Hidden Value Awards from Alaska Airlines: US to South Africa via Asia on Cathay Pacific for 140,000 Miles in First Class

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!

They’ve gotten rid of their Air France awards to Asia and British Airways awards to Australia, but thankfully the Cathay Pacific Africa ‘the long way’ award remains!

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.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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  1. Did this award in January–ridiculous value.

    The terrible part was our connecting from CX F in JNB to a Kulula flight to CPT–middle seat with the overhead bins stuffed, and thus my backpack taking the spot of my legs. How spoiled we are.

  2. That is amazing. I am new at this. I first read an article while getting my haircut and I am hooked.

  3. smile… but how long until this “option” gets eliminated… seems like this would be a costly award to AS…

  4. Man, I want this flight! Maybe I shouldn’t sell my World Cup tickets after all. Nice work (as usual) Gary!

  5. I have alaska miles and would like to fly sfo or smf to han. How do I do that. I can’t search it online.Thanks

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