Alaska Airlines is making changes to partner awards (Cathay and LATAM now bookable online)

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Update 11/3/22 – ¡Olé! It is now possible to book both LATAM and Cathay Pacific (CX) awards on Alaska Airlines’ website. Searches over the last month seem to show better Cathay availability on both ba.com and aa.com, so it may be that there’s still some integration to complete between the two award calendars. The Alaska call-center has still been able to complete some bookings for space found on ba/aa but not showing online with Alaska. LATAM awards are a great value for business class to South America when using Alaska miles, as flights price at 45,000 miles anywhere on the continent. Because of Alaska’s generous stopover policy on award flights, you can also add a free stopover in Santiago or Lima on each way.

Today, Alaska Airlines quietly “announced” that there will be changes to its partner award charts throughout Q4 of 2022. The good news is that, by the end of this year, it will finally be possible to view availability and book both Cathay Pacific and LATAM awards on Alaska Airlines’ website after years of having to book through the Alaska call center. Cathay awards will actually be live sometime in October. Cathay Pacific and LATAM awards are now live.

The other (most likely bad) news is that, starting December 2022, Alaska will unveil a “simplified” award chart with award levels displayed based on the region that you’re traveling to and from. As opposed to having set award prices for most partners, it sounds like most or all awards will have dynamic levels (similar to how Alaska prices some partners and all Mileage Plan awards now). The factors that impact partner award levels will include route, distance, and demand.

That sounds like a mix of good and bad news, so is there reason for concern? Probably a little.

Scared of Devaluation
Is this the long-feared Mileage Plan devaluation starting?

Here’s the full statment from Alaska:

Good news for 2022!  Cathay Pacific awards will be available to book on alaskaair.com in October and LATAM awards will be available before the end of 2022.

Starting late December, the way you view award charts online is changing. We’ll have a simplified award chart to show you where award levels start based on which regions you’re traveling from and to. With this change, similar to awards on Alaska, partner award levels may vary depending on multiple factors including route, distance, or demand. You’ll continue to be able to enjoy great value for your miles. As always, the best way to view pricing and availability for the routes you’re interested in flying is to search for your specific travel dates and destinations.

Quick Thoughts

When Alaska Airlines joined the One World Alliance earlier this year, I was among those who was cautiously excited but also a little leery about what the effect would be on Mileage Plan.

Since joining One World, Alaska hasn’t given us much reason to be hopeful. While we’ve seen the airline add awards on Malaysia Air, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Iberia, and Qatar; the redemption rates were so extraordinarily yucky that the folks predicting doom and gloom for Mileage Plan seemed almost optimistic.  Alaska even devalued its own premium awards.

Back in February, I said this:

While there are still terrific values to be had (although to currently hard to use destinations like Fiji, Japan and Hong Kong), the continued pulverizing of the award chart seems to indicate that’s only a matter of time before the remaining sweet spots are obliterated as well.

The vague wording of today’s announcement makes me suspect that these new changes will be another step down the road towards a further weakening of Alaska’s previously best-in-class international partner chart. Alaska has historically promised (although not always delivered) a 90 day advance notice before award chart devaluations and these end-of-December changes are happening in…90 days.

They’ve long told us that a unified Oneworld chart would eventually come, with our fear being that it would move towards more closely standardizing Alaska’s chart with American’s and thus remove sweet spots like Cathay and JAL, whose awards are quite a bit cheaper on Alaska. My assumption is that we’ll see Cathay and LATAM’s award pricing raised across the board along with other partners. There will be more partner availability but with a range in cost between “saver” and “standard” awards (like Qatar and Aer Lingus, whose business class flights can cost up to 280,000 Alaska miles now).

Will it be nice to finally be able to book Cathay and LATAM on Alaska’s website? Absolutely. Also, the upside of a unified chart could be that it will move us one step closer to Alaska allowing multiple partners on award bookings (currently, you’re only allowed to fly one partner + Alaska). This would increase the utility of its awards exponentially.

That said, I believe that these positive changes in availability and booking will come at the cost of worsened value. I don’t expect that Alaska will completely torpedo the chart, but the outsized value that it provided on airlines like Cathay and JAL will most likely be reduced significantly. I think that we’ll see the saver/standard model applied across multiple regions and possibly more distance-based tiering within regions as well.

Hopefully we’ll be pleasantly surprised, but my guess is that 2023 will dawn with our Alaska miles carrying less luster than they do now.

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Jacob

Hi Tim! Bummer about the (all but assured) upcoming devaluation. I’d been eyeing using AS miles for a JL F redemption but my trip isn’t until Feb and JL likely isn’t going to open award space until a few weeks out–after the deval, so my question is this: Would it work for me to use AS miles to book a JL redemption far out in the future, and then, if award space opens, adjust the dates? In other words, do you think AS would likely honor the pre-devaluation award rate for just a date change, or do you think when I went to book it to the dates that I need they’ll want to charge me the new rates. I know you don’t have a crystal ball but wondering if you have a hunch on this one? I don’t have enough AS miles as it stands to make the redemption so I’d need to either move or earn them, but don’t want to fill up my bank only for a devaluation to ruin this redemption.

James

Has anyone seen Fiji Air phantom space? I tried to change an award flight from economy to business online but last step says space not available, while both Alaska website and expertflyer shows availability. Talked to two phone agents and was told the international ticketing desk can’t get the ticket.

John Doe

AS availability on CX still doesn’t match what AA shows, but the phone agents are saying they cannot book anything that is not on the website. They are not allowed to book manually anymore and they also check the website for availability just like us.

John Doe

No, did not try. Got transferred through multiple reps though.

Sam

Booked 2 Latam biz award tickets on AS website yesterday. Changed both on the website today when better (for me) LATAM availability popped up – didn’t have to cancel & rebook. Nice change.

Nate

Devalution. It never changes.

Brad

The award availability for long haul US to Asia is terrible. If you can even find any First Class space, one of the legs, usually the last one will be in Economy. Alaska Miles used to be the best, now they are the worst.

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Christian

I just hunted for one first class award seat JFK-HKG on Alaska and AA. Alaska showed nothing from now through the end of schedule and AA won’t show anything at all but just gives an error.

globetrotter

How do you book CX on its website? What is their call center in US/Canada and their hours? I want to book on their website so I am allowed a stopover in HK and fly on to Japan next fall. I googled it but nobody ever answered. I only have 89K miles in Mileage Plan but need to book multiple business seats. What is the current cost of miles for business seat on CX to HK? Thanks

JOhn

Does Alaska still allow free award cancellations and redeposits (on CX tickets)? Tks

Sam

On all AS awards. Less partner $12 fee, I believe.

DMoney

As Jules said, CX has been available for more than a few weeks now and there has not been any business/first availability from US – that changed this morning.

I found 2 business seats from JFK-HKG for July 26, 2023 and I snagged them for a father-daughter (she’ll be 7 by the time we fly) trip to HKG and Singapore next summer. I have been checking all US/Canada routes everyday since CX came online. As I write, there are 2 more seats on ORD – HKG on August 16, 2023, if anyone is interested. aa.com shows 2 seats on JFK-HKG route on Aug 1, 2023 as well (it isn’t phantom since I was able to go to the payment page with that selection) but that doesn’t show up on Alaska.

Phenomenal deal to experience 2 countries for 50k + US$60 in fees. Now I just have to hope that I convince my wife to let us go (while she takes care of 2 18-month old infant that time).

DMoney

A side note that may not be super relevant to everyone – we had enough miles for only 1 ticket, but in two separate Alaska accounts. Alaska allows you to book a child’s ticket online as long as you have an adult ticket booked and can link the reservation when booking child’s ticket. So I bought my ticket through my Alaska account and then used that reservation code to link my daughter’s ticket bought through my wife’s Alaska account (and then linked my daughter’s ticket to my ticket in my account as well). Fairly institutive and straightforward process.

Jules

Two business seats on the JFK-HKG route is pretty awesome…lucky you! I ended up booking two premium economy seats for my preferred route and will definitely keep checking if business seats become available. Fingers crossed…

Jason

Thank you very much. I was able to grab 2 round trip business tickets from Chicago to HongKong on Sept 6 to Sept 27 for a total of 200K miles and $148 fee. Fantastic deal!!

JOhn

were you able to book both HKG and SIN on the same AS award ticket? were you able to book a ticket back from HKG or SIN yet? I’m finding it impossible to book any one-way award ticket back from HKG on the AA.com site (and AS has no availability showing)

DMoney

Yes, I got HKG (as free stopover) and SIN on the same award ticket. Used the multi-city option on AS website. I didn’t try booking from HKG since I didn’t have return plans finalized (nor did I have any AS miles left after the outbound flights were booked)

bicyclep

mmm… wondering what is the best process to find a free stop over using multicity, do you first look for regular one ways and once you find 2 days with the same redemption value connecting those 3 airports you search for multicity one those airports and dates? it d be nice to spend 1 week in the 1st stop over before making it to my final destination sometimes, specially if visa is free n I can use the lounges a few times more 🙂

Jules

CX flights have been bookable online for almost three weeks now. However, I’ve seen pretty much no availability for the entire booking calendar in premium classes (J or F) between HKG and either the US or Europe. I’d be curious to know if others have noticed the same.

Last edited 1 month ago by Jules
TimR

I’ve only checked US but noticed the same despite availability shown on both Qantas and AA

Brad

Same experience here. Alaska miles are horrible now. Worst to have.

Mantis

CX used to be bookable online with AS, pre COVID at least. I had assumed there was simply no availability. Are you sure there is an actual change in policy and not just finally a new release of award space?

Jules

That is not correct. I’ve been booking CX flights through Alaska since 2017 via telephone and the ability to book via the website only came online three weeks ago.

Mantis

I remember seeing CX somewhere, but maybe I was thinking of looking at BA for availability then calling in.

whocares

glad I used a big chunk of my Alaska recently on R/T JAL Business. not sure what the rest of my miles are good for now…about 50k left

Craig

I dont think it matters, their miles are terrible anyways now. I flew on Alaska all the time. I got my first Alaska miles when they brought with Virgin they gave out 10,000 miles, added to the 8,000 I had with Virgin. I also got 10,000 gifted to me by my parents Virgin account. I had 30,000 miles I flew for a couple of years on those miles. I was building my miles up with them, and using their shopping portal to upgrading my phone. I currently have almost 14,000 with Alaska for about a year. I have travel multiple times this year, even looked early and never could use them. I understand that 14,000 maybe not a enough miles to fly, on some airlines. But I used to able to book somewhere for 10,000, or less. Their flights are always 30,000 no matter if I look 6 months, or more. I have flown on Delta 5x this year and miles paid for all but 2 (cash and miles on 1). Flown on Southwest with miles 2x, and Frontier once (had those before convid). Even when they have a sale it is unusable for me. I fly out of Washington area, mostly Dulles. I might get a deal to Seattle or California, but I can fly on other airlines cheaper for the same trip. I looked at buying miles, even with sales I can fly someone else cheaper. I just been stuck with these miles. If you guys have a suggestion on what to do with them I would appreciate a suggestion. I have been following your content for years, used allot of the suggestion to get more miles, discounts, and news. Keep up the good work.

Billy Bob

There is no sugar-coating dynamic award pricing.

JustSaying

Alaska has been dead since they moved to AA and their split premium awards where you fly most of the route in coach and last short leg in FC is a joke that is an insult to my time. I’ll never attempt to earn their miles in the future. They have gone to the dark side of the business!

whocares

and you can’t search ALL business. lame search engine!

rick b

If they keep throwing more miles at churners of the CC, so be it if awards are raised. This whole industry is a ponzi scheme of constant overproduction of miles followed by devaluation. Can’t escape it.

Mary

🙁

Last edited 2 months ago by Mary
Too Many

Expect award prices to go up… That is all…

Elizabeth

Alaska continues their path to mediocrity and sameness. I used to be a “if I can’t fly Alaska I am not going” person. But more and more I find myself booking Delta. I fly to California and Arizona from Seattle a lot. Their prices are comparable or better. Miles are usually a better deal on Delta . Their planes are nicer, especially the entertainment system. With the platinum card I can use the delta lounge which in Seattle is much better than Alaska and Phoenix doesn’t have an alaska lounge.

Chad Dankbutt

Miles are usually a better deal on Delta”- as in using skypesos?

Elizabeth

I mentioned I fly to Arizona and SFO and on those flight Delta is substantially less points.

Tony

This is dynamic pricing at work. Flights are probably cheap on those routes. However, they generally aren’t the best uses of points.

Christian

As they say in Futurama, “Good News Everyone!”