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7 Sweet Spots to Use Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Miles

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Seattle, Chile, or Dublin? Fiji, Sydney, and Hong Kong? Even Tokyo. What do these places have in common? They're all places you can get to for a great deal using Alaska Airlines miles.

Alaska's frequent flyer program – dubbed Alaska Mileage Plan – offers some of the best deals to these destinations and others throughout the world, whether you're flying economy or splurging for business and even first class. Alaska miles typically aren't as easy to earn as many other airlines, as you can't transfer them from major credit cards like Chase, Amex, or Capital One. But they're easily worth working harder to earn.

While changes to its award chart and a recent hike for many redemptions flying partner carrier Japan Airlines have taken some of the shine off Alaska miles, there are plenty of excellent sweet spots and unique perks with Alaska miles that may leave you yearning to add more to your arsenal.

Let's go over seven of the best ways to use Alaska miles. But first, let's learn a bit about how the Alaska Mileage Plan works.



The Basics of Alaska Mileage Plan

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is perhaps the most lucrative mileage program among all U.S. airlines. While the miles are harder to earn (unless if you're a frequent Alaska flyer) they can take you to some amazing places all over the world for much less than other frequent flyer programs charge.

If you thought you could only get to Alaska with Alaska miles, you're in for a nice surprise. While Alaska Airlines doesn't fly beyond the U.S., Canada, Mexico, or Central America, it has several airline partners as part of the Oneworld alliance. And it goes beyond that with more partners outside of the alliance, too.


23 Alaska Airlines Partners

Currently, Alaska partners with a total of 23 airlines, allowing you redeem Alaska miles for (nearly) free flights or even pile up more Alaska miles when you book a cash fare. And they're some of the best airlines out there.

  • Aer Lingus
  • Air Tahiti Nui
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Condor
  • El Al
  • Fiji Airways
  • Hainan Airlines
  • Iberia
  • Icelandair
  • Japan Airlines
  • Korean Air
  • LATAM Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Ravn Alaska
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian
  • Singapore Airlines
  • Sri Lankan Airlines

You can't mix partner airlines when booking with Alaska Airlines miles, but you can combine a partner flight with an Alaska Airlines flight if these airlines don't fly from your home airport.

For years, Alaska had separate award charts for each of its partner airlines, each determining how many miles it'd cost you to book a flight depending on where you're going. Last year, Alaska shook things up with a new, streamlined award chart for all of its nearly two dozen partner airlines.

Here's the new award chart for international flights on partner airlines.


Alaska Airlines new partner award chart


While it's simpler than a mess of 20-plus separate award charts, this system is nowhere near as transparent. It shows award rates “starting from,” meaning that same flight to Asia could cost you 50,000 miles each way in business class … or, down the line, much more. Fortunately, many of the great deals that have made Alaska miles so valuable haven't changed.

We'll get to the best of the best in a minute. But first, let me tell you about perhaps the best perk of booking flights with Alaska miles…

Free Stopovers!

Want to visit two cities for the price of one? This is an area where Alaska Mileage Plan really shines.

Alaska Airlines allows you to add a free stopover (a stop of more than 24 hours) to most award tickets en route to your final destination … no matter the airline or whether you're flying one-way or roundtrip. This can really open up some incredible travel opportunities and is a huge advantage over booking with other frequent flyer programs, many of which only allow stopovers on roundtrip or tack on some hefty fees to do so.

For instance, you can't book any stopovers when using American AAdvantage miles. Many other airline programs that do allow stopovers only allow one per roundtrip, such as Turkish Airlines or the United excursionist perk.

With Alaska, you can book a stopover on your way to your destination and then book a stopover somewhere else on your way back. It doesn't cost any extra miles and you can book a stopover for both domestic and international trips.


The 7 Best Ways to Use Alaska Airlines Miles

Without further ado, let's get to the best deals you can book when redeeming Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles, whether you want to take a domestic trip or a multi-stop journey to the other side of the world.


Fly Cathay Pacific First or Business Class to Asia & Beyond

It doesn't get much better than this deal. Using Alaska miles, you can book premium cabins on Cathay Pacific for much less than Cathay charges using its own Asia Miles – or even redeeming American AAdvantage miles for the same trip.

Here's a look at some of the fantastic rates where you can fly this top-notch product when redeeming Alaska miles.

  • Fly from the U.S. to Asia for 50,000 miles in business class or 70,000 miles in first class each way!
  • Fly from the U.S. to India or Middle East for 62,500 miles in business class or 70,000 miles in first class one way!
  • Fly to Australia or New Zealand for just 60,000 miles in business class or 80,000 miles in first class each way!


cathay pacific first class


For comparison, American and Cathay Pacific charge between 70,000 and 85,000 miles in business class and 110,000 to 125,000 miles in first – each way – for these same exact flights. This means you could save nearly 30-45% by booking Cathay Pacific flights using Alaska miles.

Best of all, if you're traveling beyond Cathay Pacific's hub in Hong Kong (HKG), you can add in a free stopover when booking with Alaska miles. This can be a great way to break up a trip to Australia or India flying fancy on one of the best airlines in the world and getting to see two cities for one low price.


cathay pacific business class


In North America, you'll find Cathay Pacific flights from Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Los Angeles (LAX), New York City (JFK), San Francisco (SFO), Toronto (YYZ), and Vancouver (YVR). Not all flights operate daily, so you may want to check Google Flights to see which days Cathay Pacific flies your route before looking for availability.

It gets better. After years of forcing you to search for award availability through other sites and then call into Alaska to book, you can now book Cathay Pacific awards online right at Alaskaair.com. And after a three-year-long absence, Cathay Pacific First Class has finally resumed flying to the U.S.!

It's worth noting that availability in first class is rare – and even when it is bookable – finding more than one Cathay Pacific first class seat at a time is next to impossible. That means you'll likely have to travel solo or fly in a different cabin than your travel companion if you want to book a first class seat and fly on the same flight.

That is, unless you get a Thrifty Traveler Premium+ alert like this one…


cathay pacific aa miles


Fiji Airways Business Class to Fiji, Australia, or New Zealand

Another incredible deal you can book using Alaska miles is to fly Fiji Airways nonstop to Fiji, or continue all the way down to Australia or New Zealand for just 55,000 miles one-way in business class!

This is about as cheap as it gets to fly in business class to the land down under – and unlike nonstop flights to Australia, finding award space to book it is actually possible. Add in the fact that you can stopover in Fiji for some island time on your way to or from (or both) for no extra miles, and this is one of the best deals you can book with any mileage program, if you ask me.


Yasawas, Fiji


Fiji Airways flies from just three U.S. gateways: Los Angeles (LAX), Honolulu (HNL), and San Francisco (SFO). But you can connect on Alaska Airlines flights to one of these cities, opening up the opportunity to book an award from several other cities throughout the U.S.

Don't care to fork over the extra miles for business class? It's just 40,000 miles one-way for economy during normal times.

However, Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members got alerted to wide-open availability on these routes earlier this year when Alaska Airlines was having a 50% off sale for award seats. It was just 20,000 miles each way (40,000 roundtrip) for economy flights down to Fiji, Australia, or New Zealand.


Alaska miles to Australia


Get flight deals like this one sent straight to your inbox with Thrifty Traveler Premium+!

Even without a sale, 55,000 miles to fly to business class to Fiji, Australia, or New Zealand is a steal!


Fly Alaska Around the U.S & Canada

Of course, Alaska miles can also be used for travel on Alaska Airlines itself. And rates start from just 5,000 miles one-way.

Perhaps the best part of booking Alaska flights with miles instead of cash is the fact that you'll avoid Alaska Airlines basic economy fares and always get a Main Cabin ticket when redeeming miles. This means you'll have more options for a free seat assignment and you'll be able to make free changes to your flight – or cancel it altogether and get your miles right back.

For flights within the continental U.S, Alaska, and Canada, Alaska Airlines has variable pricing, which depends on the distance of your flight. These same rates hold true if you're redeeming Alaska miles to fly American Airlines.


Alaska Airlines award chart for North America


Not sure how long your flight is? Plug in the route at GCmap.com!

One example of a way to maximize this award chart is to fly from Minneapolis (MSP) to Seattle (SEA). The flight distance clocks in at 1,399 miles, which is just under the 1,400-mile threshold. This means you can often find Main Cabin flights for just 7,500 Alaska miles one-way.


msp to seattle alaska miles


Or, book a multi-city domestic trip. Say you live in New York City (JFK) and want to visit all that the West Coast has to offer on one trip. By booking a stopover in each direction, you could get to see San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), and Portland (PDX), all for just 25,000 miles total … roundtrip!


Using Alaska miles to fly from New York to San Fran, LA, and Portland


Fly LATAM Business Class to South America

Although LATAM left the Oneworld alliance in 2020 just as Alaska Airlines formulated its plan to join the alliance, the two airlines have continued to maintain a partnership. That's great news for travelers with a stash of Mileage Plan miles.

Using 45,000 Alaska miles to fly LATAM is one of the best ways to get to South America in business class – especially when you can get all the way down to Santiago (SCL) in Chile for that low rate.


alaska miles santiago


You'll find LATAM flights to cities throughout South America from a total of five U.S. gateways: Boston (BOS), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), New York City (JFK), and Orlando (MCO). This is yet another partner airline that Alaska just brought online after years of forcing travelers to call in to book, so searching and booking is fairly easy.

Availability can be spotty to actually book these seats with your Alaska miles, but we recently sent Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members an award space alert for wide-open availability for a trip to Chile this spring!


latam airlines santiago deal using alaska miles


You may even be able to add on a connecting flight down to Chilean Patagonia to your award ticket, but even if you just get to Santiago using miles, you'll be able to find super cheap cash tickets for just over $100 roundtrip to go see one of the most beautiful landscapes on earth in Torres del Paine National Park.


torres del paine national park, chile


Fly Japan Airlines First or Business Class to Asia

Japan Airlines has one of the best premium cabin experiences in the world. For years, using Alaska miles is one of the cheapest ways to do it.

Business class flights started from just 60,000 Alaska miles one-way … and amazingly, Japan Airlines first class to Tokyo clocked in at just 70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles. Even economy flights were a bargain at 35,000 miles each way.

But after a recent award rate hike, those prices are much higher now – depending on where you're starting your trip from in the U.S.

  • Flying Japan Airlines economy from the Midwest and East Coast now costs 45,000 Alaska miles – a 28% hike from the previous 35,000-mile charge. Rates from the West Coast are unchanged.
  • Japan Airlines business class has jumped from 60,000 miles to 80,000 Alaska miles – a 33% hike. Yet again, rates remain untouched from West Coast cities.
  • Japan Airlines First Class redemptions were previously just 70,000 miles to or from anywhere in the U.S. That's now up to 85,000 miles from the West Coast (a 21% hike) and a whopping 100,000 miles from the Midwest and East Coast – a 42% increase. 


finding award space


Read our review of Japan Airlines business class from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Tokyo-Narita (NRT)!

This one stings. Still, Japan Airlines should remain on your list as you can still get a solid deal from the West Coast flying business class. You can even connect down to Okinawa (OKA) for some island time or hop up to Sapporo (CTS) to hit the slopes in Hokkaido with a long stopover in Tokyo, still for just 60,000 miles total!


jal alaska airlines award


And at 85,000 miles each way from the West Coast to Tokyo, Japan Airlines first class is still a decent deal.


jal first class seats


You can find Japan Airlines flights out of Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), New York City (JFK), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA), and Vancouver (YVR), or connect to one of these gateways on an Alaska Airlines flight. Even in business class, you'll enjoy a comfortable ride across the Pacific.


Fly Aer Lingus Business Class to Europe

Aer Lingus may not be our first choice to cross the pond, but if the price is right to fly in a lie-flat seat, we're all for it.

Starting from just 60,000 Alaska miles and under $20 in taxes and fees each way to fly Aer Lingus business class, it's a competitive way to fly business class to Europe using points and miles. You can also fly economy for just 60,000 miles roundtrip, which is a solid deal.

Plus, you can stop in Dublin for a taste of Guinness straight from the source on your way to another European destination.


aer lingus business class cabin


Aer Lingus flies to its hub in Dublin (DUB) from a total of 11 North American gateways: Boston (BOS), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), Newark (EWR), New York City (JFK), Orlando (MCO), Philadelphia (PHL), Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO), Toronto (YYZ), and Washington D.C.-Dulles (IAD).

Related reading: Aer Lingus Cuts New Flight from Minneapolis to Dublin


Guinness storehouse in Dublin, Ireland


Beware that it may be difficult to find the lowest-priced awards from most cities. During my test searches, I was only seeing the 60,000-mile rate from Boston, Miami, and Philadelphia. And the variable pricing Alaska has for awards on Aer Lingus flights can be pretty drastic. It was 280,000 miles one-way for many routes. Don't pay that. Look for the 60,000-mile rates with around $19 in taxes and fees (on nonstop flights to Dublin) instead.


flights from Boston to Dublin for 60,000 miles one-way


Fly Qantas First or Business Class to Australia

There are multiple ways to use Alaska miles to fly to Australia. Perhaps the best of them all is to fly Qantas business class for 55,000 miles one-way – or, better yet, up in Qantas' vaunted first class for just 70,000 miles.

Admittedly, this award is a bit of a unicorn fare. You won't find award space in premium cabins on Qantas flights very often. But Thrifty Traveler Premium+ members will be first to know when we find good availability on these routes, like this alert we sent out last year for a trip to Australia in lie-flat business class!


thrifty traveler premium deal to australia


This unbelievable deal is gone now – get the next award alert sent straight to your inbox with Thrifty Traveler Premium+!

Qantas flies nonstop to Australia from Dallas (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), and Vancouver (YVR) — and it has announced plans to start flying from New York City (JFK) starting in 2025. As with most awards booked with Alaska miles, you can fly from other cities served by Alaska Airlines by connecting to these cities on an Alaska Airlines flight.

Read more: Why Now's The time to Start Planning A Dream Trip to Australia

Unfortunately, we've got bad news. Recently, Alaska has been unable to book these Qantas flights even when they're bookable through other Oneworld airlines like American or British Airways. Here's hoping that trend reverses soon …


How to Earn Alaska Airlines Miles

So, how do you earn the miles to book these sweet spots?

Unfortunately, Alaska doesn't partner with any of the major banks that have transferrable points like Chase or American Express, so it's a little harder to earn Alaska miles compared to some other programs. But there are still a handful of ways to quickly earn a bunch of Alaska miles to get you started.

Hands down, the best path right now is with the *alaska visa card*.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has a big advantage over almost every other major U.S. airline. While you now earn miles based on how much you pay with other airlines, Alaska still credits mileage based on the actual distance of your flight. That's a boon for earning miles flying Alaska, especially if you live on the West Coast where Alaska has the most routes.

Every Alaska-operated flight earns at least 100% of the miles flown – even Alaska's Saver Fares – while some fare classes like first class or full-fare economy will get a bonus. Here's a quick breakdown:


earn alaska miles


Consider this: Flying Delta from Seattle (SEA) to New York City (JFK), you'd earn just 790 Delta SkyMiles on a $183 fare – or 0 SkyMiles if you book a Delta basic economy ticket after a nasty change late last year. But on that exact same route with Alaska Airlines, you'd earn at least 2,421 Mileage Plan miles because it's based on the length of the flight. That difference can add up fast for frequent Alaska flyers.

Of course, you can also credit miles flown with Alaska Airlines' partner carriers. Use a great resource like wheretocredit.com to figure out exactly how much you'll earn by pooling those miles with Alaska instead.

You can also transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Alaska miles at a 3:1 ratio, with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 points transferred. But that’s probably only useful as a last resort to top off your account for the final few thousand miles you need.


Bottom Line

Alaska Airlines miles are incredibly valuable – in fact, they're still easily the most valuable miles among any major U.S. airline.

Not only can you find great deals for domestic flights flying Alaska Airlines itself, you can also fly far distances on some of the best airlines in the world. The low redemption rates along with the fact that you can add in stopovers on one-way flights for no extra miles makes using Alaska miles one of the best ways to book your next big trip … at least if you've got some Mileage Plan miles to burn.


Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

3 Responses

  • Has Cathay begun offering two first class award seats per flight between the USA and Hong Kong again? If not, the one – and only one – first class award seat offered will cause more heartburn than happiness for anyone not traveling alone. If that is the case, mentioning that crucial restriction may be prudent.

    • Hi Christian,

      Thanks for the feedback. Indeed, it will be next to impossible to find two first class award seats on the same Cathay Pacific flight. I’ve added a line about that in the post. You’ll likely need to fly solo to book a first class award seat flying Cathay Pacific, or, split up into two different cabins.

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