase UR) transfer to Alaska’s program, it doesn’t seem ‘super easy’ in comparison to say United/Singapore/BA points. Perhaps i’m missing something?

    Love your website btw, in that its contents are rather unique (e.g. infographics). Definitely among my top 3 that i regularly follow for this hobby. Keep up the FANTASTIC work!

    • You can apply for more than one Alaska card simultaneously.

  15. Hi Drew,
    Do you know if booking award travel on Alaska requires you to start in USA only? I have been looking for an award between DEL-DXB one-way but everytime I search for it, the website errors out. Any ideas on this?
    Thanks a lot for writing these wonderful posts.

  16. Drew,
    I want to go to Europe via Manila with Alaska Miles or United, Am from TEXAS, I use DFW, I have AA miles too, but I want some stopover. Would you throw me in some samples of itenerary to go about this. Thank you

    • You can’t do it with Alaska or AA. But you can with United miles. Basically anything else you want to do. Stopover in MNL on the way to anywhere in Asia, and Oceania. Heck could stopover in Europe on the way to MNL. The world is your oyster.

  17. Drew,
    Any insight on my last question? Do you think I should just call the alaska award line and ask them?

  18. Hi Drew –
    Do you know if it’s possible to book an award on Emirates to Australia? USA-DXB-SYD?

  19. Hi Drew, Could I do SFO —>HND—> TPE? I saw availability of JAL on BA website. Thank you.

  20. Drew,

    After reading your post and seeing that Alaska will accept 20k miles one way to Europe as long as you have a flight booked during that open window between Oct.-May. I was wondering if it work involving the follwoing scenario: I would book a flight from PDX to SEA during the months of Oct.-May and simply miss that particular flight. That way I could still take advantage of flying for 20k miles on AA and be able to leave from Seattle to Europe on a later date in the summer. Is that scenario accetable?

  21. Where is Hawaii on the award chart?

  22. Can you combine Hawaii and Fiji on one award? I am thinking EWR to HNL (stopover) on Alaska and HNL to NAN on Fiji. Ho many miles would it cost one way?

  23. Hi, thanks for the post. So it should be possible to book US-HKG-SIN (with the stopover in HK), all on one award (50K for one way business class award ticket) ?

  24. @Drew- your comment on combining Asia/Africa using EK First class, what about EK Business Class – my starting point is Austin, Texas, would like to stop in Dubai, and then move on to Jo’berg, SA. Is this routing available on Alaska ?

  25. I’m not able to confirm the periodic 50k on the Alaska Card. Yes it has happened but I think it has been a few years. Alaska miles are not as easy to generate granted BoA has been tightening the rules (maybe after the exploits became blogged on several web sites). You apply for 2 cards and the second card will come in with 5k miles. The only workaround is personal and business at the same time. The miles are valuable if there is a route match. Recently I booked Emirates from Orlando to New Delhi using Alaska web site, 2 flight on Emirates (MCO-DXB-DEL), 42.5k points. It seems to be a good value.

  26. Helloooo,

    I am so enjoying your site and I really enjoyed your Skype interview with Chris Gallibeau as I took his online travel hacking course. So thank you for that! I have a question about flying from North America to Africa. A suggestion was to fly using with Emirates using Africa as a stopover with the destination being Dubai for 100,000 miles. What I’m seeing on the chart to date is 150,000 miles to the middle east. Am i missing something or has the mileage changed? Also most of my miles are in star alliance so perhaps there is an option there that you might want to share. Lol! I thought I saw somewhere like doing a stopover in Japan to bring the price down 10,000 miles but I will have to snoop around to find what mileage chart that was on. Anything would be appreciated. Thank you, Marlene

  27. I would like to do a one way SJD-PHX-VCE. Can I originate the trip in Mexico and do a stopover in Phoenix? I am able to get the flights to show on separate itinerary (i.e. SJD-PHX, PHX-VCE, but when I try to combine both flights, I get no availability.


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