After reaching out to my contacts at Alaska Airlines this morning, they responded with a link to a FAQ just posted on their corporate blog. They hope that this will make it easier to convey the reasoning behind these changes to all customers.
I’ll discuss a few of the points raised, but you should really read it yourself.
As I suggested in my own post this morning, award travel on Emirates was being gamed. This was not an issue of an unsustainable loyalty program but rather an unsustainable award.
However, a bigger concern for most people is whether they trust can Alaska Airlines not to make sudden, unannounced changes in the future. Alaska addresses that point directly:
Given the dynamics of this particular award, we were unable to announce changes in advance. This approach doesn’t represent a new normal. Our policy is to communicate significant program changes with at least 30 days’ notice when at all possible.
Anyone who remembers the final days of the old American Airlines award chart will recall 2-3 hour hold times to ticket awards before new prices went into effect. If the problem with Emirates awards was as bad as Alaska claims, it’s not difficult to imagine that similar problems would occur. And given the small size of Alaska’s partner ticketing desk, that would be detrimental to other customers trying to book awards on other airlines.
I’m not saying this excuses Alaska’s failure to provide notice. In a way they got themselves into this situation by letting a good deal run for too long, making the end more painful for us. At least they admit that advance notice is important, and hopefully they’ll be more vigilant about correcting imbalances in the future.
And perhaps most important to those who feel they were duped into buying miles that they can no longer use at the old prices, Alaska Airlines is offering to refund all purchases made on or after March 1. Contact the Customer Care team for more information.