Yesterday I booked two passengers from the US to South Africa via Asia and thought it was an especially valuable award.
Alaska Airlines partners with Cathay Pacific. They charge 140,000 miles for first class between North America and Asia. They also charge 140,000 miles roundtrip for first class between the US and Africa.
So these folks who live in San Francisco I routed SFO – Hong Kong – Johannesburg and return. Now, it’s 30% more flown miles than a one-stop via Europe. But it was available on their preferred dates, it got them to South Affirca with a single connection. And it was Cathay Pacific First Class, a total of four long-haul flights.
American Airlines requires routing from the US to Africa via Europe, so they would have charged for US to Asia and a separate Asia to Africa price for a similar trip. In other words, 275,000 miles roundtrip instead of the 140,000 with Alaska.
What’s more, Alaska normally requires instant ticket of their awards. But what I learned yesterday is that they’ll do a 3-day hold on an award when you don’t have all the miles in your account and need to transfer or buy the additional points. Thanks, Alaska, well worth the $25 partner booking fee you instituted in November, 2008!
Alaska is also still the only US-based mileage program that currently allows redemption on British Airways flights between the US and London (albeit with a fuel surcharge). So there are some really interesting, valuable things you can do with Alaska miles.
I just wish they’d hurry up and introduce mixed-partner awards, it would help to be able to book American to Tokyo and Cathay back from Hong kong, for instnace.