Alaska Mileage Plan Is Making (Minor) Award Chart Changes

Don’t panic. No, Alaska Mileage Plan isn’t increasing award costs for travel in Cathay Pacific first class or Japan Airlines first class. Instead they’re just making some (mostly minor) adjustments to their award chart for travel on their own flights.

Yesterday Alaska Airlines announced some negative changes, including increasing change and cancelation fees, same day confirmed change fees, and more. Now there’s more news.

Alaska Mileage Plan will be making some minor award chart adjustments for tickets booked as of June 25, 2018. There are some positive and negative changes, depending on the type of ticket you’re looking for. In describing these changes, Alaska focuses on the following:

  • Reduced lowest award level on short-distance First Class flights
  • Reduced refundable award level pricing on First Class flights shorter than 1,400 miles within the contiguous US and Alaska, and on First Class flights shorter than 2,100 miles from the US to Mexico
  • A new lowest award level of just 10,000 miles on Main Cabin flights from California to select destinations in Mexico (flights shorter than 1,400 miles)
  • Hawaii awards starting as low as 15,000 miles one-way

They do mention that in addition to those lower award levels, “some market adjustments will be made to peak award pricing on longer flights within the US, from the contiguous US to Mexico, and on flights from the contiguous US to Hawaii.”

Here’s a comparison of the old and new award chart:

As you can see, it’s tough to draw too many conclusions here, given the huge variance in award pricing within each range, based on whether or not there’s any saver level award availability.

Here are the changes that stand out most to me when it comes to one-way saver level award pricing:

  • The cost of first class awards on flights under 700 miles is decreasing in cost from 25,000 miles to 15,000 miles (within the contiguous US & Alaska)
  • The cost of first class awards on flights over 2,100 miles is increasing in cost from 25,000 miles to 30,000 miles (within the contiguous US & Alaska)
  • The cost of economy class awards on flights of 701-1,400 miles is decreasing in cost from 15,000 miles to 10,000 miles (between the US & Mexico)
  • The cost of economy awards on flights between the contiguous US/Alaska & Hawaii is decreasing from 17,500 miles to 15,000 miles

The worst news is that we’re seeing a big increase in the range of pricing for some markets, so when there’s not saver level award availability, you can expect to pay significantly more in some cases.

Bottom line

These Alaska Mileage Plan changes are a mixed bag. We’re seeing some reductions to the cost of shorthaul awards, while we’re seeing some increases to the cost of longhaul awards. The great news is that this only impacts travel on Alaska Airlines, and the cost of travel on partner airlines remains unchanged, which is where the real value in the program is, in my opinion.

Personally when I redeem for travel on Alaska I prefer to book through British Airways Executive Club or Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer, so these changes won’t impact me too much.

Will you be impacted by any of these Alaska Mileage Plan changes?

Comments

  1. Glad they didn’t get rid of the 5,000 mile award for short flights of 700 miles or less. That’s not a waste of miles because not everyone has gobs of miles to spend.

  2. It made no sense that a one way flight was/is 60k from San to SFO in First Class on the former Virgin Aircraft
    I brought this up in your previous post
    The other issue is they rarely have the lower mile redemption/award levels for first class redemption
    Even stingy American Airlines is fairer than that!

  3. Ben, the first 2 sentences are exactly what I feared when I read the article title. Thank you for reassuring me in the first 2 sentences LOL.

  4. This is actually a significant and highly negative change for my travel patterns — and not one you’ve called out (except in the table). The top of the range for economy awards in both the 1401-2100 and 2101+ mile band is significantly increasing:

    30K to 40K for 1401-2100 miles
    30K to 50K for 2101+ miles.

    SFO is my home airport, and I switched my loyalty (after nearly 1.6M miles on UA, 16 years of elite status, 11 years of which were as a 1K) in October 2017 to AS. This was largely from the increased service offered by the VX merger, the mileage credit based on distance (as opposed to UA by ticket price, my company requiring lowest fare with little leeway for deviation, and my mostly domestic coach business and leisure travel), and these excellent award tiers.

    The short distance ones are still a great benefit if you can get the lower end of the range. But where it will hurt is when we travel as a family (my wife and I, plus our three children = five plane tickets), especially when redeeming at the last minute or over holidays when tickets for cash are ridiculously expensive. The 25K unrestricted coach already became 32.5K on UA, so 30K for unrestricted coach on AS was still better. Because the earning rates are so much better on AS, it’s still superior to UA overall. But 30K to 50K on this unrestricted coach is a huge devaluation for us.

  5. Well this is bad for me, because my flights are all 2300+ miles domestic in FC. Saver level awards are becoming rare, so now I will be paying 70k for a FC award. At the same time, advance purchase, discounted FC “P” tickets have gotten cheaper for these routes at around $450. That brings the value of AS points down to <1 cent, a terrible use for an award. In contrast, a FC award on Emirates can be valued at 23 cents a point, a much better use of this currency.

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