No, really. At Alaska Air, it’s a-l-l about the miles


OK. I’m LIVE from the Alaska Airlines Board Room in Anchorage. Headed down to Juneau. And it’s a LOVELY day to fly. For free.

Well, OK. Not TOTALLY for free. My mileage ticket costs about $5.00 in fees. And tickets to Mexico cost between $140 and $200 with all the international taxes and fees. But my Mileage Plan miles take care of the biggest chunk: the air fare.

I’m scanning the “awards calendar” at and I’m seeing some G-R-E-A-T destinations for just 25,000 miles. Which, by the way, is how many BONUS MILES you get when you sign up for a new Alaska Air Visa card.

For example:

Anchorage-San Diego: 25,000 miles in March, April and May

Anchorage-Barrow: 15,000 miles in March, April and May

Juneau-Phoenix: 25,000 miles in Mar/Apr/MayAnchorage-Seattle or Las Vegas: 25,000 miles in Mar/Apr/May

Fairbanks-Portland: 25,000 miles in Mar/Apr/May

Hey, we’re all hot-to-trot about Alaska Airlines’ great prices on summertime travel, but don’t forget to take full advantage of the Mileage Plan.

a. First, have you gotten your Alaska Airlines’ Visa card? It’s one of the easiest ways to earn bonus miles–at the rate of one mile for every dollar spent. You get a 25,000-mile bonus for getting the card (we have two of them). Additionally, you get the coach-class companion ticket for $99. Pro tip: both travelers earn full mileage when traveling with the companion pass! The card costs $75/year.

b. Triple mileage between Anchorage and Seattle all summer long. It’s part of the “Battle for Seattle”–and you’re the winner. That means 8,694 miles roundtrip on select flights between May 17 and Sept. 3, 2013 (flights 106, 108, 110, 111, 130, 141, and 146). You have to register in advance to get this bonus. DO IT NOW.

c. Double miles between Anchorage and Los Angeles/LAX, Seattle and Long Beach and Seattle and Boston. Folks–that’s a lot of miles. Again, the special bonus miles are available ONLY between May 17 and Sept. 3, 2013. You must register in advance. DO IT NOW. Below, a shot I took while climbing out of Anchorage. 

d. Flying to Dubai? Catch Emirates’ 777 nonstop from Seattle and earn bonus miles between now and April 30, 2013. Depending on which class you fly, you can earn between 2,500 bonus miles, up to triple miles. Again: register in advance.

If you’re not a Mileage Plan member, sign up HERE. NOW. Then, if you live in Alaska, sign up for CLUB 49 for two free bags (when traveling in or out of Alaska). Sign up HERE. NOW.





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6 Responses to “No, really. At Alaska Air, it’s a-l-l about the miles”

  1. Rob
    February 3, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    Hi Scott,

    Something you might not be aware of but there better earning opportunities and redemption values for flights on Alaska or other airlines in programs other than Mileage Plan.

    Flights on Alaska segments under 649 miles can be had for only 9,000 BA Avios. Similarly, ANC-SEA comes in at just 20,000 Avios RT. For connecting Alaska itineraries, Korean Air SKYPASS miles can be redeemed for coach domestic awards on Alaska for just 20,000 miles. Hawaii and Mexico awards are also just 30,000 miles (a savings over Alaska of 10,000 miles to Hawaii, or 5,000 to Mexico.)

    Outside of Mileage Plan, Dividend Miles has decent domestic awards (only 20,000 miles for a saver domestic coach award if you have a Dividend Miles credit card) and an off-peak Europe award for only 35,000 miles (30,000 for card holders.)

    You can also earn miles on other carriers more quickly than on Alaska through shopping portals (which Alaska doesn’t have anymore) and credit cards that award category bonuses.

    Why get one Mileage Plan mile per dollar when I can get two Ultimate Rewards points for every dollar spent on dining or travel with my Sapphire Preferred card, (or five miles per dollar on office supplies with an Ink card) which can then be converted to Avios, Mileage Plus, SKYPASS miles, or a couple hotel programs at a 1:1 ratio?

    It might make sense to credit Alaska flights to Mileage Plan for someone in Alaska (for the MVP benefits) but in terms of sheer earning potential, Mileage Plan is trounced by competing programs and I have shifted into “burn” mode for my Mileage Plan account while focusing on earning elsewhere.

  2. Alvaro
    February 3, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    Hi: Very nice what is said about Alaska Airlines and the Credit card. I have one since 2003, hoping to get at least one ticket with my miles, since I’ve never been able to use the companion ticket.To my surprise tried to get a ticket in Alaska Airline for June and there was none available to use my miles, however there were plainty to buy, ending paying for it!!! Not worth to keep the Visa Card.

  3. Scott
    February 4, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    Thanks, Rob. I, too have Chase Sapphire–primarily for the no-foreign-transaction surcharge (a weak spot for Alaska’s BofA Visa). I also have a boatload of British Airways “Avios” points, but never have used them because of the huge “surcharges” they impose when traveling through Heathrow. Using them for Alaska Air flights is a smart option!

    My friends who follow such things characterize USAir as “a lousy airline with a great FF plan”. They also encourage me to remember that Dividend Miles really is a program for Star Alliance, not just USAir.

    I’m still hooked on Alaska’s card for the Companion Pass…but the mileage programs are, indeed, a moving target!!

  4. Pete Schneidler
    March 1, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    I’m a teacher in the bush. Whenever this subject comes up I have to chime in that another great way to use miles in-state is to spend 10,000 alaska air miles on a round trip ERA ticket anywhere they fly. Like Anc to Bethel and on to Mountain Village or Hooper Bay – those tickets cost about $1,000 round trip, meaning you are getting 10 cents value per mile. I haven’t really found anything else nationally that comes close to this value (usual rule of thumb is they are worth about 1 cent). And this isn’t a temporary, “on sale” type of thing, the prices are fixed and the value has been the same for years. For much more see my blog post here:

    Alvaro, where were you trying to fly from/to that you couldn’t find any seats in June? Sounds odd – even flying at night, there was nothing?

    And Rob, regarding British Air Avios, I agree that the best way to use them by far is on Alaska Airlines. Mostly because they are almost impossible to use on actual BA flights (no availability), and as Scott pointed out they charge an absolutely outrageous fuel surcharge. I flew with my family to Europe and we had over 200,000 avios on our 2 credit cards. I was looking for flights about 8 or 9 months ahead of time and they had no availability in May. None in June, none in July, none in August. From ANY U.S. city to ANY city in Europe. I’m not mistaken I called back twice to confirm (on hold over an hour each time). They were worthless to us for our trip and we flew on Condor nonstop instead. Then a friend needed to go to Africa last minute. I checked and managed to find a ticket available (this was in the winter), but they wanted something like $1,500 in surcharges along with the miles! This for a ticket that cost something like $2,000. So yes it is a FAR better deal to use the avios on Alaska Air. It is only 4,500 avios to fly from Anchorage to Bethel. Takes a lot more avios to fly further though, and each segment is charged separately. And you have to wait on hold usually at least an hour to get a person, only to find out 90% of the time that the dates you want are not available. Absolutely abysmal phone service. Alaska Air is the best airline I’ve found in terms of making actual seats available for award travel, and the Alaska Air call center is open to 11 pm AST, while BA’s east coast call center closes at 7 pm AST (used to be 4 pm AST!). Even in the peak of summer from Alaska to the lower 48, if you plan ahead you will find seats at the saver levels, though you may have to fly at night. I think Alaska doesn’t make all of its seats that are allotted for award travel available for partners like BA to book with avios.

    Sorry for the long rant. I know Alaska Air isn’t for everyone, but for those of us in who live in state, especially in the bush, their mileage plan is a huge help and a great value. Can anyone else beat 10 cents a mile consistent redemption values?

  5. Mile Rich and Travel Poor
    March 11, 2013 at 8:16 pm #

    Likewise “no availability” is my experience with Alaska Airlines as well. US Travel worked hard – daily – to find trans-Pacific mileage tickets for our travel, starting 11 months early, even before the return flight would be on sale, and came up totally empty for weeks before and after our travel dates. Extremely disapointing to sit on a pile of miles we can not use. Maybe it could work if we had total flexibility in travel months, but with kids in school that’s not an option. Miles should probably be used for domestic “utility” travel instead, but even then – when we’re competing with the rest of the Anchorage School District for travel dates – that’s just not happening either.

  6. Scott McMurren
    March 12, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    THanks, Mike. You must throw more miles into the fire when you’re competing with other school kids and their families. SUpply + demand and all that. Regarding partner airlines? Hmph. SOmetimes I feel like the poor relation. Online Alaska Airlines is the best way to earn and redeem the miles. The rest is fluff. I use miles for Mexico and Hawaii and emergency family travel….