Tag Archives: alaska

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!

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!

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…