Dear Alaska Airlines: This Is How You Win Back The Loyalty You Lost Today

Early this morning I posted about the horrible devaluation Alaska Mileage Plan made to their award chart for travel in Emirates first class. The cost of Emirates first class award tickets increased between 67% and 100%. Those are some insane increases. It’s one thing if they had provided notice of these changes, but they didn’t, which I have a serious problem with.

Alaska-Award-Emirates-1

When I first wrote about this, some people responded by saying “it’s their program, they can do as they choose.” That’s definitely true. All mileage programs are solely at the discretion of the airlines — they can change any aspect of the program at anytime without even having to provide a reason. Given what a commodity miles are becoming (and the direct opportunity cost to earning them, in many cases), that can be worrisome.

For example, over the weekend a friend of mine spent ~$1,000 to purchase Alaska miles so he’d have enough miles for a one-way Emirates first class ticket, as flying Emirates first class was his dream. He was planning on booking it this weekend, as he was just firming up his travel plans. And this morning he’s pissed, and texted me a bunch of four letter words — he spent cold hard cash on those miles, and based on the redemption he was pursuing, the value of those miles was halved overnight.

Emirates-A380

The airlines can do that, but it’s not good business. For anyone who works in Alaska Airlines management, think about it for a second. Your airline is centered around being a “hometown airline” which takes a different approach towards customer service than other airlines — they claim to be “North Of Expected.”

North-Of-Expected

While other airlines are switching to revenue based programs (while providing advance notice, I might add), Alaska’s CEO has indicated that Mileage Plan won’t go revenue based for now. At a conference several weeks back, Alaska’s CEO said the following regarding the future of the Mileage Plan program, per Brian Sumers:

CEO Brad Tilden suggested Alaska may try to advertise its program as a competitive advantage, similar to what Southwest Airlines has done with checked bags. You’ve probably seen Southwest’s “bags fly free” campaign.

“It is a lot like Southwest with bag fees,” Tilden said. “We could argue about its merits five years ago. Today, it’s very differentiated from what the other guys offer. So I think its value actually has gone up.”

The goal is for the airline to use their loyalty program as a competitive advantage, and the airline’s CEO thinks the value of that has gone up. I’d ask Mr. Tilden if he thinks that disappointing members with no notice changes fits into the vision of his?

A few years back American made a fairly minor change (in the grand scheme of things) without notice, and members were outraged. And ever since they’ve become so much better about transparency and communication, and are on record as saying that they’ll provide more notice of changes. They deserve kudos for that.

So this makes me wonder what Alaska was thinking when they made this change? What made them think it was okay to make such a huge change without notice, or more specifically, how does this fit into the CEO’s vision of using Mileage Plan as a point of differentiation?

I’d note that Alaska claimed on Twitter that they don’t determine the number of miles required for an Emirates award, but rather Emirates does. That’s almost certainly false. Emirates could have raised their reimbursement rates for Alaska, but airlines generally can’t control how many miles a partner airline charges. Then again, I wouldn’t assume anything an online marketing employee on Twitter says to be true.

Alaska-Airlines-Tweet

I have a few theories as to how this happened:

  • Emirates increased the internal reimbursement rates for Alaska, and Alaska decided to immediately raise the mileage costs to reflect that
  • Some number-cruncher at Alaska noticed how popular Emirates first class redemptions were, and decided that they could get away with higher pricing
  • Alaska wanted to devalue the redemption for whatever reason, and the person responsible for implementing it was someone who didn’t realize that no notice changes especially piss off customers

To Brad Tilden and the rest of the management team at Alaska, think of how this looks to your loyal flyers. You’re actively promoting the 40% bonus on purchased Mileage Plan miles, which tons of people are taking advantage of.

Alaska-Bonus

So many people, as a matter of fact, that your Mileage Plan revenue increased by $34 million last year from mileage sales alone. I can assure you members weren’t purchasing those miles so they could book standard level awards between Seattle and Portland. And then a day before the promotion ends you devalue the single most desirable award with no notice.

Hopefully Alaska’s management sees my perspective here. What could they do to make things right?

  • Honor the old Mileage Plan redemption rates for travel on Emirates for some period of time, given how many members earned miles with the specific intent of redeeming on Emirates
  • Clarify the Tweet which blames this on Emirates; if Emirates actually forced the award cost change, then let us know… but them increasing internal reimbursement rates is very different than them controlling how many miles Alaska charge
  • Promise members that in the future there will be more advance notice of major changes

Without that, a lot of my trust (and other peoples’ trust) in Mileage Plan, and Alaska Airlines as a whole, is gone…

Alaska-Seattle

Bottom line

Ultimately airlines can do whatever they want with their frequent flyer programs, as the terms protect them from just about anything. That being said, making major loyalty program changes without advance notice is very bad form, and even a big legacy airline like American has gone so far as to say they’ll provide notice of major AAdvantage changes.

The only major US airline which will shamelessly admit to making changes without notice is Delta… and Alaska, you’ve fought so hard to differentiate yourself from Delta, no?

I’d love to hear what you guys think, and I’d recommend continuing to share your feedback with Alaska Airlines, both on Twitter and via customer relations.

Comments

  1. If I bought miles during the sale, I’d seriously consider asking for a refund or a chargeback.

  2. Anyone arguing “it’s their program, they can do as they choose” fundamentally misunderstands loyalty programs.

  3. As I said on the other page, why would AS have so many different partner award charts if not for that their award prices are at least somewhat determined by their partners? And it is remotely surprising that EK is annoyed that their first class cabins are getting filled up by AS fliers when (as you can see on the EK FlyerTalk pages) EK’s own fliers find first class to be effectively out of reach?

    Maybe it was just too good to be true, as much as that sucks.

  4. I was about to write exactly what @Ivan Y wrote above.

    I imagine that when people purchase miles, they do it for a specific purpose (not just to have miles hanging around in their account), and to devalue that without notice is definitely a bait and switch move. I would be demanding a refund, or initiating a chargeback.

    You may not win the chargeback, since it was actually a legitimate purchase, but if enough people do it, Alaska Air will be mired in paperwork submitting responses to the chargebacks.

  5. Ben, I was minutes away from spending 3k last night on miles to fly EK- F. As someone who’s mom was a Pan Am international flight attendant it has been a dream for me to take my mom to Africa, as it is the only place she has never been. The shock of her on an A380 EK F would be worth ten times the $$.
    As always, onemileatatime groupies will entrust you to help us find another way.. But until then, I’m glad I didn’t spend my money last night on Alaska.

  6. Well, at least you have until 2019 now to save up your Alaska Miles, when Emirates introduces their new First Class LOL

  7. At least Alaska Mileageplan still offers the EK First redemption. All these years I never understood why it was even offered given Alaska doesn’t have a 3-cabin plane.

  8. This is a pretty poor show with no announcement at all. What with AA devaluation and now this I wonder if this is the end of FF programs. I am certainly reconsidering my loyalty to any and whats the point of collecting miles at all. I am tempted to ask Alaskan for a refund of miles I recently bought as this really is pretty unfair.

  9. In other changes without notice, the Hainan chart the Lucky posted yesterday said intra-asia. Now it says intra-China, at the same rates. 🙁

  10. Great customer service there from emirates. Arab hospitality.

    But no fear our unpatriotic politicians will continue kiss their asses.

  11. I think the minimum reasonable response is to allow anyone who bought miles in the last two weeks to refund them without penalty. The more customer friendly move would be to give a window for redemptions at the old price, at least for miles that were in their account on March 31…

    But it is interesting to note from all the comments in these two threads, the people who accumulated their miles by loyally flying Alaska Airways are pretty rare. Which makes sense, given it is a regional airlines and many of the readers of this blog, and many frequent flyer fans, are scattered all over the world. But if that is so, then Mileage Plan is really just an arbitrage play, where people buy miles at the last minute and convert points to maximize their return. So in this case, it makes more sense for a sudden devaluation, unlike some of the larger national carriers.

    I still think they should treat existing mileage balances differently, though, because there’s some customers who have been saving up their points the old fashioned way…

  12. Let’s see…100 bloggers out imploring people to buy Alaska Miles to redeem on Emirates and when the program changes the bloggers react with righteous indignation. It is time for bloggers to admit that they are becoming part of the problem with devaluations and credit card restrictions.

    I have flown on Emirates in First and Qantas in FIrst using Alaska miles. I have only flown on an Alaska plane once in my life many years ago. Alaska owes me nothing and I will find a way to use my remains miles.

  13. I have seen AS’s agreement with CX and DL. Their agreements do say that the partner airline, NOT Alaska, determines the number of miles required for redemption. Their contracts are NOT the usual alliance partner contracts that fixes a per flown mile reimbursement rate. That’s why they have a different award chart for each partner and you can’t mix them. That’s also why DL awards costs the same for OW and RT travel.

    Partner airlines having some control over other’s program is also not unique in the AS program. For example BA’s partners, AS included, charges YQ on all BA awards. This is mandated by BA to make sure their own program doesn’t become uncompetitive for award travel on their own flights. Same reason why DL charges YQ on ex-Europe awards on AF/KL.

    I have not seen the EK agreement but there is a possibility that the twitter claim is true.

  14. Pretty painful to be loyal and collect miles only to have them devalued over night with no warning. AA gave us what, 4 FULL MONTHS of notice to book award redemptions with their devalue. While devaluations will never be popular announcing them for your loyal customers to have time to use them before the devalue is the right thing to do. This is 100% piss poor customer service from Alaska and I hope they understand that.

  15. @Markj is completely correct. I am sure AS can see who is purchasing miles, and it is most likely not members who fly AS but rather those taking advantage. Tiffany the vast number of AS flyers are insanely loyal to the brand, and yes they will redeem miles from PDX-SEA, or any other route throughout Alaska or the PNW, those flights can be expensive!!

    Tiffany, just curious how many flights did your “friend” make on AS last year? Mileage Plan will do what is right if you are actually a customer

  16. Obviously Emirates has been reading your blog snd are pissedthatyou can fly for 70% less in premium cabins via purchasing cheap miles and never setting a bum in seat on air alaska. Emirates are losing $$$ by allowing this, the game or hobby is up !! Deal with it

  17. How valuable is that loyalty to Alaska if ultimately it’s costing them money or at least little margin in that customer remaining loyal.

    The airlines on-board offering and prices haven’t changed which is their core business. Their former cheap EK first redemptions are only of interest to a niche subset of customers who potentially aren’t even regular flyers of Alaska. They are a business like any other, any notice they would have given would have caused a huge run on redemptions as in AA recently which would have ultimately cost them money.

  18. What loyalty are you talking about? It seems like most people are simply just earning points on their program and then spending the points to fly another airline that they’ve ever actually purchased a ticket on – rather than actually FLYING the airline. Yes, airlines make money from their loyalty programs, but at the end of the day the programs exist to get people to fly the airline, not merely as an arbitrage opportunity.
    I do agree they should have given more advanced notice. That sucks. But they are totally within their rights to make these changes.
    A few years ago I worked for another airline (one you never fly) that had a massive devaluation. Their partner airline complained that the price they were charging for F/ J class tickets was too low and DEMANDED that they raise them/ raise the internal reimbursement rates. My carrier did do that. So yes, I think Emirates asked AS to do something and probably threatened them with something if they didn’t take action fast. I’m sure that’s what happened here.
    Either way, it’s sad that this happened so quickly and without warning. But at the same time, it seemed like a LOT of people were just earning and buring the miles without actually flying Alaska Airlines, which is not the behavior that AS is trying to incent with their program.

  19. What must your life be like if you’re that person who goes “I think the Airlines have the right. Bully for them to screw over the plebs who thought they could get a great deal with some thought and effort.”

    Seriously, you lot were the kids who were dying to be Hall Monitors and snitched on everyone in class.

    These folks are only surpassed in their garbage-ness by the (clearly fake) snobs who respond with “well, as an Emirates Elite who pays 30k per ticket (sure dude), I for one am pleased that I won’t have to share my cabin with slobs from the midwest.”

    You people must live miserable lives to make posts like this.

  20. i am one of those people who’s been saving up and was actively looking at reserving this weekend
    this is super annoying and unfair as a business practice; any loyalty that i had towards alaska is now gone.

  21. I’m so happy I decided to splurge for EK F for my vacation, leaving later today for Asia. Certainly changes how I think about future trips. Bummer.

  22. Along with the thread on FT about AS closing accounts for people who bought lots of miles and then redeemed without flying, I think it’s safe to conclude that this is not a trustworthy program. to me, though, notice is important not just for the people who purchased miles but also those who have been flying partners and crediting to AS for aspirational awards.

  23. @Melissa

    You can probably get the tickets to Africa for around $15k cash, so you’d still be getting at least 2x the $$ out of flying EK F….

  24. Perfect Lucky. I bought 50 k 20 days ago and was preparing to buy another 50 k today. My plans and hopes are gone. Emirates first never again. Unfortunatelly. I would try to go for Cathay, but they dont have long term first class availabillity as i could only travel again next january.

    So now i have 90 k alaska miles lost in my acount. What can i do with them Luck? Help me.
    Should i buy 50 k more and redeem to Cathay?

  25. @Jon:

    “Their former cheap EK first redemptions are only of interest to a niche subset of customers who potentially aren’t even regular flyers of Alaska.”

    Ding ding ding ding ding.

    We have a winner.

    Now, granted, AS makes a few millions selling miles according to their SEC filings, but I would guess they’re willing to sacrifice that for the goodwill of partners like EK.

    http://phx.corporate-ir.net/phoenix.zhtml?c=109361&p=irol-SECText&TEXT=aHR0cDovL2FwaS50ZW5rd2l6YXJkLmNvbS9maWxpbmcueG1sP2lwYWdlPTEwNzMzNTU5JkRTRVE9MCZTRVE9MCZTUURFU0M9U0VDVElPTl9FTlRJUkUmc3Vic2lkPTU3

    Yeah, it sucks that they can’t be trusted to do no-notice devaluations. So trust no-one.

  26. Cry me river. You seem to forget that airlines are corporations, not charities. I really wish there was a separation point in premium cabins for proper passengers like myself who can actually pay for a full fare ticket, and then the bottom dwellers that churn miles to claw their way out of the scum in economy.

  27. @ No Name — I think that one was actually the fault of the web team. When I called in the morning (before the charts were published) the rep was very clear that the prices were intra-China, not intra-Asia. So that was a good correction to make.

  28. This is all Emirates doing. Its up to them to determine the costs, and also, the way things are run over there, things like this can happen with a blink of an eye. Also, I don’t think it helps when people ‘advertise’ to the media how easy it is to get EK F seats using Alaska miles. Quite honestly, their 15 min of fame, costs a lot of people grief, as many people bought AS miles, signed for cards, etc etc. Now, you are even farther from the finish line, and no more Gatorade left heheh..

  29. Alaska is still awesome for Cathay F 70K to Middle East / India.

    For Emirates F, I guess Korean Air and Japan Airlines mileage program is the way to go now

  30. Matt, you probably are a Donald Trump elector. Disgusting comment. Totall Shame on you, dirty rotten filthy stinking rich….

  31. You really know no shame, Ben.

    If you were saving up $10,000 for a first class ticket, and just before making a reservation, the fare happens to suddenly go up – would you also blame the airline and demand selling you the ticket at a lower fare?

    Be grateful that you have been able to travel so much in Emirates F at a fraction of the true cost, even if in miles. Those who have actually been loyal Emirates Skywards members, had to use two-three times the amount of miles, remain loyal to one airline – while observing how you and your fellow ‘Alaskans’ were depleting award availability for much less, and bragging loudly about doing so all over the Internet.

  32. Matt is a troll. It makes him feel special to pretend he’s rich.

    C’mon dude. I know super-wealthy folks who can afford 15k tickets. They don’t waste their time posting on BoardingArea.

  33. “You may not win the chargeback, since it was actually a legitimate purchase, but if enough people do it, Alaska Air will be mired in paperwork submitting responses to the chargebacks.”

    I’m guessing you probably WOULD win if you bought miles yesterday or a few days ago, as you can make a pretty strong case that Alaska engaged in bait-and-switch: they said “here, buy these miles, look what you can do with them!” and as soon as you bought them, you were told you can’t do what they said you could do. You might have a harder time if you’ve made incremental miles purchases in the past with the goal of eventually having enough for an EK award, as there is a time limit for disputing charges (60 days, IIRC).

    But Alaska might be happy to just refund your money if you ask – especially with all the social media flak they’re getting from Lucky and presumably others!

  34. I still see 100,000 one way Emirates F Between North America and Europe on the Alaska website award chart.

  35. I think the ME3 are finally feeling some pain from the drop in oil prices and they are having to clamp down. This was probably one of the biggest loopholes that was costing Emirates money and they decided to cut it off.

    Just yesterday we also heard that DXB was intituting a new 9.50 surcharge for any pax using the airport. I think that’s another sign of the pain being felt over there. I bet this is just the beginning of more moves like this that we’ll be seeing.

  36. https://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/benefits/conditions-of-membership.aspx#changes

    Note the specific wording here, implying that AS partners are the ones setting rates for their awards. Be afraid, very afraid for any good value in the AS partner charts.

    “Partners may, at their discretion and without notice, change the amount of mileage required for their awards, the amount of Miles credited for an activity, or impose other restrictions upon the use of awards on their flights.”

  37. I have earned, bought, redeemed and credited flights to Alaska without ever having set foot on Alaska metal. These devaluations make it less likely that I will do these things in the future… but what has Alaska really lost? Am I really a loyal customer? This is a loss for Alaska customers that actually fly the airline and redeem earned miles, but for the rest of us, Alaska doesn’t really owe us anything.

    I will spend down my remaining Alaska miles on flights as necessary and credit my growing amount of paid fares on Delta and American.

  38. This may be pretty shoddy behavior on the airline’s part – but buying miles so that you can redeem them for premium awards on partner carriers is not “loyalty”…

    Doubt that this is a big deal to many folks who are actually regular fliers of AS.

  39. Too many people redeeming for these awards to then brag on the internet. While some top oil company executives are paying top dollars to fly Emirates first class others are there just to drink champagne and take selfies on the shower. I can guarantee you that Alaska didn’t do this alone. Emirates is probably tired of having non revenue people on their first class.

  40. @snic, @ Lucky
    while unfortunate, see below link and text. 1) these changes can be made at any time and 2) partners can make changes at any time. This language is part of the agreement when you join mileage plan. Sorry.

    https://www.alaskaair.com/content/mi…p.aspx#changes
    The accumulation of mileage in a member’s account does not entitle the member to any vested rights with respect to any specific awards or specific Mileage Plan benefits. In accumulating mileage, members may not rely upon the continued availability of any award or award level, and members may not be able to obtain awards for all destinations or flights. Alaska Airlines may, among other things:

    Change Mileage Plan benefits, participant affiliations, or cities served
    Limit the number of seats available for award travel or otherwise restrict the continued availability of travel awards or special offers
    Increase or decrease the mileage required for an award
    Modify transferability of miles and awards

    Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan Partners may on occasion implement changes affecting Mileage Plan benefits without prior notice to members.

  41. I love all of this complaining from people who haven’t seen the inside of an Alaska 737 in their life. Alaska owes you nothing. Was not posting in advance a bad move? Clearly Yes. But the people who just buy miles and never fly Alaska, why should AS even begin to care about you?

  42. I am in two minds about mileage use on partner airlines. On one hand, it does provide some avenue of arbitrage; yet conversely, it is flippin’ unfair to bona fide elite members who then face stiffer competition for premium award spaces.

    Take Singapore Airlines for example…. it’s almost impossible to get premium award space simply because they are crowded with Virgin riff-raff.
    ….and this is coming from someone who has been PPS with them for a while now.

  43. This is mostly definitely going to cause a ripple effect for CX F availability now. Folks who have a lot of Alaska Miles will mostly look to use them for CX F flights now causing a spike in its demand.

    This is an additional headache to all others who booked F class tickets using AA miles before March 22nd devaluation who are waiting and looking to change or push out dates with CX F awards as and when it becomes available.

  44. People buying miles and then using those miles on EK flights is EXACTLY what Alaska was aiming for here – they’ve hit the bulls eye.

    I’ve earned all my Alaska miles the hard way and was within a few weeks of redeeming for a return on EK (already booked the outbound thank goodness). It’s a total bummer to have this devaluation, however the program is not meant to be taken advantage of the way so many publicize it.

    The people whining here are the same ones who caused the devaluation.

    BTW – your friend was an idiot for buying those miles and then not redeeming that day

  45. Actually, Alaska can make these changes with no notice, and their partners can and do have the ab8ility to make changes, per the Mileage Plan Conditions of Membership.

    While regrettable, and certainly frustrating, it’s true.

    Here’s the text of that section of the agreement,as well as a link to this site: https://www.alaskaair.com/content/mileage-plan/benefits/conditions-of-membership.aspx#redeeming
    Changes to the Mileage Plan™ and Member Accounts

    Alaska Airlines may terminate the Mileage Plan program 180 days after publishing notice of program termination on http://www.alaskaair.com.

    Alaska Airlines may, in its sole discretion, amend the Mileage Plan Conditions of Membership, including terminating any member’s ability to redeem Miles already accrued, at any time.

    Any and all changes in the Conditions of Membership, including rules regarding the number of Miles needed for a Mileage Plan award, are retroactive and apply to all previously accumulated mileage.

    The accumulation of mileage in a member’s account does not entitle the member to any vested rights with respect to any specific awards or specific Mileage Plan benefits. In accumulating mileage, members may not rely upon the continued availability of any award or award level, and members may not be able to obtain awards for all destinations or flights. Alaska Airlines may, among other things:
    •Change Mileage Plan benefits, participant affiliations, or cities served
    •Limit the number of seats available for award travel or otherwise restrict the continued availability of travel awards or special offers
    •Increase or decrease the mileage required for an award
    •Modify transferability of miles and awards

    Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan Partners may on occasion implement changes affecting Mileage Plan benefits without prior notice to members.

  46. To all who claims that AS can do whatever they want with their mileageplan,

    1) “tis quite sad that you have no ethic and moral value. I often see this view from many Americans who take their free market capitalism to the extreme.
    2) That’s not how loyalty program works. If you want loyalty from customer, you have to earn from them.
    3) Just because it’s within their rights and legal, doesn’t mean you should do it. There’s somethign called common courtesy.

  47. My perspective is that airline “frequent flier” points are a fiat currency, just like the dollar, euro, or venezuelan bolivar. The inherent value of a fiat currency is nothing; we ascribe value based on what real goods and services we can buy with this currency. We are willing to hold wealth in US dollars because over many years, the US government and federal reserve have demonstrated a willingness to protect the ability of US dollars to buy things like apples, cars, and plane tickets (often by constraining the supply of US dollars when things get out of hand). Airlines make money from their “frequent flier” programs because people are willing to hold on to these currencies and ascribe wealth-holding value to them. Whatever EK told AS vis-a-vis redemption rates, there are two problems for AS: (1) their points lost value in the eyes of consumers because of inflation and (2) their points lost value because people no longer trust that AS will protect the purchasing power of their currency. Shame on consumers for thinking the airline could issue an unconstrained number of points/miles without inflation. Shame on the airline for inflating away the value of their points/miles after deliberately enticing people to invest in them with a low US dollar exchange rate.

  48. Why is buying miles or using their credit card any less loyal than buying a ticket? Those who argue they are more loyal because they fly Sooo many miles should give themselves a metal… Because that’s about all it’s worth. Many often fly on discount fares and I. Doing so suck up resources (fuel, equipment, human). Butt on the plane is one kind of loyalty but every major program realizes that miles flown while impressive at a coffee party really have nothing to do with true loyalty… Spending money. They should love all those who purchase miles and use the credit card. We are no less loyal.. We are just smarter.

  49. Daniel –

    Do you really think all those who never fly Alaska and the only interaction they have with Alaska is buying miles so they can redeem on EK premium cabins…do you consider those members loyal? Have they been displaying “common courtesy” in taking awards from those who have earned miles by flying with Alaska?

    If anything this weeds out those who are taking advantage of MileagePlan like it wasn’t intended.

    Look at the thread on FT and you’ll see the majority of members are actually applauding this…strange as that may be.

  50. “Let’s see…100 bloggers out imploring people to buy Alaska Miles to redeem on Emirates and when the program changes the bloggers react with righteous indignation. It is time for bloggers to admit that they are becoming part of the problem with devaluations and credit card restrictions.”

    +1 Markj, couldn’t agree more

  51. Worldtraveler303 –

    “They should love all those who purchase miles and use the credit card. We are no less loyal.. We are just smarter.”

    I’d say on this day Alaska became the smarter one.

  52. …and we wake up this morning to learn of the apocalypse, which appears in the form of the increased difficultly for an entitled, millennial blogger who travels the world using points and miles from everyone else — thanks to readers and other individuals clicking links on his blog scoring him big referral bonuses. Folks, have you figured this out yet…. Ben doesn’t buy tickets, he travels on miles and points he earns from links on his blog. No such thing as a bi-weekly pay check for him. Now it’s going to be 67% to 100% harder for poor little Ben to sip champagne at 35,000 feet while pointing out everything “wrong” about the premium customer experience yet having no knowledge of what it really takes behind the scenes to create, implement, maintain and manage that experience and thus thinking he’s truly the expert here.

    I think United was hiring for summer customer service agents in a few cities for the summer. Why not get a job and put some time in on the front lines and come down to Planet Earth from Planet Entitlement? Oh wait, rumour has it you probably wouldn’t get an interview with United. Hmmmmm…..

  53. Lucky if you want to blame anyone its yourself. This very site mocks everything about premium travel. The fact that you can fly EK first for a fifth and less than the actual cost EK are attempting to sell it for says it all.
    Lucky you have spent many years gloating about your premium delights at the cost of both AS and EK and many other airlines and now your self indulgent hobby/work has crapped itself.
    Maybe now you might have to actually pay a fare and reasonable sum of hard earned cash which wont be hard for you.
    Anyway its time to suck it up princess. And perhaps with the release of EK new flagship first class cabin and its costly install this is an attempt to recoup some costs.
    Needless to say many reasons are at play here and unfortunately your business only mocks the very nature of exclusivity when it comes to premium travel.

  54. @Bobby

    I’m an 8 figure net worth guy and could buy $15k tickets if I wanted, but I like this blog since it can save me money.

    You don’t become rich by not finding opportunities.

    I’m not cheap either, I’ve got 7 figures worth of cars. I just figure that if I can get an F ticket for pennies on the dollar via points, why not?

  55. First, I recognize Alaska is running a business as part of a capitalistic society and capitalism isn’t the problem. However, how people and businesses behave under the auspices of capitalism is very different and what I take issue with.

    I’ve seen companies have T&C’s that say one thing (because their attorneys have protected them behind this language), but in certain circumstances will see the same company temporarily abandon those for the sake of ‘doing the right thing’ because they value customer loyalty over the long term when compared to any short term expense management or revenue gain.

    Said another way, it’s the same comparison between day traders and long term institutional investors. Alaska today behaved like a day trader. If EK is truly to blame, Alaska reacted but instead should have RESPONDED.

    One word I’ve always associated with Alaska Airlines was Integrity. I felt that they always wanted to do the right thing in balance for their company AND their customers. This reactionary step today eliminated that. They will have much to do to restore that.

    Sure, there are other layers of issues here, including valuation of an award, the currency used (AS Miles), the impact and influence of flyer behaviors based upon widely publicized information from bloggers, etc. etc. What supersedes all of that, however, is how Alaska managed the situation and they did a colossal FAIL here with no notification, no explanation. They gave us notice for Mt. Pavlof eruptions right at the top of their website, but didn’t think this significant change would be important to their customers?

    I hope Brad Tilden doesn’t spend one second today with his bean counters who care more about numbers and capitalistic greed, and instead spends time contemplating what customer loyalty is all about. Its the engine that drives those numbers. And yes, customers who purchase miles but never set their bum in an Alaska plane seat are still customers, based upon a product offering by the company. Sure, a different kind of customer, but a customer none the less.

  56. I mean it was good whilst it lasted. I was lucky and decided to buy 100K AS miles a few weeks ago for around $1600.

    I then used those miles to purchase PRG-DXB in Business and then DXB-LAX on the A380 in first.

    The value of the ticket retail one way was around $10,000 so I got that ticket for 84 % less than its retail value.
    It was a great thing to have whilst it lasted, but I guess its now over and we move on.

  57. @those that argue that airline miles are a fiat currency and an increase in miles issue per se means inflation. That is conceptually incorrect. The number of seats available for frequently flyer awards is unlimited as long as revenue from miles sales is greater than cost of providing those seats.

    @those that that argue that Emirates is losing money on each redemption. Sure, then why are they releasing the seats in the first place. Logic man.

    @those that argue that Alaska Airlines is within its right. Sure, airline are within their rights to blame all delays on weather (which means they do not need to provide compensation). But that does not make it right, moral, or a good business practice. History trash bins are filled with companies that conducted businesses in unethical fashions. People catch on and they pay the price.

    @those that argue that loyalty is the only goal of a frequent flyer program. Selling miles is cold hard cash. Obtain cash from the credit cards that sell the mile is cold hard cash. Obtaining miles from transfers is cold hard cash. Cash is king. Cash flow pays bill. Seriously flawed comments.

    @those that argue that there is no loyalty. Yea, I fly 100K plus miles a years. My loyalty is aligned with the airline program. A decision to transfer is a major decision. A little airline like Alaska should be irritating people like me.

    Enouth said.

  58. While I can understand that people are rightly disappointed and annoyed by this, particularly in respect of the lack of notice, it is still the case that CX is available. It is an infinitely superior airline to EK. No bling, no tacky decor, no ridiculous shower and no need to transit through the most awful dump on God’s earth (or, even worse, stay there).

  59. I too am a long time high mileage flyer on AS and this is a bit upsetting mostly because there was no advance notice is the most irritant to me. Hey I understand the scale of economics here and have been very lucky to have flown two r/t’s in the past couple of years on EK thanks to AS miles( Flown miles by the by)

    SO reality is BA to Africa is looking pretty good even with the surcharge. As well as has anyone checked DL to see how many miles it takes on them to get the JB? Answer A LOT !!

  60. I think it’s disgraceful that airlines are legally allowed to even write those sort of T/Cs.

    Imagine if hotels did this: yes, we know you reserved your room at a $200, but overnight we raised our rates to $400, and according to our T/Cs you have to pay the new higher rate when you check out? Who would ever rent a car from a corporation who charged you double the rate you were quoted when you reserved it?

    Alaska is making hundreds of Millions of dollars a year selling miles, sometimes to Bank of America, sometimes directly to their mileage plan members. Touting a “40% bonus”, then devaluing those miles by up to 100% before they can be used is simply a Ponzi scheme, and the only businesses that can legally do that are the airlines.

    To place the blame on the bloggers, who simply pointed out how the programs have been set up by AS and EK, is pathetic. AS and EK set their programs up a certain way, AS sold miles based on the way the programs were advertised, and then did a bait and switch on those who bought those miles, regardless of whether they paid for them through buying tickets or purchasing them outright.

  61. This is one of these moments: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    I’ve stopped chasing things I can’t afford. I’ll pay for what I get. It’s really empowering to know exactly where you stand.

  62. This is awful. It is. But, in the future, what will happen to these F seats on emirates planes? Will all of the people buying AS miles be buying these seats outright? ABSOLUTELY NOT. These planes, will be going out with empty seats, which means that its not AS that is raising prices, its EK. Previously AS’s revenue (from mileage) must have been greater than their cost (of ek redemption), which is why they have afforded us the opportunity until now.

    So, other ways to get into EK F exist, ok , but they are not easy, and they won’t foreseeably become easy, so they are fine for now (good luck). But how are they gaining by flying out empty F cabins instead of a funnel of $2100 to AS to ?$$$ to EK. If you drink a whole bottle of krug and 2 tins of caviar $2100 is coming out way ahead.

    EK did regulate “award seats” the whole time, they were never giving out something they might have sold. They will eventually realize this is/was a mistake, and will likely not do anything due to pride.

    As someone who has never flew EK, I am upset. But as a true hobbyist, I am neither surprised nor discouraged.

    Something about that BI article about ****ing the award chart (transitting dxb 3x on a rt, really) probably messed this more than this blog, although no blog helps.

  63. I like to maintain 100K balances in a number of airlines and credit cards. So when the time comes, I have options, including buying. I have had over 100K in Alaska for a year or so and was thinking about buying more with no particular plans to travel using those points. The main reason I didn’t is because I was afraid of used car style bait and switch tactics like we have seen with United, American, and Delta. I saved myself thousands. From now on think of mile sales as advanced warning that they are going to bait and switch.

  64. Loyalty is built on trust and by AS devaluing their program without notice – erodes that trust.

    AS can only issue as many F tickets as EK allows them. After-all EK controls how many seats they release to their partners. If EK demanded more money from AS for premium seats AS should have required some notice from EK and passed that along to their members.

  65. @Brad: “But the people who just buy miles and never fly Alaska, why should AS even begin to care about you?”

    Because those people bought miles. They provided Alaska with revenue. They contributed to Alaska’s bottom line. They are customers, and if you want to keep customers, you don’t treat them that way.

    You could argue that these are not the customers that Alaska wants to keep – but then why do they have these big miles sales to begin with? Whom did they THINK they would attract?

  66. “Alaska Airlines may, among other things:
    Change Mileage Plan benefits, participant affiliations, or cities served
    Limit the number of seats available for award travel or otherwise restrict the continued availability of travel awards or special offers
    Increase or decrease the mileage required for an award”

    Yes, all FFPs have language like that. That does not change the fact that it’s a rotten thing to do to promise something and deliver less. This, in fact, is Ben’s point all along: Alaska is well within its rights to change whatever it likes, but it risks really angering its customers if it does so without notice. You can get on your high horse about Alaska’s rights all you want, but it’s hardly good for a company to cheese off its customers.

  67. Emirates will lose many many $$$$ in promo / advertising value given by bloggers and joe schmos like me. I tweeted the heck out of my EK F experience, not to mention how much I’ve talked it up to those that are actually in a position to purchase a flight in F.

    Aniston Schmaniston.

  68. @snic says: You can get on your high horse about Alaska’s rights all you want, but it’s hardly good for a company to cheese off its customers.

    Or perhaps Alaska views its customers as passengers whose butts are actually in the seats of its aircraft, rather than a handful of blogosphere devotees milking its FF program as a clearinghouse for F-class travel on a partner carrier. Some of them will be burned by this, sure, but the vast majority will not notice a thing, and they’re likely the ones Alaska actually cares about. They’re the people who sit on its planes and provide ancillary revenue and live in its core markets.

    It’s clear as a bell what happened here. This site and others publicized a back-door avenue for getting Emirates F tickets well below their value (in either dollars or mileage). The airline caught wind of it, and forced its partner to close the loophole. Lufthansa put a similar gun to United’s head a few years ago, and United raised the value for LH redemptions significantly. Who could blame Emirates for doing something similar?

    There are lots of blogs and websites trumpeting mileage loopholes and mistake fares and system workarounds. Expect to see more scorched-earth responses from airlines looking to protect their inventories from abuse. It looks like we’re already being told to use JAL’s program to get Emirates tickets now. How long before JAL cracks down? All this knowledge-sharing and chatter about how to beat the system will just keep choking the golden goose.

  69. BREAKING:

    The Alaska Airlines Eskimo will team up with Justin Bieber to release an extended remix of “Sorry” in response to the uproar following Alaska’s 40% bonus sale and subsequent Mileage Plan devaluation.

    Here’s a sample:

    “Is it too late now to say sorry?
    I know you, redeem miles on EX widebodies.
    You were expecting notice from me?
    Jen Aniston looks for that shower (wow), but is it too late to say I’m sorry now?”

  70. On an unrelated note – I don’t understand the fascination with wanting to take a shower in a space that looks smaller than a shower-stall in an RV; it may have fancier hardware, and toiletries, but it’s still a tiny shower in a moving vehicle. I’d rather wait until I get to my destination, and take a decent shower.

    If I’m paying cash (or points) to fly F, I’m doing it for the seat, and the so-called elusiveness of it, but different strokes for different folks, I guess.

  71. @Aquitania – “If you were saving up $10,000 for a first class ticket, and just before making a reservation, the fare happens to suddenly go up – would you also blame the airline and demand selling you the ticket at a lower fare?”

    No, but I can then use the money for other things. Here you’re stuck with one program. Also, airfare is known to fluctuate by the minute. Award chart price isn’t.

  72. Alaska is not going to lose enough loyalty to affect them in any noticeable way.

    People like us, who actively chase miles to redeem for international First Class on partner airlines are statistically irrelevant to Alaska. In our insular world we’re the majority, but to a large airline we aren’t. There are going to be millions of customers who will stick with Alaska for all their flying. Even if everyone who commented on this blog refused to ever give AS another cent it would not effect them in the slightest.

    Delta, who has made far more changes than any other airline ever will, is profitable. Most people who fly AS do so not to burn miles on EK but because it’s the best (or possibly only) choice for them. That won’t change.

    Please keep some perspective.

    Oh and anyone thinking about legal action over mile purchases should forget that right now.

  73. I’m curious what this does to BofA’s credit card applications and blogger referrals. I would venture to guess that those signing up for the card to “hack” the chart make up a decent percentage of applications.

  74. A friend who “flying emirates first class was his dream”… really? I feel sorry for your friend for having such superficial and unimportant “dreams”… tell your friend to get a life and work so he can pay for his “dreams”…or better, to stop dreaming about stupid things. Deal with it..,
    Disgusting…

  75. “Let’s see…100 bloggers out imploring people to buy Alaska Miles to redeem on Emirates and when the program changes the bloggers react with righteous indignation. It is time for bloggers to admit that they are becoming part of the problem with devaluations and credit card restrictions.”

    + 1 again

    Loyalty is a two way street…if you’re getting most of your miles without flying AS metal, and encouraging others to buy/open cards to achieve the dream then maybe you shouldn’t be upset. In fact, the newbs who you make a living off through signing up through links, etc shouldn’t be mad at AS for protecting themselves, they should be upset at themselves for allowing you to dupe them.

    Maybe you can run a kickstarter to buy more miles? It’s not the Residence, but you can still shower…

  76. MM-

    “Emirates will lose many many $$$$ in promo / advertising value given by bloggers and joe schmos like me. I tweeted the heck out of my EK F experience, not to mention how much I’ve talked it up to those that are actually in a position to purchase a flight in F”

    Oh…you mean great advertising value like this blogger promoting how he flew Emirates First Class for free?

    http://www.thriftytraveler.com/how-to-fly-first-class-on-emirates-for-free-the-one-with-the-shower/

    I’m sure the advertising folk at Alaska and Emirates are freaking out today trying to figure out how they’ll replace all these blog posts promoting how to get their product for free.

  77. The Q&A clearly says if you purchased the miles recently in hopes of getting this deal, you can ask for the purchase to be refunded. It’s cautiously phrased but I gather they were losing too much money too fast to allow the price to stand for 30 more days. They have a responsibility to investors, as well as to frequent flyers, so it sounds like they were caught a little bit in the middle? Also, if people were chasing this deal who were NOT their real customers, of course they’d like to shed those customers. It’s good business to shed unprofitable customers.

  78. Glad I used Lucky’s team at PointsPros http://pointspros.com/ to book my Emirates First Class Milan/Dubai/San Francisco flight with Alaska miles a couple of months ago. Would not have had enough miles had I waited until today!

    By the way the sale of miles and devaluation without notice has to be grounds for a class action lawsuit against Alaska (yes I am a lawyer but not a class action lawyer).

  79. Great content as always! Love this blog! @Lucky, have you ever thought about making a premium section of your site where “serious” Travel hackers can get the inside secrets to travel and more Q&A with you directly? I want to click on every story you publish, you have extremely useful content so I would pay a monthly subscription for a more exclusive web content, Just saying 😉

  80. I take it folk have read the Alaska FAQ on this? Refunds for purchases made in the past month.

    They also make it clear that the previous redemption level was too good a deal and heavily promoted in blogs, hence why they had to cancel it with no notice.

  81. It seems bizarre to me that people are complaining about people using the program as it was set forth by AS’s rules. AS is not required to sell miles. And they’re not required to sell them with very frequent bonus miles opportunities. As Lucky notes, they are making millions and millions of $$$ off of those sales. People were using the program as it was intended, it seems to me. Complaining about people buying the miles that AS is happy to sell them (or sign up for their BoA credit card) seems odd to me. And then if people are smart enough to use the miles AS sells them to redeem for a premium class award, well, that’s just using the program as it was presented to them by the airline. If AS didn’t want people to redeem for these awards then they shouldn’t have offered them.

    As noted they are apparently within their rules to change these things at their whim. But they shouldn’t be surprised if their miles sales aren’t as attractive to their members in the future. And if their revenue goes down from those sales they have only themselves (and maybe EK) to blame.

    If you are planning to fly CX, better cash in those miles soon. At least they’re offering to refund mileage purchases from the last month if you were buying them to redeem and are now priced out. That’s more than they are required to do and it’s certainly a start as a goodwill gesture.

  82. I was going to purchase Alaska miles today for EK redemption. So glad I waited to the last minute. I frequently fly San Jose to Orange County and was glad to see that Alaska just broke up the Southwest monopoly. I will just stick with Southwest as this leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Cathay devaluation will be next.

  83. @lopere

    Obviously these redemptions were not “free”. Members redeemed their 90K or 100K miles for those seats. Of course we don’t know how much AS pays EK for those seats. But if it’s the difference between the seat going out empty (with $0 of revenue) or going out with a FF who paid her miles then I’d imagine that both airlines make out on that. AS either by selling the miles (which is probably the best deal for them) or by awarding miles for paid travel, and EK by the amount of cash that AS paid them for their member to fly in that seat. EK controls the inventory of award seats. It’s not like they offer award seats if they know they will be able to sell them for cash.

  84. This whole concept of ‘loyalty’ is intriguing. Normally, loyalty is expressed as maintaining a relationship with something/someone in the face of a multitude of options. I can get from LAX to SEA on a number of different airlines, but I express my loyalty to one, in particular, by continuing to fly with them in spite of the options to do otherwise. I’m a loyal customer that way, and my airline appreciates my loyal business.

    Here’s the thing: what does loyalty really mean when there is only ONE option? If this happened in the real world of flying I’d simply take my LAX-SEA business elsewhere. End of story. But the very reason everyone is pissed off right now is because buying Mileage Plan miles for EK F was the only game in town. There was no choice involved. If you want to fly EK F on the cheap, you buy Alaska miles. You’re not choosing to stay loyal to Alaska by continuing to purchase from them when you could purchase from others as well. You only have one choice.

    Which means most of the pissed off people were not in fact expressing loyalty to Alaska. They were simply expressing the desire to do what they saw in pictures and read about in print. Fly EK F.

    And those kind of people, I’m afraid, are not the kind of ‘loyalists’ Alaska is wanting to court nor worried to offend.

  85. Sad day for all us Emirates first class chasers. Seemed like Alaska was the best frequent flyer program to bank and accumalare miles…Seems like that has changed overnight. Will be interesting to see how this plays out for Alaskas bottom line mileage sales, their credit card, and Emirates award space and occupancy in first class.

    Would like to think the SPG would be a good place to bank points but with the new change of ownership pending, doesn’t really seem like the time to be saving miles in that regard. Will need to wait and see how all this plays out and re asses where to save and bank miles?

    Maybe Lucky can do a post about the best loyalty programs to bank points given all the changes and devaluations for many programs…

    Feel bad for people that have been saving miles for a particular date/trip and now have been priced out.

  86. Has anyone seen a change in availability or just the price of the award? Fortunately we have enough miles but will need two seats on a specific day. Drat — almost made it — our travel date will be bookable in 24 days! 🙁

  87. I agree with Ben’s thoughts on this matter; it is a PR disaster for Alaska, which is what they may/would be concerned about.
    Right at the top of their list of reasons is to blame bloggers (OMAAT, View from the Wing etc.) They did not elaborate so not sure exactly what they mean. Sure, reviews and picture spreads as we see here get the word out, but so what? It’s why these sites exist.
    I would be enormously happy to see the US banks STOP showering new customers with tens of thousands of FF miles just to sign up to their stupid cards. That is where the miles/points inflation is coming from. This is one area where a bit of collusion between banks could be benificial. Buy your miles and you will value more what the various FF programs offer! Ultimately, there is no free lunch.

  88. Nobody would care if Emirates sold their F seats for $2500.00 one way. They probably could retrofit their a380 with 30 F seats and still have it sold out on major Int flights. They still have their $900 econ seats for people who just need to get their cheap. It seems they don’t want to cater to Family Leisure travel.

  89. Think we should start A new campaign ALASKA IS THE NEW DELTA!!!!! See how much Brad Tilden likes it!

  90. To all those who are convinced that the airlines set the award prices since AS has different charts for every partner. Let me tell you this. How about AS charging miles based on what they have to reimburse their partners? Maybe that is why AS charges different amount of miles for every airline?

    To people like me who understand how these things work, it makes no sense that the partners are the once setting the rates. I mean do you think CX would let AS charge only 70k to HKG while they charge 105k using their own miles would they be the once setting the amount of miles needed.

    I’ve never heard an airline trying to sell such kind of BS. I mean common, you know that there are travel hackers who now better 😉

    Please reconsider.

  91. The F cabins on EK were filling up with people who dressed and behaved appropriately for a trip on Spirit . This took away from the premium experience for the few passengers who were actually purchasing their tickets. To add insult to injury, these classless people were bragging on the internet about how easy it was to scam the system. Had we as a group demonstrated a little class and not made a mockery of our good fortune, we might still be enjoying the good life instead of complaining that those who actually pay for the service reclaimed their dignity.

  92. Sounds like the ‘golden goose’ is dead………..or dying. Will be interesting to see how quickly these blogs lose their luster once the free premium travel stops for those not able or willing to purchase these fares.

    I travel in premium cabins on paid fares as my typical route (DFW-HKG-SEAsia) is never available for SWU due in part to the mileage running culture you’ve helped to create.

    I enjoy this blog, but you should accept your part in this process. You may not have pulled the trigger on the gun that killed the goose, but your finger prints are certainly on it. Cheers.

  93. Oh yeah, this golden goose is dead. Contrary to Lucky’s pleas, it is the LACK of loyalty among the travel blogger community that caused this, as Alaska pointed out in their blog yesterday.

    These people are not AS frequent flyers, redeeming hard earned miles.

    The people Ben claim were “loyal” and need to be “won back” were in fact a bunch of travel hackers who bought a pile of AS miles to exploit the Emirates loophole, but almost never flew AS metal at all. AS tolerated this for a while, but has finally turned off the spigot. If these hackers were real AS FFs, AS never would’ve made this change and POed their best customers.

  94. I have a ton of Alaska miles from years and years of travel. I went to some amazing places in amazing conditions and the pilots got us there safely. The miles never expire which is cool. I also bought a lot of miles recently and now feel screwed. Am flying to Alaska next month, but I’ll do half of it on United. At least we don’t have any pretensions there.

  95. For those who really had their heart set on flying EK First, all is not lost.. yet.

    JAL Mileage Bank, requires just 135,000 miles for a First Class round trip partner award ticket between JFK and DBX on Emirates. That is a killer deal, especially if you have SPG points which transfer into JAL at a 1:1 ratio. SPG also throws in a 5000 extra miles for every 20,000 points transferred. You do the math.

    Here’s the link to the Emirates Award Chart on JAL’s site: http://www.jal.co.jp/en/jalmile/use/partner_air/partner/ek/

    For what it’s worth, I’m not a fan of Emirate First. Their hard product is simply too Liberace for my taste. Etihad is the way to go for those in the know.

    Bon voyage.
    Scott

  96. I had just purchased >100,000 miles in the past 48 hours to book an upcoming first class flight on Emirates. Imagine how I felt knowing the money I spent was now worth half the value. Lots of four letter words is just the beginning of how I felt.

  97. Really, Lucky have you ever heard of this before? Actual Fraud? Direct from Alaskan:

    “I am truly sorry that more notice was not given with regards to the changes
    made to Emirates award travel, but this was the direct result of fraudulent
    activity that has been happening with our award level on Emirates. Both Alaska
    Airlines and Emirates have been dealing with issues of “travel hacking” or the
    selling of award tickets for a profit by individuals and brokers in direct
    violation of our policy and Emirates policy. The decision was made that in
    order to continue to offer award travel on Emirates changes had to be made to
    curb this fraudulent activity. Normally when we make changes to our Mileage
    Plan we give 30 days notice but in this instance with the rise of fraudulent
    activity we needed to make a drastic change to fend off the rise of “travel
    hacking.” If you have any further questions or why like to discuss this further
    please contact Customer Care at 800-654-5669 and we would be happy to answer
    any questions or discuss the changes that were made.”

    MIC drop

  98. I assume that the ‘fraudulent activity’ Alaska refers to is the practice of Lucky and his associates, and other booking services, speculatively buying/holding seats in the hope that they have clients who will take these seats off their hands. Of course we all (should) know that whingers like ‘Sanjay’ et al complaining that he can’t get 6 F seats on a CX flight Bombay-London or wherever for his family, is a booking service with a client list to service. This practice, for which they all charge a fee, is apparently a fraudulently activity under the Alaska MileagePlan T & Cs. That’s fine, and reasonable too; play by the rules and it’s all good! So there it is Lucky and your Boarding Area crowd, it is you all who have throttled the golden goose for the majority with your opportunistic greed.
    I am not sure though, that simply raising redemption rates 80-100% will actually solve the problem; it will certainly curb it, for which we must now all pay.
    I am disappointed that Alaska has not explored ways to filter out the individuals and brokers they refer to, to preserve the integrity of their program for the greater good. Will Lucky and his lot pull their heads in now? No chance when there is $$$ to be made!
    I would encourage the ordinary readers on this site who are concerned over this issue, now the dust has somewhat settled, to call up Alaska on the Customer Care number provided to have a civil discussion and provide some feedback.

  99. @ glenn t — Regarding your comment that “booking services, speculatively buying/holding seats in the hope that they have clients who will take these seats off their hands…

    That’s not how it works (or not how we work). Reservations have to be associated with the name of a specific passenger, and we don’t make speculative bookings.

  100. hmm…. not so sure about that Tiff ! I seem to recall you mentioned briefly (some would say bragged) that you snared a bunch of plum scare seats (was it Qantas?) some time ago, ostensibly for the clients of your booking service. I think that, in your excitement at what you had pulled off, you said a little too much on-line at the time. In any event, you and your colleagues are not running a charity; you charge $$ for your booking service, so therefore in Alaska’s eyes you are a broker! If you disagree, Gary Leff has published today Alaska’s Customer Care number if you would care to call them to convince them of your bona fides.

  101. So the very top kind of ride is now beyond what miles most of us want to pay. However, in defense of Alaska Airlines, they still have very good other folks that allow you to use your miles at the other airlines rate structure. I do not think any other airline let’s one do this.

  102. @ glenn t — There’s a difference in watching award space and being able to act quickly versus booking dozens of seats speculatively.

    In the case of the Qantas space, we always have people who want to go to Australia using American miles, and we almost always have to route them through Asia. Being able to switch their (already booked) tickets to Qantas saved them miles. We also grabbed Qantas space for folks like Travis’ parents — people who were planning on going to Australia, but hadn’t been able to find award space previously.

    Real people, with real travel plans, using their own miles — nothing is being brokered (at least not by us).

    I’m always happy to answer any questions, but I don’t want people to get the wrong idea, or think we can do the impossible for them, which was my main concern with your earlier comment.

  103. @Tiffany~ I think from your comment above we can agree on one thing; QF space on AAdvantage is difficult, if not impossible since AA launched their LAX-SYD route, so kudos for you in getting some.
    You should acknowledge however that you are part of a fee-for-service booking service and if something your customers want comes up you will grab it in a heartbeat.
    I never even vaguely suggested that people might get the wrong idea or will “think we can do the impossible for them”. Where did that come from?
    Alaska was kind to you guys initially in referring to ‘travel hackers’, when it clearly meant ‘brokers’, such as yourself and certain less organized ‘individuals’ such as the permanently outraged and clueless Sanjay. They have interpreted these activities as being in contravention of their T & Cs, and acted. I think their response was hasty and inappropriate and does not address the core problem. I think you guys have to truly step back for a moment and consider whether you are part of the problem, because you are certainly not part of the solution!
    Nothing personal you understand~ I enjoy your occasional travel reviews and insights a lot!

  104. @ Glenn T — you are mixing up award booking services (like the one offered by Lucky) with ticket brokers.

    Ticket brokers sell you a ticket for cash (and you may or may not be aware that it is an award ticket). So, say, you pay that company $2500 for a one-way F trip from A to B. Then they use miles from someone else’s account to book a ticket in your name. They acquire miles either on their own or by purchasing miles from other travelers (I’m sure you’ve seen ads like that). Airlines frown upon businesses like that.

    On the other hand, award booking services help you book a ticket for yourself with your own miles. From what I know, Lucky’s booking service stays above the board by not doing anything shady like selling you points or anything like that.

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