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The Big Wins & Worst Hits of Alaska’s Award Chart Changes

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Any change, big or small, to an airline's frequent flyer program can set off alarm bells. In the world of redeeming miles, “enhancements” is actually a code word for “devaluations,” where airlines obliterate sweet spots and raise award rates across the board.

But that's not quite the case with the changes underway to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. Initially announced back in November, Alaska is pivoting to a new, distance-based award chart – the cheat sheet that determines how many miles you need. Those changes have steadily been rolling out throughout the month of March, spreading to more flights on additional partner airlines when redeeming Alaska miles.

It comes with some bad news, of course. Some of the best deals to book business or first class on Oneworld partner airlines to Hong Kong (HKG) or Australia are disappearing – though some of those had become largely impossible to actually book, anyway. But there's a genuine upside to the changeover, including some redemptions that are getting a bit – or even much – better.

Let's take a look at the best improvements and worst hits of the Alaska award chart changes.


The Good News: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Sweets Spots

Alaska has moved to a new setup with three separate award charts: One for flights in the Americas, one for Asia-Pacific Redemptions, and another for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. 

No matter where you're going, exactly how many miles each flight will cost you hinges on the distance of that flight. That switch to a distance-based award chart is a recipe for many more expensive award flights when booking with miles. The longer you fly, the more miles it will cost you.

Fortunately, short-haul flights – as well as a handful of international flights – remain sweet spots when using Alaska miles. And some are getting even better.

One word of warning, though: Just because these flights are “starting at” 4,500 miles each way doesn't mean that's always the rate you'll see. That hinges on finding the lowest-priced “saver” award availability – especially when redeeming Alaska miles to book a partner airline.

So while the prices goes as low as 4,500 miles each way, you might see a higher rate when you actually search at Alaskaair.com


Short-Haul U.S. Flights from 4.5K Miles

Alaska previously had an award chart for flights within North America (typically on either Alaska Airlines itself or American Airlines). Now, it's been rebranded as the “Americas” – including North America as well as both Central America and South America.

The longer the flight, the more miles it may cost you. That's not a major change from how Alaska previously priced these awards. But the amount you'll pay for those flights has changed – take a look.
Alaska Airlines Americas award chart 2024

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

Other than lumping in flights to, from, or within Central and South America into this same pricing rubric, the big change is that the shortest flights now cost fewer miles: as low as 4,500 miles in economy and 13,500 in first class for flights under 700 miles in distance. Under the old system, those same flights used to cost at least 5,000 miles and 17,500 miles, respectively.

These new rates are live and bookable through Alaska already. Here's a look at a short flight from Seattle (SEA) to San Francisco (SFO) as an example.
Alaska Airlines SEA to SFO

While this likely won't amount to crazy savings, it will make shorter flights more affordable. And any positive change is always welcome.


Central and South America Flights from 4.5K

Since Central and South America now follows a unified “Americas” award chart, the miles required to book a flight may drop significantly – they just haven't yet.

Just like a short flight on the West Coast or anywhere else in the states, a flight of under 700 miles to, from, or within Central and South America will cost as low 4,500 miles. That includes the short American Airlines flight from Miami (MIA) to Cancun (CUN).

But it seems these lower rates haven't made their way to Alaska's site just yet: We couldn't find fares under 17,500 miles as of publication, so you might want to wait to book fares like these.
Alaska Airlines AA MIA to CUN

Slightly longer flights between 701 to 1,400 miles can be booked for as low as 7,500 miles, like this flight from Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Mexico City (MEX). But just like the example above, we couldn't find those lower-priced awards just yet – 17,500 miles was the cheapest we could find.
Alaska Airlines AA DFW to MEX

Meanwhile, even much longer flights that measure between 2,101 miles and 4,000 miles will get cheaper, including the Dallas to Bogotá (BOG) route with American: As low as 17,500 miles. Under the old system, that flight would cost 25,000 Alaska miles. Yet again, we can't find that lowest rate as of publication.

Alaska Airlines AA DFW to BOG flights

Sweet Spots for Japan Airlines Flights from 35K

Once you get outside of the Americas, a different award chart takes over. Like others, award rates are determined by how far you fly.

That spells trouble for ultra-long flights to Asia, at least on paper. Here's the new U.S. to Asia Pacific award chart.
Alaska Airlines Asia Pacific award chart 2024

Most Japan Airlines flights from the U.S. measure 5,000 miles or more, meaning they'll cost at least 37,500 miles in economy while business class will run you 75,000 miles. That's an increase flying to and from several West Coast gateways but actually a slight improvement on the longer routes. This flight from Chicago-O'Hare (ORD) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND) previously cost 45,000 miles in economy and 80,000 miles for Japan Airlines business class.
japan airlines redemption with alaska miles

But the new award chart also carves out an even better deal on the shortest flights to Tokyo from Seattle (SEA) and Vancouver (YVR). Because flights from both cities clock in under 5,000 miles, a one-way in economy now costs 35,000 miles … while business class will run you just 60,000 miles.
Alaska Airlines SEA to NRT JAL

Alaska Airlines YVR to NRT JAL


Starlux Business Class for 75K

Using Alaska miles to book a business class flight with the new, Taiwan-based Starlux Airlines is one of the best deals to get from the west coast to Taipei (TPE) and other destinations in Asia. Despite  all the changes with Alaska Miles, this redemption is safe.

A one-way, business class flight from San Francisco to Taipei remains unchanged at 75,000 miles each way.
Alaska Airlines Starlux biz class SFO to TPE

You could also find business class availability departing from Los Angeles (LAX).

Alaska Airlines Starlux LAX to TPE biz class


Fiji Airways Economy now 37,500 miles

Redeeming Alaska miles on Fiji Airways, there are some positives and negatives.

As of publication, the Alaska website is still showing 40,000 miles for economy flights from the U.S. to Fiji. However, these rates are set to decrease to 37,500 miles, since the flight falls between 5,001 to 7,000 miles.
Alaska Airlines LAX to NAN Fiji Airways

Business Class to Europe from 45K

There's a third award chart that spells out changes, this time for flights to and from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa.
Europe, Middle East, Africa Alaska award chart

Condor business class is one of the most underrated ways to get to Europe – especially without paying the huge surcharges you'd face flying other carriers like British Airways. And it's still a sweet spot with Alaska Miles.

From East Coast cities like Boston (BOS) and New York City (JFK) as well as Toronto (YYZ), it'll cost you just 55,000 miles to get to Frankfurt (FRA) in a lie-flat seat. Even longer flights from Baltimore (BWI) and Miami (MIA) cost the same amount.
Condor Biz BOS to FRA

Perhaps the best example is using Alaska miles to book lie-flat, business class seats on Aer Lingus to Ireland and beyond to other destinations in Europe – it starts at just 45,000 Alaska miles + $19 in taxes and fees one-way.

Alaska Airlines EWR to DUB Aer Lingus Biz


Free Stopovers, Mixed-Carrier Reservations & Sales on Partner Airline Awards

Some of the best parts of Alaska's Mileage program aren't going anywhere – and the airline is even teasing some new features on the way that will add to this list.

  • Alaska has committed to continue offering one of the most generous stopover policies on award tickets in the airline industry: You can add a free stopover to any award ticket, squeezing in two destinations for the price of one. And yes, that includes even one-way award tickets.
  • Sometime later this year, the airline will introduce the ability to book multiple partner carriers on the same itinerary, like flying to Hong Kong by connecting from Japan Airlines to Cathay Pacific.
  • Alaska has said it plans to offer quarterly partner award sales, with discounts of up to 50% off on specific partners, routes, and destinations. That means some of the redemptions you see above could occasionally get even better.


Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Devaluations

With new award charts come flights that require more miles to book.

Although there are some positive changes, there are many routes that got much more expensive when booking with miles. Let's take a look at some notable routes that were affected.


Hawaii Flights Will Cost 17.5K or More

West coasters like myself used to be able to book a trip with Alaska Airlines (or American) to the Hawaiian islands for 12,500 Alaska miles each way, paying only $12 in taxes roundtrip! That's a steal for what can often be an expensive trip.
Alaska SEA to HNL economy

Unfortunately, as a trip from Seattle (SEA), Los Angeles (LAX), or any West Coast city to Honolulu (HNL) would fall within the 2,101 to 4,000 mile range, these flights will soon run you at least 17,500 miles. That change hasn't been made on Alaska's site as of publication, so you might want to hurry to book something before it costs you more!


LATAM Business Class Now 50K

For longer flights with LATAM down to South America, you'll have to cough up more miles for routes above 4,001 miles.

So while a one-way business class ticket from Los Angeles to Santiago (SCL) previously cost 45,000 miles each way – and still does, as these rates also have not yet changed over on Alaska's website – it'll soon cost you 50,000 miles for the same flight. Same goes for the longer route from New York City (JFK) to Santiago.

Fortunately, economy rates will stay the same, starting at 25,000 miles.
Alaska Airlines LATAM LAX to SCL economy


Fiji Airways Business Class Now 75K

Unfortunately, it's all bad news outside of the economy cabin when it come to Fiji Airways. What used to cost 55,000 miles to fly from the U.S. to Fiji (or even Australia and New Zealand with a connection in Fiji) is set to skyrocket. Rest in peace.
Alaska Airlines LAX to NAN Fiji

Nonstop flights from the U.S. to Fiji will now run you 75,000 miles for business class. And while you could once connect all the way through to either Sydney (SYD) or Auckland (AKL) with a pitstop (or free stopover) in Fiji for that same 55,000-mile rate, that gets even worse: 85,000 miles for business class.

These rates also haven't officially changed over to the new pricing yet. Book them while they last!
los angeles akl redemption with alaska miles


Qantas Rates on the Rise

Alaska miles could be incredibly valuable for getting to Australia on the country's flag carrier. That's taking a hit, too.

  • Economy one-ways will cost at least 42,500 miles each way – up slightly from the previous 40,000-mile rate
  • It gets worse in Qantas business class: One-ways jump from the old rate of 55,000 miles to 85,000 miles each way
  • Qantas First Class gets the worst of it, going from 70,000 miles each way to 130,000 miles. 


Qantas business class seat 20A

Admittedly, booking premium cabins through Alaska at these dirt-cheap rates has become a bit of a unicorn recently. But we've sent Thrifty Traveler Premium members a handful of alerts over the last year – including a deal just last week to fly Qantas First Class from Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD) for 70,000 Alaska miles.

The new, higher rates weren't live on Alaska's site as of publication, so you've got a narrow window to book some of these deals … if you can find them.


Cathay Pacific Redemptions Skyrocket

For years, Alaska miles have been the best way to book Cathay Pacific business class or even Cathay First Class to Hong Kong. Heck, that's been one of the best ways to redeem Alaska miles, period.

For just 50,000 miles each way in business class and 70,000 in first class, it was a steal. But these new award charts will push that up to 85,000 miles each way for business class … and 130,000 miles for first. Then again, the award availability to actually book those seats through Alaska has been scarce – even nonexistent. Still, this one hurts.

Cathay Pacific economy flights are also set to rise to 42,500 miles each way. For now, you can still fairly easily find a Cathay economy seat at the older, lower rates of 30,000 miles each way.
Alaska Airlines Cathay Pacific economy LAX to HKG


Bottom Line

Big changes are in motion when it comes to redeeming Alaska Airlines miles.

Starting earlier this month, Alaska began rolling out updated award rates to match a set of new award charts, whether you're flying Alaska with your Mileage Plan miles or one of its partner carriers. There are some small (and not-so-small) wins … and some painful losses.

But those updates are still underway, so there may be window to score a deal before the new (and often higher) award rates take effect.


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.

2 Responses

  • Thanks for this update. I have a lot of Alaska miles I need to use and a lot of information out there is outdated.

  • Historically I’ve gotten great value out of Alaska miles on Cathay or JAL in first class from ORD to DPS or CGK. Now those sweet spots are destroyed. As you mentioned, finding premium award space from Area 1 to Area 3 on Cathay was laughable recently anyway but the prices listed are starter prices and even with the new vastly higher prices award space doesn’t seem more plentiful. Maybe when Alaska brings in the promised good news with mixed-carrier awards then some severely devalued awards will seem a bit more enticing.

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