Alaska Airlines’ frequent flyer program, known as Mileage Plan, is touted as one of the last remaining frequent flyer programs that truly rewards flyers. It is the only frequent flyer program left in the United States that still rewards members one mile for every flown mile. As every other major airline has followed low-cost carriers lead to reward passengers miles depending on cost of the ticket, Alaska Airlines has held true to the original concept of loyalty. Yet despite being a rewarding frequent flyer program, using miles are becoming harder each day.
International Awards on Alaska Airlines
In the past, I have complained that Alaska Airlines does not understand the concept of global travel. Alaska Airlines award chart focuses on award routes to and from the United States. Very few awards are available between zones outside the United States. Although 90% of Alaska’s partners are international airlines, getting an award between two international hubs is nearly impossible. This means traveling on awards between Europe and Asia, or South America and Australia is severely limited or requiring backtracking to the United States. Even travel between Australia and New Zealand is impossible.
Alaska Airlines has a myopic view of travel patterns. Both personal travel and business travel often requires multiple stops, but Alaska doesn’t understand that outside of hub-to-hub travel from the United States. Try flying USA-Australia-New Zealand as an award, with multiple stops in Australia before arriving in New Zealand, one cannot. Dallas-Sydney-Auckland okay, but Dallas-Sydney-Melbourne-Auckland with stops in Sydney and Melbourn is not a valid award. This is because Alaska doesn’t publish an award chart between New Zealand and Australia. I do not expect multiple stopovers, but I should be able to book USA-Australia as award one, and Australia-New Zealand as Award two. Partner airlines Qantas, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, LATAM all fly between the two, but booking an award flight between the two is not possible with Mileage Plan.
Another rub, Alaska calls out Brazil with their partner LATAM, yet only LAN which has a small footprint in Brazil is a partner. Finally, the lack of award flights or earning miles on the TAM portion of LATAM continues to plague Mileage Plan. LAN and Tam became LATAM in 2012. Yet, despite it being 2018, Alaska Airline still only partners with LAN.
Airline Partners are Dropping Like Flies
Alaska Airlines does not belong to any airline alliance. Shunning away from alliance politics, Alaska Airlines has built a partner portfolio of airline partners from around the globe. Seven of fourteen Oneworld airlines are the aligned with Alaska Airlines. These include American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, LATAM, and Qantas. Then there are several airline partners which are not part of any global alliance which partner with Alaska. Such partners include Condor, Emirates, Fiji Airways, Hainan Airlines, Icelandair, and regional partners such as Ravn and PenAir. Alaska has other partners, mainly Skyteam partners but they are quickly losing them as well.
Over the last 12 months Alaska has terminated or announced the end of partnerships with four airlines. Partnerships with Air France, Delta, KLM, and AeroMexico are on the frits or already terminated. Delta has been attacking Alaska Airlines’ hub for a couple of years, therefore the end of the Alaska-Delta partnership was no surprise.
Unfortunately, Delta has joint ventures and owns part of Aeromexico and Airfrance-KLM. As Delta has nixed relations with Alaska Airlines, so has the airlines which Delta can influence. Alaska and Aeromexico partnership ended December 31, 2017. Shortly after that, AirFrance-KLM annouced plans to cut ties with Alaska Airlines.
In addition to Skyteam cuts, Alaska and American relationship has seen a reduction in benefits. Earning Alaska Airlines miles on American Airlines domestic flights is now nearly impossible. As American Airline releases limited award space, this partnership is now nearly useless.
To be fair, during this same time, Alaska Airlines added three new partners. Finnair and Singapore Airlines are great additions, but Condor flugdienst is truly just a low-cost carrier and does not make up for the loss of KLM or Air France.
New Partner Awards Unavailable
This is the biggest rub that I have with Mileage Plan. Alaska Airlines awards on Finnair and Singapore Airlines are STILL not available. Mileage Plan members can earn miles on both airlines, but cannot redeem miles with them. Meanwhile, both Singapore Airlines and Finnair frequent flyers can redeem miles on Alaska Airlines already!
Umm @AlaskaAir fall ends in a week, where are the award charts for @Finnair? Why have partners which we can't utilitize? 2016/17 saw the end to @Delta, @Aeromexico, @klm, @airfrance. Milage Plan is dying fast. pic.twitter.com/qviboYUcKD
— Rocky (@doublewidesfly) December 15, 2017
Alaska Airlines had promised frequent flyers that Finnair awards would be available in the fall of 2017. Now the website just says “Award travel coming soon”. Frequent flyers have been blindsided by Alaska Airlines. As Alaska sheds partners, they are adding partnerships which are not useful for those wishing to redeem miles.
Phantom Awards Space Plagues Mileage Plan
If there isn’t already enough issues with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan awards, lets add in phantom award space to the list. This happens at a lot of airlines, but it seems to be an ongoing issue for Mileage Plan members when redeeming miles on partner airlines.
Phantom award space is a common known issue with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. It’s so common that Alaska Airline has put a notice up on their website to tell frequent flyers that space on Emirates is likely falsely available. Alan Singleflyer brought this to our attention on July 1, 2016. Nearly 18 months later, the issue is STILL not completely fixed! Emirates award space comes and goes quicker than the People Express revival.
The issue expands beyond Emirates. When trying to book a ticket on American Airlines on January 11, 2018 the ticket would not issue because it wasn’t available. Even a phone call to the award desk did not resolve the problem. In the end, it resulted in being told that despite displaying as available, American Airline would not confirm it.
I have also had the same experience with Qantas Awards. Alaska Airlines will display flights on Qantas but when booking the site errors out. I haven’t seen this error in about 9 months. Although, I also have not tried to book a Qantas flight.
Have you experienced Phantom Award space on Alaska Airlines? If so what airlines and when?
Mileage Plan – Failing Frequent Flyers
In conclusion, I truly believe that Alaska Airlines is one of the most limiting frequent flyer program due to routing rules and inability to mix partner awards. Award routes are limited, partnerships are dwindling or not completely set up, and awards are harder to find than ever. For a mileage plan that claims they are global, their view of global is very shortsighted and centered around the United States.
I hope Alaska Airlines will get it together and fix the issues with Mileage Plan, but don’t count on it. The airline is consumed with their merger with Virgin America. The airline even lost their title of “Most on Time Airline” in 2017, after being on top for 7 years! Guess who beat them out, archenemy Delta!
There’s a lot of work to accomplish, unfortunately loyalty is taking a backseat on this wild ride.