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.
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.
And it prices out as:
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.