No, Alaska Mileage Plan Didn’t (Again) Devalue Overnight

In late March, Alaska hugely devalued Emirates first class awards overnight, in some cases raising award costs by 100,000 miles one-way. Alaska blamed the devaluation on “travel hackers,” which they defined as Mileage Plan members who exploited the airline’s routing rules. But then they changed their mind on what constituted “travel hackers,” instead blaming the devaluation on people selling miles.

Emirates-First-Class-A380-02
Emirates first class awards through Alaska Mileage Plan are now significantly more expensive

Regardless of whether or not you’d ever redeem your Alaska miles for Emirates first class, I think everyone can agree that the way they handled it was disastrous. Making changes without notice creates distrust among members. Beyond that, Alaska’s lack of communication was horrible, and arguably their communication once they did start talking was equally bad.

Fortunately going forward Alaska said they’d provide 30 days notice of any Mileage Plan changes “if at all possible.” While that’s not exactly a promise, I’m confident they won’t make the same mistake again.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how Alaska Mileage Plan redesigned their partner airline pages, which seemed to mostly be cosmetic updates.

Mileage-Plan-Awards-2

With the new chart, Alaska made some changes to their intra-Asia Cathay Pacific award chart, which to me seemed like a clear typo:

Alaska-Cathay-Chart

Basically for first and business class they were charging the same prices for intra-Asia flights as for flights between the US and Asia. I assumed it was a typo, given all the typos on their new online search tool.

View from the Wing wrote a post suggesting it was a devaluation, rather than just a glitch, based on this Tweet:

Personally I didn’t come to the same conclusion, and I assumed the Alaska Twitter rep was just quoting the award chart. To me that doesn’t address whether or not there’s an actual chart devaluation. But that didn’t stop a lot of people from being concerned.

Anyway, I called Mileage Plan to confirm, and Cathay Pacific awards are indeed pricing at the old intra-Asia levels, which are 22,500 miles in business class and 27,500 miles for first class. There has been no further devaluation.

Cathay-Pacific-Business-Class-26
Cathay Pacific’s regional business class

After checking, Alaska also confirmed on Twitter that this was a website glitch and not an unannounced devaluation:

So while I was never worried that this was an unannounced devaluation, I figure it’s worth clarifying once and for all, given that over the past couple of weeks I’ve probably gotten a dozen emails from readers asking about this. Maybe the airline will even be motivated to fix it, at this point.

Bottom line

I’m still confident that Alaska Mileage Plan will provide notice of any future program changes. There are many programs which have made the mistake of making major changes without notice, and after the backlash they’ve learned that there’s benefit to providing notice. In this case it seemed like an obvious typo, but given how it concerned many members, it seems worth addressing.

Comments

  1. Alaska needs to be careful as they may start loosing customers.
    Alaska is still one of the best redemption airlines out there, and in order to make up last few issues need to start allowing one way redemption on airlines previously that was not allowed.;)

  2. @ compySpy – lol agreed, escpecially after they send another promo to buy miles at a discount

  3. @CompSpy:

    You mean Delta?

    Yeah, be sure to hold your breath for that one. And make sure when you pass out from lack of oxygen there’s a couch for you to fall on.

    It’ll never happen. Something about where Delta’s newest hub is, if you hadn’t figured that out.

  4. This is probably a future devaluation that was released early by accident. The chart just doesn’t somehow change. I would expect these ” preannounced” changes to come into effect soon.

    I live in the Pacific Northwest and used to be all Alaska and anti-Delta. But man Alaska is making it hard these days.

  5. Thanks for doing actual reporting before publishing anything, unlike the hacks over at TPG!

  6. I suspect DW above is correct. How many times have we seen negative changes published to an airline/hotel website prematurely, then we’re told it was an accident, only to have those exact changes rolled out just a few weeks later. It happens all the time.

    I fully expect a significant devaluation for CX redemptions across the board to be announced shortly. The intra-asia chart was updated prematurely, but you can be sure that the rest of the CX chart will see approximately the same percentage increase. Mark my words 🙂

  7. Ben – you need to get over the Alaskan devalue and stop acting as if you were a loyal Alaskan customer. You exploited their award redemptions, and you were part of the problem – that’s it. You weren’t flying Alaskan and giving them your money – you just bought miles and used them for an undervalued award. Now that award is in line with reality – you should get in line with reality too.

  8. @Keith, you need to think/learn a bit more and see the bigger pictures. Else, you need to get off this kind of blog if it makes you uncomfortable. Ben and people obtain these miles perfectly legally. Alaska were, have been, and will be the direct/indirect sellers of those miles. They received A LOT of money for seats that were considered distressed inventory (of theirs or partners’) that would go empty. They are in essence selling these seats at a discount and in fact holding people’s money hostage and can essentially decide how much service they want to provide you long after they’ve gotten your money. Please take a second and think about it a bit more. No one is robbing airlines blind. No one exploited anything. It wasn’t a mistake fare. You don’t need to be actually flying Alaska to be a customer of Alaska. Airlines are fully aware of this basic concept, and I hope you will be, too.

  9. Uh, guys, Lucky lived in Seattle and legitimately did FLY Alaska (as well as credit partner flights to Mileage Plan). You can see blog posts to that effect if you look.

    Also… Alaska redesigned the partner award site and screwed A LOT of things up, not just this. Let’s not attribute to malice what incompetence explains adequately, hmm?

  10. I love when people put words in my mouth … never did I say that it was illegal what Ben did / does (although some people do allude to that on the OMAAT FT thread…)! I also don’t mean to stand up for the airlines in anyway, I’m just sick of hearing these “Alaska loyalists” complain … should Alaska have given a bit of notice? Perhaps (although they had no obligation to), but Ben claims he only complains about the how aspect, and not the deval, which simply isn’t true. Everyone who complained about the deval claimed they were angry about how Alaska delivered the news, and not that they couldn’t fly Emirates F anymore (which is why they were actually pissed).

    My “issue” so to speak, is listening to these so called “Alaska loyalists” beat a dead horse. We get it, you’re upset, now get over it and stop whining.

  11. @Keith, do you just read the blog to blast Lucky and all the rest of us who obviously read this blog because we all travel this way?
    Go find some like -minded trolls.

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