Alaska’s Partner Award Engine and Award Space

Given that Alaska started allowing one-way awards on most of their partners including Emirates, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas just under a few days ago,  their value in my eyes have gone up significantly, because there is now so much flexibility in their awards.

Right now you aren’t allowed to use can’t have an award where for example, you are flying Emirates and Cathay Pacific, but now instead of being forced to fly one carrier on the roundtrip, you can now “mix” partners. For example, you could fly Emirates to South Africa (47.5k in Y, 77.5k in J, and 100k in F one-way), and Cathay Pacific (50k in Y, 62.k in J, and 70k in F) on the way whereas that wouldn’t be possible without one-way awards. You can also now tag awards with other miles, so for example you could do EK F to Asia, and then JL F with AA miles or OZ F with UA miles.

Also the Emirates First Class space does not seem to be showing up correctly on the online engine. For example, you can see on Expertflyer that a F seat is available today:

Expertflyer Results

Expertflyer Results

However, this does not correspond with what the online Alaska award engine is showing up which is only giving up results with KLM and AF.

Online Engine Result

Online Engine Result

But the upside is that it seems like you can get a free stopover on a one-way award, as the online award engine is allowing this. This is probably the second-best change since Alaska started allowing one-way awards, and I don’t think it’s been mentioned enough. So that means awards that require a connection in the hub city of the airline (HKG for CX, DXB for EK), are now a huge value because its not possible to do DXB, JNB, and HKG all in one trip.

Sample Itinerary with Stopover in DXB

Sample Itinerary with Stopover in DXB

What is really disappointing is that Alaska doesn’t seem to be allowing awards to be booked more than 330 days, according to several FT reports. While the calendar doesn’t show dates beyond 330 dates, it seems like even phone agents are unable to see award seats for a date more than 330 days out. This basically makes it really difficult to snag two awards from the US to Australia. Given that you can’t use AA miles to book Qantas space more than 330 days out, this basically means that the all Qantas awards booked before 330 days will only be available with miles that charge fuel surcharges, such as Avios. Apparently it’s as a measure to standardize awards, which isn’t great for us, but at least we get one-ways. So I’m not really complaining here. Now, the only airlines that do not allow one-way awards are Korean Air and LAN.

But I would say that the changes are fantastic, and it really raises the value of Alaska miles. The easiest way to get Alaska miles in Canada (and in the US) is churning the Alaska credit cards which come with a $99 companion certificate for coach. The Mastercard offered by BoA Canada is consistently 25,000 miles for a $75 annual fee, which is a great deal in my opinion. The US offers have gone up to 40,000 miles and/or a $100 statement credit which is generally higher than the usual 25,000 mile offer so watch out for those. Starwood points are also transferable to Alaska miles, which is what I’ll be doing soon. 😉

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