Alaska Makes it Harder to Upgrade with Miles, and Other Annoyances

It’s been reported on Flyertalk that when Alaska says “Award Levels to Increase”, what they mean is that the 20,000 mile domestic coach award is going to be available only for online redemption. If you have to call to make the booking it will be 25,000 miles.

No big deal in my view, 20,000 is already better than almost all other competitors (cf. Frontier Early Returns and their 15,000 mile awards). So Alaska’s gone from the model of rewarding website bookings to making off-line bookings more expensive. I’m naturally not a fan of the change, but I can live with it.

But their other change really hits me where it hurts:

    Effective August 1, 2007, First Class Mileage Redemptive Upgrade award rules will be changing. Redemptive Upgrades awards booked after this date will be available on H-class fares and above for 15,000 miles each way. Tickets booked in classes of service below H will no longer be eligible for redemptive upgrades.
When Alaska’s announcement continues, “This may seem like a significant change…” you know that it is!

Currently, Alaska allows mileage upgrades from any fare. In this way, they’re on par with the North American offerings of United and American. The price of that upgrade is 10,000 miles. (It wasn’t that many years ago that a one-way upgrade was only 5000 miles and came out of paid first class, rather than capacity controlled, inventory.)

They’re bumping up the mileage cost of a confirmed one-way upgrade. And they’re requiring customers to buy up to an H fare in order to use it.

My most frequent Alaska Airlines route is Washington-National to Seattle, where the current lowest Alaska fare (before taxes) is $298. The H fare is $688. The premium is $390 + 10,000 additional miles for the roundtrip upgrade.

I understand why Alaska is doing this. They operate more transcon flights now. They have increasing demands for first class seats amongst their elites. Those seats are priced cheaply. A supply-demand imbalance often results in a price increase. So it isn’t surprising. But the one thing I save up Alaska miles for is upgrades, and starting August 1 those will become a whole lot more expensive.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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