Alaska Airlines is well-known for bucking a lot of typical airline trends, and that approach extends to its award program too. Alaska's award pricing is not “dynamic” like that of United Airlines or American Airlines — instead, its award flight booking system costs members a range of miles based on route popularity and flight distance. It also awards miles in distance traveled rather than dollars spent on any given leg of a flight.
But those who join Alaska Airlines’ free loyalty program, Mileage Plan, will have access to some of the most attractive redemption deals on the market.
Use Alaska Airlines award charts to calculate cost
Each Alaska Airlines partner has a unique award chart, which means the same U.S. to Asia flight route can cost different amounts of miles depending on your carrier. Cross check the miles cost for the same route across multiple airlines to get the most value out of your mile redemption.
Beyond domestic flights on Alaska Airlines itself, its current international partners include:
American Airlines (international flights only).
You can figure out how many miles you need to book your flight by using Alaska Airlines’ handy calculator. Simply input which region you’re traveling from and which region you’re traveling to, and your results will instantly appear.
On the more affordable end, flights from the contiguous U.S. and Alaska to other domestic destinations can cost as little as 5,000 miles if under 700 miles. On the high end, economy tickets from the contiguous U.S. to the South Pacific can cost you 85,000 miles.
Pay attention to your miles earning potential
Your ability to earn miles while flying partner airlines varies significantly. For instance, you’ll earn 25% of miles flown on partner Aer Lingus for the lowest economy fare class, whereas Qantas’ lowest economy fare class tickets will award you 100% for flown miles.
Don’t forget your free stopover
If you’re booking an international award flight and have the time, cash in on Alaska Airlines’ free stopover perk. You can stay in a destination en route to your final destination anywhere from a few days to a few weeks at no extra points cost to you.
Upgrade to first class
If you’re already booked on a flight with a lower fare class, but can’t stop daydreaming of first-class perks like spacious leather seats and fresh meals, you can redeem 15,000 award miles for a first class upgrade. Note that upgrades like these are not eligible for lounge access.
Consider booking your stay with Mileage Plan Hotels
Earn points while you’re snoozing when you use miles to book a hotel stay on your trip. No matter your travel style, one of Alaska Airlines’ 400,000 affiliated properties around the world will likely be a match. If you’re an Alaska Airlines credit card holder, you can enjoy additional discounts for stays.
Use Money & Miles to book your trip
Get a discount of up to $100 off your one-way or round-trip flight when you book an award with a combination of cash and your miles. This program is eligible for coach and first class fares, and you’ll still benefit from the 1:1 ratio for miles flown and miles earned.
Note that this spending scheme is not available for saver fares.
Other ways to book rewards on Alaska Airlines
You can keep earning miles on the highway after your plane has landed. Use your Alaska Airlines miles to rent cars from Avis, Alamo, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, National and Thrifty. There are some great deals to be found here, such as 50 extra miles earned daily for up to four days with an Avis rental.
Love the Food Network Magazine? Can't get enough of Golf Digest? Use 500+ award miles to purchase issues of some of your favorite publications, no cash needed.
Gift or donate your miles
Airline miles can be a great gift. Transfer current miles to friends and loved ones for $10 per 1,000 miles, or consider donating extra miles through Alaska Airlines’ LIFT miles program that supports worthy causes, like Make-A-Wish.
The bottom line
You can quickly earn Alaska Airlines miles through all of the normal channels, and likely the best value to redeem them is on international flights — with a free stopover peppered in (both ways). Figuring out Alaska's award chart might take a large cup of coffee and serious concentration, but you’ll be rewarded in the end with high-value redemption opportunities.
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 2021, 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
Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice: Find the best travel credit card for you 4 ways to quickly rack up miles for your next flight How to get started with frequent flyer programs