Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan may be among the most generous frequent flyer programs around. Mileage plan is the only frequent flyer program in the United States that awards fliers one mile for every mile flown. Partner flights earn a percentage of miles flown based on fare class. Most partner airline’s premium classes earn 100% of miles flown and even offers a fare class bonus ranging from 25-100%. Yet despite having amazing earning potential, the airline is lacking a true global program due to award redemption restrictions.
Alaska Airlines has a robust partner network with 17 partner airlines from around the world. In recent months, Alaska has been pushing their “global partner” advertising as Delta has grown in Seattle. Alaska advertises flights to Dubai on Emirates and flights to London on British Airways. It’s free advertisement for their partners and informs consumers that earning Alaska miles is possible on partner flights. It’s all part of the 2016 “Fly Nice” campaign.
Alaska Airlines’ partner portfolio includes some of the world’s best airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Qantas, and Emirates. Alaska also partners with average airlines such as Air France-KLM, Delta, British Airways, American, and Fiji Airways. With a partner airline on every continent except for Africa and Antarctica, traveling and earning miles is easy. There is just one problem, traveling around the world on Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan award tickets is not possible. The airline and mileage program is not as “Global” as their advertising and partner mileage plan page claims.
Alaska claims you can redeem miles on any partner route and this is not true. Award travel routes and partner awards are restricted by published award charts. This makes Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan awards among the most restrictive. If there is no award chart, the route is not available as an award ticket.
Mileage Plan awards allow backtracking but do not allow the mixing of partners on a single direction of travel. Each partner airline has a different award chart, therefore mixing two partners for a single one-way award is impossible. For example, if traveling to Bangkok you can not purchase an award ticket with two airlines. If a customer flies Seattle-Shanghai-Hong Kong on Hainan and then Hong Kong-Bangkok on Cathay Pacific or Emirates, this would require two tickets. In addition, Emirates does not allow intra-Asia awards with Alaska miles. Therefore the award mentioned is not possible, not even if booked as two award tickets unless Cathay is the second carrier. Alaska requires that any award ticket with multiple partners be purchased as two one-way tickets. This makes awards extremely pricey!
Alaska Airlines Miles Cannot Be Used For World Wide Travel
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan focuses on travel primarily to and from the United States. Being United States centric, many awards are not available on partner airlines. Alaska has a separate award charts for every partner. This limits potential award routing and keeps many partners awards from their full potential. For example, if traveling between Europe and Asia, the only partner option is Cathay Pacific. However, British Airways, Air France-KLM, Hainan, JAL, and Emirates all fly between the two continents. The same issue occurs if you want to travel between Europe and the Middle East, South Pacific/Australia and Europe, South America, and Europe, etc. There’s no award chart or options.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is fixated around travel to and from the United States. I honestly believe that Alaska Airlines has forgotten that people travel globally. Mileage Plan does NOT give travelers the globe as Alaska claims.
I earn miles from most of my flights domestically, but sometimes I need to use my miles in other parts of the world. Just last month, I needed a flight from Sri Lanka to Singapore and onward to Hong Kong. My only option for Intra-Asia flights with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is Cathay Pacific, Hainan, or Korean Air. Emirates flies directly between Colombo and Singapore, but Emirates awards on intra-Asia flights are not possible with Alaska’s Mileage Plan Awards.
The issue is of award travel with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is widespread. Yes, Alaska has a fantastic award chart for travel to and from the United States, but they hardly offer a “Global” program. Alaska offers several partners from all corners of the earth, but sell themselves short by blocking worldwide awards on all partner routes.
In the last year I have used miles from other programs to travel around the world. Some of trips started in the United States, others started in the Middle East, Asia, or Europe. Not a single one of these trips included travel back to the United Sates. For these trips, I opted to use miles from other award programs.
Currently, there’s no immediate fix to Alaska’s lack of global awards. I reached out to Alaska Airlines about expanding their award chart and was told there is no plan at this time. So what is the solution? Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Even if you’re collecting Alaska Miles through flying, use a credit card to earn miles with a different program. Alaska miles are valuable, but not for worldwide travel! Global awards are not a strength of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan awards.