Top 5: Why all UK Flyers Should Consider Using Alaska Mileage Plan.
Alaska Airlines is a US airline, that doesn't operate any services to Europe, primarily focusing on domestic/regional flights around the US West Coast. They recently bought Virgin America and soon plan to expand their services.
What's interesting about Alaska Airlines is the airlines that they partner with, such as British Airways, Qantas, Air France/KLM, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific to name a few of my favourites. This means you can earn elite status and redeemable miles from flying with Alaska's partners.
So without further ado, here are 5 things I like about Alaska's Mileage Plan:
The Cost of Awards
Award costs are on the rise, and dynamic awards seem to be coming into effect, such as with Air France/KLM at FlyingBlue as well as with British Airways. Alaska still use the good old award chart with very reasonable and affordable. One example is flying between Hong Kong and Europe in Cathay Pacific Business Class for 42,500 miles and $70 in taxes.
The same flight with British Airways would cost you 75,000 Avios and £33.52 in taxes. Let's say you're using SPG points to pay for your Cathay Pacific Flight, and you transferred 40,000 SPG points to Alaska MileagePlan, you would effectively have 50,000 Alaska Miles, since you receive a 5,000 points bonus from SPG when transferring to airlines. Putting British Airways into the same context to provide an apples for apples comparison, you would pay 60,000 SPG points to get 75,000 Avios.
Alaska still works out cheaper and Cathay Pacific's Business Class is much better than Club World.
Since Alaska isn't part of a major alliance, they have a very interesting scheme when it comes to loyalty. Yes you earn elite status for Alaska airlines but there are some nifty perks. MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members can use British Airways Galleries Club Lounges at London Heathrow. A similar perk exists for Qantas, where elite members can use selected Qantas Clubs.
Earning Elite Status
Earning Elite Status with Alaska has to be one of the most generous schemes, especially given that there is such a large diversity of partners. And most tickets can earn more than enough for status (re)qualification. You need to earn:
- 20,000 Miles on Alaska or 25,000 Miles with partners for MVP
- 40,000 Miles on Alaska or 50,000 Miles with partners for MVP Gold
- 75,000 Miles on Alaska or 90,000 Miles with partners for MVP Gold 75K
This means that, there is a small 'penalty' for earning status through partners, but it is possible. Let's say you fly on British Airways, on a return segment in First Class that earns 10,000 base miles in total (assuming 5k each way). With the class of service bonus, you'd earn 30,000 Alaska miles and 30,000 Elite Qualification Miles. On British Airways, you would earn Bronze status, so while this is inline with Alaska, the flexibility of Alaska gives you more ways to achieve your status.
Earning Miles through Flying
As mentioned, I believe that Alaska has one of the most generous programs for earning status, the same can be said about earning redeemable miles. Let's use the British Airways First Class flight as an example again.
On British Airways, their website's Avios Calculator says, for flying in First (A), you earn 2.5x Avios of miles flown, and in First (F), that number rises to 3x Avios of miles flown. eg. Flying 10,000 miles on BA in First (A) would give you 25,000 Avios or in First (F), 30,000 Avios.
On Alaska, you earn an extra cabin bonus in First and Business Class. using the same fare classes as an example: in First (A) you earn an additional bonus of an extra 2x Miles on top of the 2.5x Miles, giving you a 4.5x bonus. This means you will earn 45,000 Miles, which is enough for a one way flight from Asia to Europe in Cathay Pacific Business Class. In First (F), you'll earn an additional 2x Miles on top of the 3x Miles, giving you a 5x bonus. This means you earn 50,000 Miles, which is enough for that one way Business Class flight we mentioned earlier.
This has to be one of the most generous returns in the industry. (For UK Flyers)
They Partner with Starwood Preferred Guest
In the UK, the best way to earn Alaska Miles is to use Starwood Preferred Guest, since they're the only way that a credit card can affiliate with Alaska. You can use the SPG Credit Card to earn Starpoints at a rate of 1% (1 Point per £1 spent) This means that you can essentially earn Starpoints for the purpose of transferring them to Alaska. When you transfer 20,000 Starpoints to Alaska, you'll receive a 5,000 Mile bonus. e.g. 20,000 Starpoints gets you 25,000 Alaska Miles. You get a 5,000 miles transfer bonus for every 20,000 Starpoints you transfer. This means transferring 40,000 Starpoints gets you 50,000 Miles etc.
You can also buy Starpoints at some very good rates during promotions. Also, since these are processed in USD, you should consider which card you charge them to, since you would likely be hit with a 3% Foreign transaction fee. If you are willing to pay this surcharge, I recommend using the American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card, since you'll earn 2 points for every equivalent £1 you spend.
Also, if you happen to be loyal to Starwood Hotels and are interested in flying with other airlines rather than spending on hotel redemptions, then this is also the way to go.
So all in all, I'm very impressed with Alaska MileagePlan and is a great solution to Avios and other schemes moving towards dynamic award pricing.
I'll definitely be using Alaska MileagePlan and will be sure to keep you updated.
Till the next time,