Alaska Changes Terms Of Fly & Buy Miles Offering

Alaska Airlines has long offered their Fly & Buy Miles program, whereby you can purchase either 2,500, 5,000, or 10,000 miles at the time you ticket a reservation. The cost to purchase 10,000 miles was $190 plus tax, so including tax it was basically an opportunity to purchase Alaska miles for just over two cents each.

Given the amazing redemption opportunities available through Mileage Plan for travel on Cathay Pacific and Emirates, and especially given that you can book one-way awards and even have stopovers on them, in many cases this was a hell of a deal. For specific redemption scenarios, I’d argue Alaska miles are the single most valuable mileage currency.

One way to take advantage of this was to book refundable tickets and use the Fly & Buy miles offering at the time of ticketing, and then later later cancelling the tickets while keeping the miles.

Alaska has unfortunately raised the price of this option and also added more terms, which I guess isn’t surprising after a blogger specifically outlined how to exploit this loophole. Along similar lines, just last month Alaska began limiting mileage sales exclusively to those with accounts registered in North America.

So what changes did Alaska make to the Fly & Buy Miles program?

Alaska raised the cost of purchasing miles through Fly & Buy Miles

Previously Alaska charged $190 plus tax to purchase 10,000 miles. Now they’ve raised the cost to $200 plus tax for 10,000 miles.

Alaska-Buy-Miles-101

That means including the 7.5% tax, the new cost to purchase 10,000 miles is $215, or 2.15 cents per mile.

Alaska-Buy-Miles-103

Alaska has updated the terms of Fly & Buy Miles for those refunding tickets

The bolded section below has been added to terms of the Fly & Buy Miles program:

For example, chances are if you booked one refundable ticket every couple of weeks Alaska wouldn’t have noticed or cared. But I bet there were people that read about this and then purchased 30 refundable tickets in a period of an hour, and then refunded them all instantly.

That’s what makes the airlines catch on.

Where do you stand on sharing “tricks” like this? Am I off base?

(Tip of the hat to RLG)

Comments

  1. i have never used this one or the US Air trick because they are borderline unethical.

    maybe they should just allow this for non-refudable tickets?

  2. Give people an inch, they take a mile or in our case, thousands of miles. When I read that USair trick, that seemed pretty sneaky and I wouldn’t blog/or brag about it.

  3. @John

    It was Brian over at ThePointsGuy. He does give the caveat about using it sparingly and not to go out and purchase a bunch of refundable tickets.

    http://thepointsguy.com/2014/01/how-to-buy-alaska-airlines-miles-for-2-cents-each-every-day-great-deal-on-emirates-tickets/

    Bengali Miles Guri at HackMyTrip goes and exploits this buying 5 refundable tickets and 50,000 miles saying “he followed his (Brian’s) advice)” (Side note: clearly this went against his warning). He had his ticket cancelled and account shut down to fraud.

    http://hackmytrip.com/2014/01/denied-boarding-emirates-courtesy-alaska-airlines/

  4. Alaska Airlines has always required that people using the Fly & Buy option follow the Mileage Plan Conditions of Membership, which state that it can suspend an account or take other action against a customer who “perpetrates a fraudulent or deceitful act against Alaska Airlines”.

    Purchasing Fly & Buy miles and then canceling a ticket may be a trick, but it’s also a deceitful act. The only change here (besides a 5% increase in the cost of miles) is that Alaska is making it more clear what actions it will take when it detects a deceitful act.

  5. Gee, what a shock that some blogger would publish this clearly unethical and deceitful trick.

    “He does give the caveat about using it sparingly and not to go out and purchase a bunch of refundable tickets.”

    Has anyone ever seen such a laughably disingenuous statement?

    I’m glad that idiot got busted by Alaska when he pulled this crap. I’m only sorry that they let him off so easily – they should have left his ass in BKK and had him pay for a new, full-price ticket on the spot, or go pound sand.

    This is theft. Thieves are sleaze-bags.

  6. @Scottrick — Buying a refundable ticket with the Fly & Buy option isn’t necessarily a deceitful act. I have several such tickets booked with old BofA First Class BOGO$99s. I fully intend to use all of them, but there is also a good chance I will refund at least one of them since the bookings are speculative (hoping to get 200% DL MQM, but that isn’t likely to last much longer). I will be pissed off if I am charged for a deceitful act that I did not commit.

  7. Bengali, that jagoff, is lucky he got off lightly at $268 or so because had he made contact during normal business hours instead of like 2am, he would’ve gotten a day shift supervisor and things would’ve gotten ugly, quick. Like a full Y fare from BKK. But the blogger Brian, he’s a real douche and a dishonest one at that, should never have posted it. He’s a prime example why certain airline exec’s group bloggers and many travel agent’s as the bane of airlines’ existence and I don’t blame them. Too bad his account wasn’t terminated and that of Brian @TPG too. Would’ve really sent a message – better for all frequent flyers as a group to have more respect.

  8. “I wish it made sense to share all tricks, but the problem aside from the “visibility” of a blog post, is that some people just aren’t able to apply common sense to a situation.”
    I couldn’t agree more. To me, sharing is not necessarily the issue but the greed that some people cannot resist to “maximize the deal” is not really applying common sense.

  9. @gene – true, in that it is not deceitful if you use “fly and buy”, your intent is to do both of those things, on that specific reservation. Pretty sure nobody is claiming that if you have to refund a ticket later, you are being deceitful. Alaska Customer Care being as good as they are, if you got charged the fees, and pleaded your case, I think you’d have a good chance of getting them waived at least once. I hope… 🙂

    As a frequent user of Fly and Buy, I’m happy to see it being protected, rather than shut down entirely. Limiting to North America seemed to be aimed at cases like Australian members, who would buy in order to redeem awards, but never intended to fly Alaska as a paid customer. Apparently this was often cheaper than paying a normal fare ex-Australia. Totally anecdotal, but it sounded credible to me.

  10. It comes down to greed and dishonesty. That’s what’s going to play a big part in more and more restrictions and shut-outs (ie: obtaining premium seats). Gathering miles and points by abusing the system (blatant cc churns, us mint coin collectors, making up fraudulent ff accts so as to “share” and all the other shyster-shylock tricks) ruin it for all us legit folks. And if Gene’s intention was to actually fly those paid tickets then include him too. But when Brian and a couple of others blatantly promote scams and abuse of the system, they should be shut down and banned since they’ll be the reason for future restrictions. Oh and they’ll be the first ones to start wailing about “cheap LH & LX … No premium cabin space????” Give me a break. Kudos to all the legit ff’s out there!

  11. I’m a bit puzzled by the tone of many of these comments, because frankly, I don’t think this AS “Fly & Buy” is any more or less a trick than manufacturing spend on Vanilla by just moving dollars around or mistake fares or even types of mileage running. You’re exploiting a system in a way which it is not intended to be used, but honestly I don’t see the difference otherwise. AS is not defrauded, the ticket is cancelled within their normal terms, and they receive substantial revenue for the miles they sell. Personally, I’d rather buy a $49 or $69 Vegas fare and just not use the space after I buy the miles. What this points out more than anything is how outrageously cheap many of the gamers are. Penny-wise….

  12. Not surprised — could kind of see it coming.

    Is US Airways trick still alive and worth seeking out? Given that you can get their miles pretty cheaply, I wonder what was the cost per mile.

  13. @Adam: Exactly. Those who participate or promote these loopholes are exploiting and abusing the system and its not like they just fell off the turnip truck either. There’s a lot of thought put into their deceit and abuse of the system. What if more of their accounts were frozen or nuked, the screaming would be heard on Mars.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if one day providers (airlines and cc issuers in particular) revert to where the only way to gather hundreds of thousands of miles per year is the old fashioned way: fly.
    Some keep calling collecting miles by any means a hobby, when it’s technically legalized larceny. How would those same guys react if it was their livelihood being affected or their company being abused by shylocks constantly trying to scam them/their company. Hmmmm….
    It seems some who promote the schemes must’ve learned by selling penny stocks on the phone back in the early 90’s.

  14. Isn’t ‘exploiting the system’ exactly what Lucky was doing back in his United 1k days, booking flights he suspected would be oversold with the sole intent of getting bumped and getting compensation? Is that better or worse than buying and refunding tickets solely to get access to the miles offer?

  15. @Corey: both are reprehensible practices which basically scammed the systems. Sorry if this sounds harsh but those are still lowball, unethical practices. There’s not one person who can honestly dispute that.
    They can argue till the end of time, but if either he or TPG had an actual business and their customers were constantly trying to develop methods to screw them that they wouldn’t be even remotely po’d?
    A last note, they’re both exceptionally fortunate their accounts weren’t/haven’t been nuked – maybe because the airlines didn’t actually have someone monitoring blogs then. They do now though.

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