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Unlike many domestic airlines, Alaska Airlines is not part of an official alliance (though it is set to join the Oneworld Alliance in 2021). Instead, Alaska offers a unique combination of partner airlines from across the globe:
You can earn miles on Alaska when flying with these airlines or use your Alaska miles to book flights with them. In fact, using Alaska miles in this way offers some of the most valuable redemption options of any domestic airline’s frequent flyer program.
» Learn more: Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan: Your complete guide
Earning miles with partners
You can earn miles on Alaska’s partners by crediting the flight to your Alaska Mileage Plan account. That is, if you book a flight on British Airways, you must enter your Alaska number in your itinerary in order to earn miles.
Alaska miles are earned based on the number of miles flown with the partner airline, though not always at a 1:1 ratio. Most partner economy tickets only earn 25% of flown miles. For example, if you fly 4,000 miles on British Airways in the cheapest fare class, you’ll earn 1,000 Alaska miles.
» Learn more:
On the flip side, many partners offer bonus miles for flying in their premium cabins. In British Airways’ highest fare class (F), you’ll earn 100% of flown miles plus a 200% class of service bonus plus a 200% additional bonus. Flying 4,000 miles in this fare class will earn a whopping 20,000 Alaska miles.
Note that the “additional bonus” applies to redeemable miles (which can be used to book award flights) but not elite-qualifying miles (which earn elite status).
Here is how many miles you’ll earn for each partner in the cheapest economy fare class:
Miles earned in lowest fare class
For a full breakdown of earnings based on partner airlines and fare classes, check Alaska’s partner page.
Note: The flight must be sold and operated by the same partner airline in order to qualify for Alaska miles. What does that mean? If you book a flight through British Airways that is operated by Iberia Airways, you will not earn Alaska miles. This can get tricky, especially for partners in the Oneworld alliance, so keep an eye out when booking your ticket.
Alaska only operates a handful of international routes, so redeeming miles on their partner airlines are the best way to travel the globe.
Searching for available partner award flights is fairly straightforward. Use the flight search tool on the website or app and select the “use miles” box.
Once you search, you’ll see the available partner routes for the destination you selected.
Each partner serves different regions and has its own award chart. Some partners (British Airways, most notoriously) charge massive fuel surcharges that are not published in the award chart. The best way to find the “real” cost of a given itinerary is to search and compare.
NerdWallet values Alaska miles at 1 cent each.
Most Alaska partners allow free stopovers on award itineraries, which means you can stop for several days (or weeks) at the airlines’ hub on your way to your final destination. This is a great way to extend the value of your miles, especially when booking premium cabin awards.
To book stopovers, use the “multi-city” search tool.
Make sure the stopover is in one of Alaska’s partners’ hubs (in this case, Japan AIrlines’ hub in Tokyo) or the search will fail.
Note: Some partners, like LATAM, are only bookable by calling Alaska directly.
» Learn more: 5 award sweet spots using Alaska Airlines miles
A few of Alaska’s partners extend lounge access to MVP Gold and Gold 75K members:
British Airways (London-Heathrow).
Hainan Airlines (multiple airports in mainland China).
Qantas (multiple airports in Australia).
Starting in Summer 2021, Alaska MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K elite members will gain access to 650+ Oneworld international lounges. And all Alaska elite members will receive limited elite benefits when flying American, including bag fee waivers and premium seating.
» Learn More: Find the best airline credit card for you
Alaska is not your typical airline, and its (currently) alliance-free partnership program takes some getting used to. However, it offers some of the best partnership earning and redemption options out there.
Now that you’ve mastered their partnership program, you’re ready to learn more about Alaska’s Mileage Plan program.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:
Airline miles and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Wells Fargo Propel American Express® card
Flat-rate rewards with no annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Premium travel rewards: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card