Some links to products and travel providers on this website will earn Traveling For Miles a commission which helps contribute to the running of the site – I’m very grateful to anyone who uses these links but their use is entirely optional. The compensation does not impact how and where products appear on this site and does not impact reviews that are published.
UPDATE 1 September 2016: If you’re getting an error when attempting to sign up with a UK address try signing up using a different internet browser. I was getting a web error in Safari but had no issues with Google Chrome.
Alaska Airlines is an airline that operates entirely within the confines of North America, Mexico and Central America so it probably sounds a bit strange for me to say that travelers based in Europe and the UK should have an account with Alaska’s loyalty program. It may sound strange but I have a very good reason for suggesting this…as I’m about to show.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
Alaska Mileage Plan is one of the few remaining airline loyalty programs where true value can still be had without having to be an expert in how the program works. Mileage Plan is old-school and, although it has devalued recently, is hasn’t gone down the precipitous route that Delta, United, British Airways, Air France/KLM and, of course, American Airlines have gone.
The program has three very traveler-friendly rules:
- You’re allowed one free stopover on award tickets – even on one way awards.
- There are no charges for cancelling an award and re-depositing the miles, regardless of your status, as long as you’re more than 60 days away from departure.
- The airline allows you to buy as many miles as you like – there are no restrictions on the number of miles you can buy in a calendar year.
Despite not being in an alliance, Alaska partners up with some very interesting airlines:
- Cathay Pacific
- Korean Air
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Emirates (only for flights to/from the US)
For UK and European travelers the key airline in that list is Cathay Pacific and I’ll come on to why a little further in this post.
Alaska Airlines Award Pricing
You can find the Mileage Plan award charts via this link but here are some example premium cabin round trip awards that I think could be interesting.
Business Class Awards
- American Airlines: Europe – Continental USA = 100,000 miles
- American Airlines: Europe – Hawaii = 100,000 miles
- Cathay Pacific: Europe – Asia = 85,000 miles
First Class Awards
- American Airlines: Europe – Continental USA = 125,000 miles
- American Airlines: Europe – Hawaii = 125,000 miles
- Cathay Pacific: Europe – Asia = 120,000 miles
Bearing in mind that Alaska doesn’t charge fuel surcharges on the award tickets listed above those are some very good redemptions that the airline offers.
How To Get Alaska Miles
I can already hear a number of you thinking “but I don’t want to credit my flights to Alaska Airlines, I’ve got status to earn on [insert your chosen airline]”…and that’s fine. I’m not about to suggest you stop crediting your flights to British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American or whatever other airline program you’re into right now just to earn Alaska Miles…you don’t need to do that.
Alaska is one of the very few airlines where, on a regular basis, it’s worth buying miles to purchase awards. Specifically awards between Europe and Asia.
IMPORTANT: To be allowed to purchase Alaska Mileage Plan miles you account must have been open for a minimum of 10 days – sign up now to either take advantage of the current promotion (in 11 days time) or so that you are at least eligible when the next promotion comes around.
Why Should You Buy Miles For Awards?
Because it can be an economical way to fly to Asia with a fantastic airline – Cathay Pacific.
Alaska Airlines offers its miles for sale at a discounted price on a pretty regular basis (right now they can be purchased for as little as 1.97 cents each) and, if you get targeted for a good offer, it can be worth buying all the miles you need for an award on Cathay Pacific.
Here’s an example:
Those who were targeted for the 50% bonus in the current Alaska Mileage Plan offer could buy 85,000 miles (enough for a round-trip Business Class fare on Cathay Pacific) for a little under $1,675….which is around £1,300 or €1,500.
I’ve just checked with Alaska Airlines and the taxes and fees on a round-trip Cathay Pacific Business Class award between Düsseldorf and Hong Kong come to $80.
This means that, for $1,755/£1,360/€1,570 you can book a Business Class fare, in one of the Best Business Class cabins in the world, to and from Hong Kong.
It gets better.
Because Alaska Airline rules say that you’re allowed on free stopover you could do trips like Europe – Hong Kong (stopover) – Japan – Europe (via Hong Kong with no stopover) for the same price.
That’s fantastic value!
I’ve deliberately not chosen a city like London as my example in the paragraph above as award availability to/from London can be very tight….but that’s not the case to/from other European cities.
I used BA.com to search for availability out of Düsseldorf and, on the first date I checked, there were 5 Business Class seats available:
Out of Paris things can be even better….
…and Zurich flights can be good too 🙂
I randomly chose all three of the dates above so I’m not being selective (do a few searches for yourself). Of course there will be times when availability isn’t as good as this but that’s when you need to be a little flexible.
Don’t forget that you’re getting a Business Class round-trip fare for $1,755/£1,360/€1,570 (plus whatever it costs you to get to your European gateway city)…so you can afford to be a little bit flexible.
This is a truly fantastically low price to pay for Business Class on Cathay Pacific and I have yet to see a Cathay Pacific cash fare (between Europe and Asia) come anywhere close to this.
Yes, you will occasionally find slightly cheaper cash fares on Qatar Airways but, as excellent an airline as it is, with Qatar you have to position to the European City and change in Doha. With Cathay there are no stops and you have the option of flying on to another city in Asia for no extra cost.
You may also occasionally find slightly cheaper fares British Airways (rarely) and Finnair (quite regularly)….but neither of those airlines can hold a torch to Cathay.
Featured image: Aircraft image courtesy of Boeing