The only thing I personally have seen about Alaska Mileage Plan’s “routing rules” is how many stopovers they allow, and things like that… which, doesn’t really have to do with routing.
Thus, I wanted to do an entire post on just the routing rules for using Alaska Airline miles. While the program might not be as commonly understood as the others, it’s actually pretty simple.
If you’re interested in best uses, please check out my Best Use of Alaska Miles.
Here’s an overview of what we’ll go over:
- 1 Partner Airline + Alaska
- Only routes listed on award chart
- Stopovers are allowed in “hubs”
- It’s all “oneway” – per direction
1 Partner Airline + Alaska
This rule is pretty basic but very restrictive. Then again, I normally only fly on one international airline and one domestic airline. However, Alaska’s domestic connection is quite limited.
Let me explain a little more, and with an example.
For getting to Tahiti I used my Alaska miles to fly from Atlanta to LA via Seattle, all on Alaska flights. Then I connected to Air France to go from LA to Tahiti.
If there were not Alaska flights to get us to LA… I would have been totally out of luck.
Even though Alaska also partners with AA, and AA would have gone direct from Atlanta to LA, it’s not possible to mix and match partners on a single award ticket. Thus, we flew on Alaska via Seattle.
The problem is for those of us on the east coast. If we want to go to Europe, or South America and the partner airline doesn’t fly to our city, we either have to route through Seattle (which is absurd) or book from another airport.
Obviously going through Seattle to Europe or South America is totally inconvenient, and we can conclude the route doesn’t need to make much sense.
However, for the only partner you fly, the route implications are just based on where that airline flies, given that there is no backtracking through the same city.
If you want to fly to Asia on Cathay Pacific you are going to go via Hong Kong and to that destination. On your Chicago to Bali ticket, you can’t just route through Singapore, because Cathay doesn’t have a Singapore to Bali route.
A Chicago to Bali ticket on Cathay will only go through Chicago. Or you could go to Singapore, but you can’t route through a city if it causes you to back track to that city again. In this case you can’t go Chicago – Hong Kong – Singapore – Hong Kong – Bali.
If I’m traveling to Australia on Fiji Airways, I can stop in Fiji and continue on to Sydney. I can’t then connect on a Qantas flight and continue on.
Most routing options are either to a hub or one through that partner airline’s hub. Pretty simple. But hubs, can be oddly powerful too.
Only routes listed on award chart
Now we know that we basically pick one partner, we also need to know that certain routes are and aren’t legal.
Some airlines might limit by the number of miles you fly, and others might limit by the regions you connect in.
Alaska is very specific. Mileage flown isn’t an issue, but it lists the specific routes you can and cannot fly.
What you need to do is look at the award chart pages. There you will see each route listed that you can fly with each partner.
Here’s an example.
Under the South Pacific award chart, you see that you can fly Cathay Pacific from North America to Australia. And then it lists prices to go between Hong Kong and Australia.
Note that it doesn’t list “Asia” to Australia… just “Hong Kong”.
Look at Qantas.
Even though Qantas flies to Asia and many other places, it only lists prices for Intra-Australia, and from North America to Australia (and New Zealand).
No Australia to Asia flights, no Australia to Africa flights… only the flights listed on the award chart.
On one hand, it’s nice that they tell you every route possible. On the other hand, it’s easy to list all the routes because it’s almost all from the US. Very few flights are allowed from one region to another, that isn’t North America. The Hong Kong to Australia option is rare with Alaska miles.
Stopovers are allowed in “hubs”
After testing a number of routes online, the examples of stopovers were almost always in hubs.
Flying out of Australia on Qantas, stopovers in MEL, or SYD are really easy. Even if you have to backtrack through the other one, it doesn’t seem to matter as long as it’s a hub.
I know I said you can’t backtrack… but I was trying to explain that you have to book on one airline, and yada yada.
But when you add a stopover, it seems to be two different tickets that price as one. In the case above, a oneway from Melbourne to Sydney, and then later a oneway from Sydney to LA (that happens to go through Melbourne).
It doesn’t seem to matter when it’s a hub city.
Same for other hubs, like ICN for Korean, or LHR for British Airways (huge fuel surcharges though), are easy stopovers.
But when I found availability for NYC to Milan on Emirates, I couldn’t stopover in Milan on the way to Dubai… it just didn’t allow it even though it was a convenient route, and a “gateway” city. Yet, it would allow a stopover in Dubai on the way to some place crazy, like Singapore.
For stopovers within the US, it doesn’t seem to matter.
From Dallas I could book a stopover in Austin… which is a hub to no one.
I could book a stopover in Denver, or in Atlanta on an AA flight. It doesn’t seem to matter.
It’s all “oneway” – per direction
One of the best parts of Alaska is that it allows everything I’ve mentioned as a oneway.
You can pick one airline on a oneway, and you can have one stopover on a oneway.
This means on my way to Australia I can fly on Qantas, and on the way back I can fly on Fiji Airways.
Because of stopovers on oneways being allowed, it also means on the way there I can stopover in Melbourne, and on the way back I can stopover in Fiji.
Just a reminder…
Which partners can you search online:
- American Airlines
- Aeromexico (not available right now?)
- Air France
- British Airways
- Delta Air Lines
- Fiji Airways
- Korean Air
- Ravn Alaska
You can NOT book online:
Alaska’s rules are super generous in that they allow stopovers on oneways, and are fairly flexible.
For example, one of the routes listed is Africa to North America on Cathay, and therefore via Hong Kong. And what’s better about Alaska is that the prices are awesome. That Cathay route from Africa in First Class is only 70,000 Alaska Miles! That’s unbeatable, and it’s a route not allowed by most other airline programs (although it isn’t much longer than a South Africa flight via Dubai or Istanbul).
The drawback here is only one airline per ticket, and it’s especially hard getting out of the US. But like I said, you can stopover almost anywhere in the US. So if you’re flying on AA or Delta internationally, you may have a better shot of getting the route you want domestically.
Perhaps those who live in or near a hub, or on the west coast with plenty of Alaska routes, it might not make a difference.
If you’re planning on using your Alaska Miles soon, I hope this will help you be able to use them better, or understand if the routing rules allow the trip you had in mind.