One Of My Best Economy Class Award Redemptions Ever

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Alaska Airlines is the best frequent flyer program in the US. Now that all the competition has gone revenue based, their Mileage Plan program shines like a star. They have generous earning rates, great award partners, and best of all, their redemption rates are fantastic.

In February, I’m looking at recording a new Economy Week which will involve American Airlines. As far as United and Delta go, I’m still trying to figure those out, given how expensive the trip will likely be. The most expensive airline for long-haul one-way tickets (expect those 13-hour one-way tickets to Asia which I will avoid at all costs) seemed to be American.

It happens that I need to be in Europe in February, so I decided to book an economy class flight back with them. There was award availability from Barcelona and Madrid to New York almost every day I checked. However, I needed to connect to San Francisco, and I couldn’t find any same day connections on the days I needed to travel. So, I decided to make a trip of it and spend the weekend in New York.

Most frequent flyer programs would charge me extra for the stopover, especially on a one-way ticket. There is one program, however, that does not. Dear Alaska Mileage Plan. It gets even better though. During off-peak season, a one-way ticket from Europe to the US in American economy class is 20,000 miles. As a point of comparison, the flight from New York to San Francisco costs 12,500 miles alone.

I got a one-way economy flight from Barcelona to New York, five nights in the city, and a nonstop transcon flight from New York to San Francisco for 20,000 miles plus $48 in taxes.

Not that I would have considered buying it, but the same one-way ticket would have cost an insane $2,627.

Theoretically, the maximum I would have paid for this ticket is $500. Even then I’m getting 2.26 cents per point!

Earning Alaska Miles 

The good news is that Alaska Airlines miles are relatively easy to collect, especially if you have elite status with them. When I moved to San Francisco, I managed to get them to match my British Airways status to MVP Gold. I can’t believe how fast the miles have racked up since then.

If you don’t have the chance to status match, there are two other great ways to earn miles. Firstly, the 25,000-point sign-up bonus on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express can be converted into 30,000 Alaska Airlines miles. Signing up for one of those cards would get you 3/4 of the way to a roundtrip economy ticket to Europe. Granted, I wouldn’t normally use my miles for economy, since you get the best value redeeming for aspirational travel.

Another fantastic option is the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card. The card has a 30,000 mile sign-up bonus and comes with their famous companion voucher, which gets you two tickets for the price of one by just paying taxes for the second passenger.

The last easy method to get Alaska Airlines miles at a good price is to purchase them during sales. Right now, they’re offering a 40% bonus where you can buy miles for 2.11 cents each. If you have a specific redemption in mind, this could make sense.

Bottom Line

While flying business class is certainly fun, economy class is sometimes the best option. I’d estimate I got between 2 and 2.5 cents per point for this redemption, which is a great value for economy. Getting the free stopover is the icing on the cake. Now if only American would open up more award space…

What is your best economy class redemption?

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  1. off topic: someone willing to buy (free) Starbucks for me in USA so I can get to gold? (egift card number account)

  2. @Daniel-I’m sure you know but there are always great deals on the mileage run forums on FlyerTalk most involve some longer routing and there all broken down by airline

  3. Maybe I was not clear enough. sorry. I’m currently in Europe so not able to buy coffee in US Starbucks. So no gold. If someone would buy coffee on my account I would still get gold. You would get free coffee. (only once off course)

  4. You can’t really use a one way ticket price for comparison. They are often jacked up, even beyond the price of a round trip!

  5. Really wish there was a way to filter out these lower quality posts.

    Misleading title, picture, and comparison with one-way price. Not even a great use of Alaska miles.

  6. I recently did something similar and got a last-minute ticket from Paris to JFK. AA award space is hard to find, but you can find good values if you look in the right spaces at the right times.

  7. Hi Daniel, did you say you match MVP Gold from British Airways status? As far as I know, they don’t match British Airways status, please correct me if I’m wrong. Thanks

  8. I think my best award ticket was a multi-city itinerary from BOI-EYW, then MCO-BOI for about 40k Skymiles. Actual ticket price was about $800.

  9. The absolute best miles redemption I had was when I used American Airline miles to fly roundtrip from LAX to CDG on Air Tahiti Nui. It was just before American changed their program in 2015. Managed to use 40,000 miles for a trip that April (now it’s high season) but received 10% back due to my card so I only used 36,000 roundtrip.

    Unfortunately, Air Tahiti flights don’t show up in the portal, so you have to call American directly for availability.

  10. So AS went against their no matches for foreign FF programs?

    The award for off peak Europe goes up to 22,500 in 2018

  11. @Jack Thanks so much for the tip! I know about it but usually spend time in the Premium Deals thread. I’ll have a look around and see if I can find something good!

  12. @Jeff I just added it as a point of comparison, but said that I clearly wouldn’t consider buying it for that price. If the price had been more reasonable (approx. $500), then I would have got 2.26 cents per point!

  13. @JL There is a way. Just check for the author and if it says Daniel, you’re free not to click it. Don’t know why you keep coming back if you can’t stand my posts 🙂

  14. @Tu I’ve read mixed reports. Officially, they only match US airlines but given a compelling reason (i.e. high earning rates or spend) they might be willing to match a foreign status.

  15. Have to throw this in. Redeemed 70,000 Starwood points for 2 nights at St. Regis in NYC (regular room going for $1000 a night that weekend). Thought 2.9 cents per point was pretty good.

    Got to the hotel and they upgraded us to a Fifth Avenue Suite (only SPG gold. Causually mentioned upgrade and they said they’d see whats available. Imagine our shock walking into that suite). That room was going for $6,000 a night that weekend.

    17 cents per point!

  16. If you add a throw-away trip to that one-way ticket, the cash price would probably be lower. It’s really unfair comparison for miles vs. cash.

  17. If you need to get from Spain to California one way then surely LEVEL or Norweigan cash flights would be better comparisons?

  18. Cool thing about getting Starbucks gold is that you can status to other Coffee chains or fast food. I got McDonald’s Silver, Wendy’s Dave Platinum and Peet’s Ruby all from buying just one cup of Starbucks coffee.

  19. I got a very similar redemption. AA Economy for 20K Alaska miles from Honolulu to London Heathrow with, thanks to Alaska’s amazing one way award stopover policy, a 13 day stopover in LAX.

    20K AS + $23.70 T/F versus $3,300 cash ? Easy choice and I’m glad I got this before the partnership devaluation.

    Ironic how Virgin America was charging 20K AS miles just to get from HNL to LAX when AA, at the time, could get me to Europe for the same amount ?

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