I like puzzles, and the Alaska Airlines award chart is one of the best puzzles out there. I think it’s more accurately described as 44 award charts for different partners and regions. The problem is people try to interpret it like any other airline program, and that’s exactly the wrong approach. Within those charts you’ll find tons of hidden value.
This value comes in two forms. The first is the scope provided by the chart. Most airlines have two or three subdivisions for Asia. United has a separate zone just for Japan. Meanwhile Alaska’s chart for travel on Cathay Pacific just says “Asia.” It’ll cost you the same if you fly from San Francisco to Hong Kong as it will if you connect north to Tokyo or south to Singapore.
The other great value is in misconceptions that people hold about the program. As a primarily domestic carrier with no formal alliance membership, Alaska’s award charts are negotiated separately with each carrier and do not consider all possible destinations. They often do not consider opportunities for travel between other regions outside North America.
For example, you can fly on British Airways between the U.S. and Europe. You can go direct to London or connect onward to other European destinations. What you can’t do is book an intra-Europe award by itself. At least not for travel on British Airways using Alaska Airlines miles. Check Alaska’s chart for travel on Air France/KLM and this is perfectly okay. Or if you must fly with British Airways, redeem Avios or American Airlines miles.
In any case, some people write to me asking why they can’t use Alaska miles for some particular intra-regional award. Other people just assume it isn’t possible, period. As if there’s some rule against it.
Remember, Alaska has no rules. Not many, anyway.
Cathay Pacific is the best example. Alaska has separate award charts for travel from Hong Kong to Africa, Hong Kong to Europe, and Hong Kong to the Middle East and India. You can book just about any flight served by Cathay Pacific and use Alaska miles to pay for it.
Now we loop back to those broad regional definitions. Alaska charges one price for intra-Asia awards. Whether you want a short hop from Hong Kong to Shanghai or a longer trip from Tokyo to Singapore, it’s the same price. How much? 25,000 miles one-way in business class and 27,500 in first class.
This is cheap. Many other airline programs put those cities in different regions and raise the cost accordingly. American charges 40,000 miles for the same award. Singapore Airlines charges 51,000 KrisFlyer miles for first class (including the online booking discount). United charges 55,000 miles on its own aircraft or 60,000 miles on a partner like Singapore. You might find a few of these deals while using my award chart search tool.
I get that some people would prefer the non-stop option provided by Singapore, but given the quality of Cathay’s product, their excellent lounges in Hong Kong, and the reliability of their award space close to departure, I would gladly book it and redeem fewer miles.
Value is out there if you look for it. Here’s a list of all the other awards that Alaska Airlines offers that don’t include travel to or from North America. (Prices are for one-way travel when booked through Alaska Airlines on the indicated partner.)
|HKG to Europe||30,000||35,000||42,500||70,000|
|HKG to Australia/NZ||22,500||25,000||30,000||45,000|
|HKG to Middle East/India||22,500||25,000||30,000||45,000|
|HKG to Africa||30,000||35,000||42,500||70,500|
|Within South America||12,500||25,000|
|S.A. to Easter Island||22,500||35,000|
|Korea to S.E. Asia||35,000||60,000|
|Within South Pacific||17,500||32,500|