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:
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.
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.