I’ve been intrigued by Alaska Airlines stopover rules lately. On the whole, their mileage program seems to be actually making enhancements, while the devaluations have been rather minor (like a price increase on standard level awards on Alaska metal).
One of the more recent enhancements has been the ability to book one-way awards on most partners (except Delta and Korean). While this is something that’s pretty standard throughout award programs, Alaska also allows stopovers on international one-way awards.
Particularly intriguing is the Cathay Pacific award chart for flights to Africa, India, and the Middle East. A one-way Cathay First Class ticket to Asia costs 70,000 Alaska miles. But a one-way Cathay First ticket to Johannesburg, which allows a stopover in Hong Kong also costs 70,000 miles. The only price difference is incremental airport taxes.
That’s a great value, but it’s not something that many people will use often.
What really caught my eye recently was that Alaska Airlines allows a stopover on domestic one-way awards on its own metal. This isn’t anything new, but it’s still worth noting.
This policy is huge for people who live in cities along the west coast with ample Alaska Airlines service. You could potentially combine multiple trips into a single one-way award. For example, let’s say you live in Seattle. You have an upcoming trip to New York as well as a future one to Los Angeles. Most programs would charge 12,500 miles for each trip, so you’d pay 25,000 miles total.
Even everyone’s favorite domestic flight program, British Airways Avios, would charge 12,500 Avios for New York/Newark to Seattle and 7,500 Avios for Seattle to Los Angeles. You’d pay 20,000 Avios for those 2 flights.
But you could book the same Newark to Seattle flight with Alaska Airlines and make Seattle your stopover. It just happens to be your hometown where you’ll live your life for a few months, then pick up your trip to Los Angeles in the future. You’d pay only 12,500 miles + $5 in taxes.
It’s the same concept with awards to Hawaii. Alaska Airlines actually flies to Hawaii from a bunch of seemingly random cities, like Sacramento, Oakland, and San Jose, in addition to Seattle, Portland, and San Diego.
An itinerary like Orlando to San Diego, stopover, then San Diego to Maui would cost 20,000 miles, the same as an Orlando to Maui or San Diego to Maui trip. The same flights would cost 25,000 Avios (12,500 points for each leg). A fantastic deal for anyone who lives near San Diego.
Consider the temporary 50,000-mile bonus on the Alaska Airlines Visa credit card. (Update: It’s now over.) The spending requirement is $1,000, but if you spend $2500, you’ll have 52,500 miles. That’s enough for 2 one-way awards to Hawaii (at 20,000 miles each) and 1 one-way domestic award (at 12,500 miles).
If you live in a city like Seattle, this would be good for a round-trip to Hawaii, a domestic round-trip, and 2 domestic one-ways. For example:
- Newark to Seattle (stopover at home) to Maui = 20,000 miles + $5
- Maui to Seattle (stopover at home) to San Francisco = 20,000 miles + $5
- San Francisco to Seattle (stopover at home) to Washington DC = 12,500 miles + $5
This includes a one-way from Newark to Seattle, a round-trip between Seattle and Maui, a round-trip between Seattle and San Francisco, and a one-way from Seattle to Washington, DC. Without stopovers, that would cost 90,000 Alaska miles. By utilizing stopovers, it costs only 52,500 miles. That’s a 42% savings in miles! Even with Avios, it would cost 12,500 Avios x 2 for Seattle to Maui, 7,500 Avios x 2 for Seattle to San Francisco, and 12,500 Avios x 2 for Seattle to Newark/DC for a total of 65,000 Avios.
Of course, some people would rather spend the 65,000 Avios (especially since it’s fewer points with the frequent American Express transfer bonuses) and save the 52,500 Alaska miles for trips on Emirates or Cathay Pacific, but if domestic flying is more your style, this is something to consider.