Category Archives: Alaska

Giveaway: Four Alaska Airlines MVP Guest Upgrade Codes (Expire 12/31/2016)

I have four Alaska Airlines MVP Guest Upgrade codes that expire 12/31/2016 to give away!

“U” class must be available at the time of the request, and fare classes G, R, and T are not eligible for upgrades. Each upgrade code is valid for one-way travel for one person.

If you’d like one, please email me at efficientasianman at gmail dot com. Please make sure that you can actually use the code prior to 12/31/2016 (i.e. you have travel booked and your ticket qualifies). If I receive more requests than I can fulfill, I’ll figure out some arbitrary (or not so arbitrary) way to give them out.

See here for more information on how to use them: https://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/membership-benefits/guest-upgrades.aspx

Confirmed: Emirates Chauffeur Drive Bookings on Partner Award Tickets Honored (If Booked Prior to January 11, 2015)

I’m currently sitting in the Emirates SFO Lounge (an impressive lounge and definitely the nicest lounge at SFO that I’ve been to), and I got here via Emirates Chauffeur Drive, even though my ticket was booked via Alaska miles. It was a bit of a surprise when Emirates announced earlier this year that partner award bookings would no longer be eligible for Chauffeur Drive, and then they went through and seemingly canceled people’s Chauffeur Drive bookings that had already been made.

A couple of weeks ago, it looked like those Chauffeur Drive bookings had been reinstated, and I’m happy to report that I did get a free car sent to pick me up and take me to SFO. Unfortunately, if you can’t make new Chauffeur Drive bookings or change existing Chauffeur Drive bookings, so it sounds like provided you made your booking before January 11, 2015, you’re good to go, but otherwise, you’re out of luck. Note that if you change your ticket, you will no longer have Chauffeur Drive, and you can’t make changes to your existing booking.

A bit of good news for those who were sitting on tickets booked a while back!

Award Redemption Tips: Alaska Airlines Miles for Intra-Asia Cathay Pacific Flights

Another underrated Alaska Airlines award redemption besides premium economy is intra-Asia flights on Cathay Pacific. You can only redeem Alaska miles for routings that are defined in their award chart, which generally means that you can only redeem miles for awards that begin or end in North America (e.g. you can’t redeem for Emirates between Europe and Asia because there’s no mileage price listed on their chart). But Cathay Pacific has some of the most comprehensive routings listed for non-US travel if you’re willing to begin/end in Hong Kong.

Here’s the award chart for Cathay for Asia:

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While all of the prices between North America and Asia are pretty competitive (and you get a free stopover), the intra-Asia prices are super cheap if you’re looking to travel between North Asia (i.e. Japan and Korea) and Southeast Asia (e.g. Singapore, Thailand). As a comparison, Asia1 to Asia2 costs 20k/30k/40k using American miles for a one-way in coach/business/first; North Asia to South Asia is 20k/40k/50k using United miles on partners for one-way travel; and US Airways is 40k/60k/80k roundtrip for North Asia to South and Central Asia. Note that travel within a single region on these other award charts can be cheaper than Alaska’s intra-Asia prices on Cathay, and super short flights can often be a better deal using British Airways Avios (e.g. Taipei to Hong Kong is only 4500 Avios in coach and only 13,500 Avios in first class).

The incremental mileage needed for premium cabins is relatively small, requiring only 2.5k more miles each way for premium economy instead of coach. But even first class at 27.5k miles is a pretty good deal if you can find routes with first class. Ignoring the dates, you could potentially do the following routing in first class on Cathay Pacific: BKK to HKG on a Friday, nearly 24-hour layover in Hong Kong, then continue on flying HKG to HND the next day in first class. That’s about 5 hours in first class for only 27,500 Alaska miles with access to Cathay’s first class lounges in Hong Kong.

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Haneda and Taipei regularly have first class service, but Bangkok is currently only scheduled to have first class service once a week. Aircraft swaps are also common, so you might book something only to find that first class service might disappear from your aircraft as your departure date approaches. Intra-Asia routes are the last place that you’ll find Cathay’s 747s since they’ve stopped flying 747s long haul, so you still have a chance to fly Cathay Pacific first class on the 747 if you haven’t yet.

Mileage Redemption Tips: Alaska Airlines Awards for Premium Economy

Lots of people in the past have talked about using 70k Alaska Airlines miles to fly from North America to South Africa in Cathay Pacific First Class (although that’s no longer possible since Cathay no longer has first class between HKG and JNB), and Alaska is also well known for offering redemptions for Emirates First Class (granted, at a relatively pricey 100k miles for a one-way F redemption). But one thing that I don’t think gets enough love is that you can redeem Alaska miles for premium economy awards on its partners, and these are generally great redemption values.

As far as I know, Alaska is the only US program that allows redemption for premium economy. Premium economy only really exists on non-US airlines, which is perhaps why US mileage programs haven’t yet offered the option to redeem for premium economy on their partners. But Alaska allows redemptions for premium economy on Cathay Pacific, British Airways, and Qantas, and the additional mileage required is minimal.

For example, a one-way coach award on Cathay Pacific between North America and Asia is 30k Alaska miles. This in and of itself is a pretty good value, considering that American charges 35k miles for a one-way coach award between North America and Asia2 and United charges 40k miles for a one-way coach award between North America and South Asia. In addition, Alaska offers stopovers on one-way awards, so you could stop in Hong Kong for however long you want.

But premium economy is only 35k miles. That’s an additional 5k miles one-way for a verrry long trip. Worth it? I think so. In general, you’re getting an extra 6 inches of pitch and an extra inch in seat width, in addition to better meals, an amenity kit, etc. A quick, non-rigorous search on Cathay’s site showed a difference of about $800 between a roundtrip coach and a roundtrip premium economy ticket between SFO and HKG in April, while it would only be an incremental 10k miles for an award ticket.

Similarly, while a one-way coach award on Qantas between North America and Australia/New Zealand is 42.5k miles, premium coach is just 5k miles more at 47.5k miles. British Airways requires a 10k mile premium over coach, but why are you redeeming your miles for BA in the first place?

While most of the points/miles game is focused around aspirational travel, this is a pretty “cheap” way to buy some extra comfort while maximizing the amount of travel that you can do.

Expanded Alaska Airlines Board Room Access for American Admirals Club Members

Good news for Admirals Club members: accessing Alaska Airlines Board Rooms just got easier.

While there’s been a reciprocal agreement with Alaska Airlines in the past, the requirements were a bit onerous in that you had to be traveling on a flight marketed AND operated by American to use the Board Rooms at certain airports.

That requirement is now gone. In Anchorage, Portland, and Seattle, you just need to present an Admirals Club or US Airways Club membership as well as a boarding pass for same-day travel on an Alaska, American, or US Airways marketed and operated flight.

This news also extends to the Board Room at LAX Terminal 6. Admirals Club members, people traveling in premium cabin international long-haul or transcontinental flights, or people with oneworld Emerald or Sapphire status can now access this lounge, in addition to the Admirals Club in Terminal 4 and the Qantas oneworld lounge in the international terminal.

Pancakes for everyone!

American Airlines Admirals Club Membership Reciprocal Access to Alaska Airlines Board Rooms (SEA, PDX, ANC)

I have an AA Admirals Club membership through the Citi Executive AAdvantage card. I also no longer have an Amex Platinum card, as I cancelled that soon after redeeming my airline credit with them after they got rid of AA/US club access. By canceling my Amex Platinum card, I no longer have unlimited access to Alaska Airlines Board Rooms through Priority Pass Select.

For a long list of reasons, I recently found myself unexpectedly flying from DFW to SEA on AA and then SEA to SFO on Alaska Airlines instead of flying nonstop from DFW to SFO on AA. In Seattle, there’s no Admirals Club, so I thought I’d be out of luck for lounge access, but I figured that there might be a small chance that I could get into the Alaska Airlines Board Room through my Admirals Club membership since AA and AS are pretty buddy buddy. Turns out, this is true: there are certain circumstances where you can access an Alaska Airlines Board Room by virtue of having an Admirals Club membership.

The key thing that you need is a flight marketed by and operated by American Airlines/US Airways. If you have a same day ticket/boarding pass on a flight operated and marketed by AA/US, then you can access the Alaska Airlines Board Rooms at Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX), or Anchorage (ANC). The AA/US flight can be either the inbound or the outbound flight at any of these airports, and it’s even possible that the boarding pass doesn’t even need to involve one of these airports provided that it’s same-day (it’s not specified in the rules, but YMMV with the lounge agents).

Domestic lounges generally aren’t anything special, but the Alaska Airlines Board Rooms generally have a marginally better food selection than most domestic lounges. They have pancake machines in the morning for breakfast, and there’s usually a hot soup later in the day. I also find AS employees to be friendlier than most airline employees, but maybe that’s my Pacific Northwest bias coming through.

For more information, check out the AA page about this policy and the thread on Flyertalk.

 

 

How I Got to 85k (Now 115k) Alaska Miles

One of the things I want to do with this blog is help people understand down to the nitty gritty how to use miles and points to make travel possible. I’ve read a number of blogs where I’m constantly asking myself, “how in the world does that person afford to do this?”, so I want to be as transparent as possible as to how I’m traveling. For all of my future trips, I’ll try to show how I accumulated the miles or points, what the booking process was, and how much I actually spent.

So for my 85k Alaska miles (now 115k with the 30k from my most recent round of credit card apps), here’s the breakdown of how I accumulated them:

  1. ~25k: Sign-up bonus from the Alaska Airlines credit card in October of 2012
  2. ~25k: Miles from my flights to/from South Africa on Emirates (SFO-DXB-CPT, DUR-DXB-SFO). This was right after the partnership was announced, so even though I was on a cheapo 50% mileage-earning fare, they offered double miles on flights, so I ended up with a full 25k from this trip.
  3. ~5k: Miles from my Emirates flight on my trip around the world (DXB-LHR). Since I was booked in first class, I earned 1.5 miles on this segment.
  4. ~3,750: Miles earned from 3x miles on everyday spend on my Alaska Airlines card. I received this offer for Q3 where I earned 3 miles per dollar spent (capped at 2,500 bonus miles) at gas stations, grocery stores, drug stores, and restaurants. Almost the entirety of my spend during this period was at CVS.
  5. ~1,000: Miles earned from booking flights for myself and a friend to Portland using my Alaska Airlines credit card, which earns 3x miles on Alaska Airlines airfare purchases.
  6. ~25k: These miles came from a number of years of accumulating miles from Alaska, Delta, and American flights when I grew up in Seattle and before I was into miles and points.

The easiest way to accumulate Alaska miles (besides flying) is to apply for the Bank of America Alaska Airlines credit card. It’s one of the few credit cards which is still truly churnable (as in, you can apply for the exact same credit card multiple times and get the sign-up bonus each time), so even though the bonus is usually only 25k miles and comes with a non-waived first-year annual fee of $75, it can still be worth it if you’re looking at certain redemptions. There’s the added bonus of having potential increased mileage earning if Bank of America decides to run more bonus miles opportunities like the one I received in Q3. That being said, if you don’t ever credit flights to Alaska, you’re looking at 4 credit card apps to get to 100k miles for a first class one-way redemption on Emirates, which is definitely doable (especially if you have a particularly aggressive apply-every-3-months credit card strategy), but it’s slow going. You can also transfer points in from SPG, but those points are also hard to come by.

Why I Applied for Another Bank of America Alaska Airlines Card

Alaska Airlines has an interesting award program, largely because they’re not a part of any alliance and instead have one-off partnerships with a number of carriers. Two of those partners include Delta and American, so Alaska is often cited as a good program to credit to if you’re not particularly loyal to one carrier as you can credit Delta, American, and Alaska flights to Alaska. As I’ve argued before, the marginal value of a mile can vary wildly depending on how many miles you currently have in your accounts, so it often makes sense to concentrate your mileage earning if you don’t fly a lot.

I currently have about 85,000 Alaska miles. I originally started collecting Alaska miles to redeem for Qantas first class, since Alaska used to be able to book Qantas awards at the same time as Qantas’s own members, which means it was slightly less of a crapshoot to find first class award seats, but that functionality has since been discontinued. This is still a possibility, but you can’t really plan around finding Qantas first class award seats, and now there’s not much of a reason to use Alaska miles for this over American miles (although Alaska charges 70k miles for a one-way first class seat while American charges 72.5k and the stopover rules are slightly different).

Then there’s the oft-talked-about-but-rarely-booked (at least as far as I can tell) Alaska award of Cathay Pacific first class from North America to Africa for 70k miles one way. This is two lengthy flights in Cathay Pacific first class–from North America to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Johannesburg (Cathay’s only destination in Africa)–for the price of one. South Africa is one of my favorite places to visit, so this is definitely a possibility, and 70k miles is much cheaper and a more viable alternative than 100k miles on American for first class to Africa where you’re probably paying through the nose for first class flights on British Airways or 75k miles on United for first class where the best option is waiting 15 days in advance for Lufthansa to open up award availability.

But the real reason why I applied for another Alaska Airlines credit card was to get enough miles to cross the 100k mile mark on Alaska, which gives you the opportunity to book Emirates first class to anywhere in the world. Alaska is the only US-based frequent flyer program to allow you to redeem for Emirates, and even though 100k miles is pricey for a one-way trip, this is probably the best way to experience Emirates first class (your alternative being JAL’s mileage program, which has a distance-based award chart and could thus be cheaper, but the most practical way of accumulating JAL miles is to transfer from SPG, which isn’t that practical for those of us who don’t spend much money).

Which of these redemptions do you think is most worth it? I’ve had the fortune of already flying Emirates first class on the A380 (and experiencing the Emirates first class lounge/terminal in Dubai), and I’ve got a trip planned on Cathay Pacific first class for February, so Qantas is the only one of these I haven’t done. Should I hold out to see if I can snag Qantas space at some point?

Fee Changes Coming to Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines has posted baggage and service fee changes to their website.

New baggage fees

New baggage fees

New change/cancellation fees

New change/cancellation fees

The fees don’t go into effect until tickets purchased on or after October 30, 2013, which is plenty of notice. Much better than unannounced changes or changes that go into effect immediately.

While baggage fees are increasing marginally for the first 2 bags and the change/cancellation fee is increasing by $50 for changes made less than 60 days to departure, I actually think it’s a positive change in that there’s no longer a change or cancellation fee for changes made more than 60 days prior to ticketed departure. To me, this is a very positive development as it’s a move for an airline to acknowledge that changes or cancellations 60 days prior to departure don’t really affect an airline’s revenue planning since they can likely still sell the seat. This is also the service that I’m most likely to take advantage of, as I try not to check bags whenever possible anyway.

Alaska Airlines Awards on Partners Now Restricted to 331 Days in Advance

As is being reported in this thread on Flyertalk, it appears that you can no longer book partner awards using Alaska Airlines miles beyond 331 days out.

There’s been a lot of excitement over the fact that you can now redeem one-way awards using Alaska miles on most partners, as well as the fact that they’ve added a lot of partners to their online award search tool. But one of the best parts of using Alaska miles was that they had availability when partners loaded their schedules, which can be at 354 days for partners like Qantas.

Getting first class awards on Qantas to/from Australia is extremely difficult, partly because of very limited award availability, but also because they release space at 354 days while you can’t book using American miles until 331 days out. This means that Qantas’s own frequent flyer members, people using British Airways miles, and previously people using Alaska miles had 3 weeks to book the awards before anyone using American miles had a chance. Since it’s such a desirable award, that usually means that by the time American has access to the space, it’s already gone.

Now that Alaska is also restricting to 331 days, it’ll be just as hard using Alaska miles as it is to use American miles for this award, which means it’s not something to try to plan a trip around.

After flying the Emirates A380 in First Class and experiencing the Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai, I was looking at other aspirational products and really wanted to try First Class on the Qantas A380 and the First Class Lounge in Sydney or Melbourne. I thought that I’d get that chance now that Alaska has one-way awards for partners and the ability to book at 354 days out, but with that last part eliminated, I guess it’ll stay just as aspirational as before…