Alaska Airlines has a really unique mileage program given that they partner with airlines across multiple alliances. While that’s awesome, the challenge with Mileage Plan miles is that with the exception of travel on Alaska, they don’t let you mix partners on an award ticket, so that limits options somewhat. Award space is limited enough to begin with, even when you can mix airlines within an alliance, and it gets even tougher when you’re stuck with just one airline.
There has long been a rumor that Mileage Plan would soon begin allow one-way awards on partner airlines, though up until now I haven’t seen an official date on the implementation of that. Per this FlyerTalk thread, it seems like they may be implementing one-way awards on partner airlines as of March 17. I called Alaska to try and independently verify this, and while they couldn’t name a date, several agents said they were in the process of undergoing training for one-way awards, which makes me believe this may be accurate.
This would be awesome news, given that Alaska has some real gems on their award chart, though it can be tough to accrue enough miles for a roundtrip ticket given that they don’t have many transfer partners. For example, roundtrip first class between the US and South Africa on Cathay Pacific costs just 140,000 Mileage Plan miles, which gets you four 15 hour segments in Cathay Pacific first class. If one-way awards were allowed it would be possible to do San Francisco to Hong Kong to Johannesburg one-way in Cathay Pacific first class for just 70,000 miles.
Similarly, Alaska just recently added Emirates as a mileage redemption partner, so this opens up a lot of great options for one-way awards as well. A one-way first class award from the US to Africa on Emirates would run you 100,000 Mileage Plan miles, while a one-way first class award from the US to Asia, India, or the Middle East would run you 90,000 Mileage Plan miles, both of which seem like a great value.
The other benefit is that if you can book one-ways you can potentially book the two directions of travel on different airlines, which may prove to be a huge benefit.
Anyway, this is an exciting development, and I’ll be sure to post if/when I see official confirmation of this.
Of course I hope that Alaska doesn’t devalue their award chart in the process of adding one-ways, since they haven’t updated their award chart in a while.