Redeeming Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles for Maximum Value

Alaska Airlines miles offer great value for business or first class if you want to fly to Asia, Australia, South Africa, or New Zealand from the United States. You can also maximize your travel by booking a stopover on a one-way ticket and adding an Alaska flight to any award. 

Mileage Plan Award Chart

Alaska Airlines has a nice interactive award chart that you can see how many miles it will cost and the airlines you can fly by choosing a departure region and the region you are traveling to. Alaska Airlines is unique in the fact that they charge different prices for different airlines to the same region. For example, from the U.S. to Asia in business class costs 50,000 points on Cathay Pacific, 50,000 on Hainan, 60,000 on Japan Airlines 60,000 points on American, 105,000 on Emirates, 105,000 on Korean, and 125,000 on Finnair.

Airlines You Can Fly On

You can fly on: Aeromexico, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates,  Fiji Airways, Finnair, Hainan Airlines, Icelandair, Japan Airlines, Korean Air,  LATAM, Qantas, and Singapore.

Fuel Surcharges are only collected on British Airways, Hainan, and Icelandair. British Airways typically has $500+ surcharges for most long-haul premium cabin awards, but Hainan and Icelandair should be less than $150 in surcharges for your round-trip.

Most Popular Use of Miles

Cathay Pacific is by far the most popular use of Alaska Airlines points. Cathay Pacific is based in Hong Kong and has a great route network for visiting Southeast Asia. Awards are only 50,000 points one-way for business and 70,000 for first class to Asia from the U.S. Cathay Pacific first class is worth the extra 20,000, but Cathay Pacific only has a first class cabin to the U.S., so you would fly in business class for flights to Asian destinations. 

  • Award Search- You can find award space on Cathay Pacific by searching using British Airways or Qantas’ award search system. You would then need to call Alaska Airlines with those dates to book your award. 
  • If you want to fly a really long way in business class for cheap, you could fly the U.S. to Hong Kong (stopover) in first class and then continue on to South Africa (Cape Town or Johannesburg) for 70,000 points. That is a great deal for 28 hours in business class.

Japan Airlines costs 10,000 extra points for business class than Cathay Pacific from the U.S. to Asia (60,000 points), but First Class is the same price (70,000 points). If you have enough points, you could fly in First Class on Japan Airlines to a destination in Asia with a stopover in Tokyo, and then book a separate return via Cathay Pacific with a stopover in Hong Kong in First or Business class to experience two top Asian airlines. 

Region Definitions

Alaska Airlines does not publish region definitions and region definitions vary by partner. You have to rely on the highlighted map, which can be tricky.

  • For example, if you select the U.S. to Asia, it appears that flying to India or Sri Lanka would be considered apart of Asia for Cathay Pacific. However, India and Sri Lanka are considered “India and South Asia” for Cathay Pacific, but “Asia” for Japan Airlines. 

Routing Rules

Free Stopover

 You get one free stopover per direction, so two stopovers if you are booking a round-trip flight. To add a stopover, just use Alaska’s Multi-City search option. Make sure you maximize this amazing benefit. For example, you could fly Chicago to Tokyo, stop for a week, then continue on to India, Maldives, Bali, etc. You could also fly one continent to your home in the US, then add a free one-way to another destination served by Alaska Airlines a month or so later (e.g. Hong Kong to New York in First Class, then New York to Los Angeles in First Class on Alaska two months later).

  • Exception: For inter-asia on Cathay Pacific, you cannot do a stopover. You can do a stopover if going US-Asia/Oceania/Africa in Hong Kong.
  • Booking: You book your stopover on Alaska’s website using the multi-city search option with the exception of Cathay Pacific and LATAM, which must be done over the phone. 

Single Partner Rule

You cannot mix partner airlines on an award, which means you can’t fly Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and then Qantas to Australia. You would have to find award space on Cathay Pacific from the U.S. to Hong Kong and then Hong Kong to Australia. However, you can book a partner flight plus an Alaska Airlines flight. This is a very valuable perk! See an example below to maximize it.

Booking an Award

All partners except Cathay Pacific and LATAM can be booked online. For those two airlines, search British Airways’ system and call 1-800-252-7522. You cannot book Cathay Pacific, Hainan, or Japan Airlines for inter-asia flights within 72 hours of departure. 

Phantom Award Space

Alaska’s online system is still struggling with certain airlines. Alaska has acknowledged for over a year that award space on Emirates is broken. Additionally, awards on Finnair and Singapore are still not available despite Alaska’s promise to make them available.

Award Fees

Alaska charges a partner Award Booking fee of $12.50 each way and $15 call center award booking fee (must pay if you want Cathay Pacific or LATAM). Alaska does not charge a change fee more than 60 days before departure, but there is a $125 fee if your flight is within 60 days. If you want cancel your trip entirely and get the miles back, there is a $125 award redeposit fee.

Mixed Cabins

Alaska does allow for mixed cabins, but does not give a discount. Unfortunately, in the calendar results for an entire month, there is no way to distinguish between a mixed cabin and same cabin awards results. However, in the search results for an individual day, there will be a light blue and dark blue logo of a stick figure sitting in a seat to indicate mixed cabins. Be sure to avoid paying long-haul economy when you are paying for business class.

LATAM-  LAN and TAM merged into the combined airline of LATAM. Alaska is a partner of LATAM, but you can only book flights that were once previously operated by LAN. If the flight number starts with LA, you can book with Alaska. If the number starts with JJ, you cannot book with Alaska. 

One-Ways– Allowed except for Korean Air. 

Sweet Spots

The number of points is for one-way travel.

US- South Africa62,500 in Business or 70,000 in First class on Cathay Pacific.

US- Asia

  • Cathay Pacific- 50,000 in Business Class or 70,000 in First Class
  • Japan Airlines- 60,000 in Business Class and 70,000 in First Class
  • Hainan- 50,000 in Business Class (around $193 in taxes).

US- Australia55,000 in Business or 70,000 in First Class on Qantas; 55,000 in Business on Fiji Airways (from SFO or LAX); or 60,000 in Business or 80,000 in First class on Cathay Pacific. (You will struggle to find award space on Qantas or Fiji in business or first. However, there is usually always space in economy. Cathay Pacific might be your only option if you want business class). 

US- India60,000 in Business or 70,000 in First Class on Japan Airlines; or 62,500 in Business or 70,000 in First Class on Cathay Pacific. 

US- New Zealand55,000 in Business or 70,000 in First Class on Qantas; 60,000 in Business or 80,000 in First class on Cathay Pacific; or 55,000 in Business on Fiji Airways one-way (from SFO or LAX). (You will struggle to find award space on Qantas or Fiji in business or first. However, there is usually always space in economy. Cathay Pacific might be your only option if you want business class). 

Asia to Asia25,000 in Business on Japan Airlines (Alaska’s definition of Asia is quite large, you could fly Singapore to India with a stopover in Tokyo for 25k one way in business).

Adding an Alaska Flight to Your Award

As stated above, you can add an Alaska flight to any partner award. If you haven’t used your stopover, it gives you almost an extra free trip. Below is a flight from Tokyo to New York City in August and then a flight to Maui in October for only 35,000 points in economy class. Price separately, this award would cost 52,500 points (35,000 + 17,500).

Interesting Award Routings

Note: In order to illustrate each segment, I try to use different airports to fly in an out of. 

The routing below would cost 125,000 points for business class. You would fly from your home airport on Alaska Airlines to one of Cathay Pacific’s U.S. departure points and then onto Hong Kong (stopover) and continue on to the Maldives for 50,000 points; take a cash flight from the Maldives to Delhi; fly from Delhi to Tokyo (stopover) to Singapore for 25,000 points on Japan Airlines; buy a cash flight from Singapore to Hong Kong; fly on Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong to one of the U.S. departure points (stopover) or Vancouver; and lastly add on a leg on Alaska Airlines a few months later to either Hawaii or Alaska.

 

If you want to skip the stopover in Hong Kong and plan to do three vacations in a single year, this could be an interesting routing for 120,000 points in business class. An example would be to book Hawaii to LAX/SFO/ORD/JFK/EWR/BOS/YVR (stopover for a month or two; fly back to your home if you live somewhere else); fly from LAX/SFO/ORD/JFK/EWR/BOS/YVR to Australia via Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific. You would then from Australia back to LAX/SFO/ORD/JFK/EWR/BOS for a stopover (fly back home if you need to). Lastly, you would then fly from that previous departure point to Alaska or any other city in the United States that Alaska flies to.

 

This routing would cost 100,000 points for business class on Cathay Pacific and Alaska. You would book your home city to LAX/SFO/ORD/JFK/EWR/BOS/YVR to Hong Kong (stopover) to Singapore (destination). Cathay Pacific flies from Singapore to Bangkok, so you could fly Singapore- Bangkok (stopover) to Hong Kong (connection) to LAX/SFO/ORD/JFK/EWR/BOS/YVR.

 

If you want to stop both in Tokyo and Hong Kong, you could do this example routing for 110,000 points in business class (Japan Airlines costs 10,000 more points for business class one-way). Just use FlightConnections to see where Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines both fly and do stopovers in Tokyo and Hong Kong. 

 

This routing would cost 140,000 points in first class or 125,000 in business class. Cathay Pacific offers first class from the U.S. to Hong Kong, but only business class to South Africa. You would do a stopover in Hong Kong and then a stopover in a U.S. city and add a later flight to Alaska, Hawaii, or another expensive flight to a U.S. city. The cash price for those first class flights would be a little over $28,000. ($15k to/from Hong Kong; $11.5k to/from South Africa; and $500 from Chicago to Anchorage).

Business class award space for the HKG-JNB is somewhat hard to find within six months of departure, but there usually is plenty ten months in advance.