Following on recent minor cuts from the Alaska Airlines frequent flyer program (here and here, and admittedly most would find them minor..) Alaska has announced some pretty significant changes to their Mileage Plan program effective November 1. Here’s the bad news:
- Domestic coach awards will now cost 25,000 miles, even when booked online. The old award was 20,000 miles, which they recently limited to those awards booked online. Now at 25,000 miles they’re just like everyone else, no longer special.
- Unrestricted awards and first class awards get more expensive. Unrestricted coach is 55,000 miles! Unrestricted domestic first class is now 100,000 miles!
- Partner award fee. $25 to book on one of their many partners, they learned this trick from Delta. It stinks, but I can live with it, the Alaska partner desk really is helpful and they partner with the major players in both Skyteam and oneworld.
- New three-tiered award structure. Here’s another one they learned from Delta, and they may even get it rolled out first. Coach awards come in three flavors, the usual saver (will it become even more restrictive?), a middle-tier between saver and unrestricted, and the massively expensive last seat availability category.
- The ‘AS50’ award — which for 15,000 miles offers 50% off a paid ticket up to $250 (and used to offer 50% off without a cap) — will no longer earn miles.
Now, Alaska does throw one itsy, bitsy teeny, weeny bone in here: they’re expanding the less expensive intra-state awards beyond just Alaska. So if you want to fly coach within California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, or Washington it’ll be just 15,000 miles roundtrip.
Alaska has gotten pretty restrictive with its award availability the past few years. First class awards on transcons are really hard to come by. It makes sense that they’re cutting from their program, they’ve been flying full so prices go up. I first explained this five years ago.
But the bottom-line is: pay the $25 partner, book your award seats on Alaska’s partners, especially international premium class itineraries. Those are the best value out there, even more so with these changes.