The best ways to redeem Alaska Airlines miles in 2020 (flights to Asia, Australia and more)
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Alaska Airlines is not a member of any major airline alliance (though they intend to join oneworld soon). Yet still they’ve built a network of individual partnerships that allow you to redeem your miles to visit just about any corner of the world.
I’ve redeemed Alaska Airlines miles a few times to book a $15,000+ first class ticket to Asia. One thing you’ll have to pay attention to is the fact that Alaska has a slightly different award chart for each partner. For example, it costs more Alaska miles to fly to Seoul on Korean Air than on American Airlines.
You can quickly accrue Alaska Airlines miles by opening cards like the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card, which comes with a special limited-time offer of a $100 statement credit, 40,000 Alaska Airlines miles, and a Companion Fare™ from $121 ($99 fare, plus taxes and fees from $22) after making $2,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening account.
Whether you earned your miles by signing-up for this card or by crediting flights to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, here are some of the best ways to redeem Alaska Airlines miles.
Best ways to redeem Alaska Airlines miles in 2020
Here is the current list of Alaska Airlines partner airlines:
- Aer Lingus
- American Airlines
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- El Al
- Fiji Airways
- Hainan Airlines
- Japan Airlines
- Korean Air
- LATAM Airlines
- Ravn Alaska
1. Hong Kong and beyond with Cathay Pacific
The Alaska Airlines award chart for Cathay Pacific flights to Asia is reason enough to love the program. Where else can you book a 15-hour $20,000 first class flight for only 70,000 miles? Even if you choose to fly in business class instead, 50,000 miles for a one-way award is incredibly reasonable. You can also build in a free stopover in Hong Kong before continuing on to any other destination in Asia at the same price, giving you two destinations for the price of one.
Cathay Pacific offers one of the world’s best first class products, and you’ll usually see one award seat released on every flight about a year in advance when the schedule opens, and then occasionally more seats in the days and weeks leading up to departure.
You can also take advantage of Alaska’s unique award chart for Cathay Pacific to explore many other destinations. Fly from the U.S. and stop in Hong Kong, before continuing on to India, South Africa or Australia at the following rates:
These are some of the farthest destinations from the U.S., and you’ll have a much easier journey if you break up your flights with a stop in Hong Kong. As an added bonus, you’ll have an easier time finding award space if your two legs (U.S. to Hong Kong and Hong Kong to your destination) can be spaced out by a few days.
Last but not least, Cathay Pacific also operates a route between New York (JFK) and Vancouver before continuing on to Hong Kong. While this is one of Cathay Pacific’s shortest routes to feature a true first class cabin, you can book this six-hour flight for only 35,000 Alaska Airlines miles and get a taste of the good life without flying all the way around the world.
2. Fly Japan Airlines to Asia
While Cathay Pacific has slightly lowers prices and a more robust U.S. route network, Japan Airlines offers an equally impressive experience in coach, business class and first class. One thing to take note of here is the different prices for flights to “Asia” vs. “Southeast Asia.” These regions aren’t clearly defined on the Alaska Airlines website, but I’ve found that they match up closely to the American Airlines award chart, where Japan and Korea are one region, and the rest of Asia is slightly more expensive.
This means you’ll be looking at 60,000 to 65,000 miles for a one-way business class award or 70,000 to 75,000 miles for a one-way first class award flight. Japan Airlines is often great about releasing last minute award space, and it’s not unusual to see three or more first class award seats close to departure! Don’t give up hope if there’s nothing available off the bat.
Of course, don’t forget about your free stopover in Tokyo! These can be booked directly online by selecting a multi-city award search. Here’s a screenshot.
I find it much easier to find the award space you want first by performing two separate searches, and then click multi-city when you’re actually ready to book.
3. Visit Australia with Qantas
Australia is a tough spot to get to with points and miles, but Alaska Airlines is the answer. It gives you the amazing option of booking nonstop flights with Qantas. Qantas flies a mixture of humongous planes like A380 and 787 aircraft to U.S. cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas from its hubs in Sydney and Melbourne. One-way awards cost the following amounts, no matter which route you fly:
- Coach: 42,500 miles
- Business: 55,000 miles
- First: 70,000 miles
While coach space is relatively easy to come by, first and business class space is incredibly rare. In fact, I’d say that Qantas first class is probably the single hardest award seat to find, so have realistic expectations.
4. Splurge for an Emirates first class award
Emirates first class is the stuff that dreams are made of, and something every award traveler should endeavor to try at least once. While award rates have skyrocketed in recent years, there are a few advantages to booking a first class Emirates flight through Alaska Airlines. And let’s be honest, if you’re going to splurge on any flight, you’re going to pick the one with the onboard shower.
A one-way first class award from the U.S. to the Middle East will set you back a whopping 150,000 miles. If you’re heading beyond the Middle East, you can absolutely build in a stopover in Dubai before heading on to other destinations in the area, such as the Maldives, India, etc. First class Emirates flights to Asia will cost 180,000 miles one-way.
Emirates also operates two flights from the U.S. to Europe, but those short seven-hour hops are paradoxically more expensive than flying all the way to Dubai. It costs 180,000 miles to fly from New York JFK to Milan or from Newark to Athens in Emirates first class. If you’re shelling out this many miles, make sure you get at least one true long haul flight to enjoy all that Emirates has to offer.
5. Fly Hainan business class to Asia
Hainan Airlines often gets overlooked because, like Alaska Airlines, it’s not a member of a major airline alliance. However, the airline’s got a lot of fresh 787 and A350 planes, which have excellent lie-flat seats.
One-way business class awards from the U.S. to Asia only cost 50,000 Alaska Airlines miles, and because of some of the quirks of Chinese aviation, you’ll find Hainan operating some pretty niche routes. You have one of the only non-stop flights from Boston to Asia (Beijing), as well as Los Angeles to Chongqing.
6. West Coast to Hawaii
With all this talk of international partner awards, let’s not forget the amazing value Alaska Airlines miles can offer for flights to Hawaii. Flights will generally be cheapest if you stick to Alaska Airlines operated flights, such as Portland to Kauai for only 17,500 miles each way in coach.
If you use your Alaska Airlines miles to fly American Airlines instead, you’ll pay 22,500 miles each way in coach or 40,000 in business class, and between these two airlines you have access to an extensive route network that serves most of the major Hawaiian destinations.
7. Cheap American Airlines awards to Northern South America
Thanks to its fortress hub in Miami, American Airlines dominates much of the traffic between the U.S. and South America. Flights to South America zone 1 (everything except Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela) are priced very attractively:
- Coach: 20,000 miles
- Business Class: 30,000 miles
Zone 1 includes popular destinations like Quito and Lima, and AA even operates many of these flights with true lie-flat seats on the relatively short flights. Continuing on to southern South America can still be a good deal, especially if you snag a seat in business or first class on American Airlines’ long-haul routes to Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires.
8. Visit Fiji in business class
One of the best uses of Alaska Airlines miles is to fly to remote destinations that are a little harder to reach. Fiji is about as remote as it gets, so consider using your Alaska Airlines miles to fly Fiji Airways from Los Angeles to the South Pacific. For only 40,000 miles in coach or 55,000 miles in business class, you can take a nonstop flight to kick off your tropical vacation in paradise.
9. Fly LATAM business class to South America
If you plan on venturing into southern South America and don’t want to pay the more expensive American Airlines award prices, LATAM is a great option to consider. Flights from the U.S. to South America cost the same amount no matter which country you’re traveling to:
- coach (off peak): 25,000 miles
- coach (peak): 30,000 miles
- Business: 45,000 miles
Off-peak award flights run from March 15 to June 30, all of August, October, and November. Many of LATAM’s U.S. flights are operated by a modern 787 plane (that’s a good thing).
10. Off-peak flights to Europe
At this point in the list, you’ve probably noticed one thing conspicuously missing: any mention of Europe. While Alaska Airlines miles have plenty of strengths, Europe is not one of them. You can book flights on American Airlines at pretty average rates, but award space is hard to find and there are better ways to use those miles.
However, you can get a great deal booking off-peak awards to Europe for only 22,500 miles each way in coach. Off peak travel dates run from October 15 to May 15, giving you more than half of the year to enjoy these discounted prices.
Alaska Airlines miles have two great things going for them:
- With most partners, the award rates are incredibly low, making it easy to consistently receive lots of value from your miles
- You can book free stopovers yourself online. This makes those low rates suddenly turn into two-for-one vacations!
Let me know if your favorite use of Alaska Airlines miles isn’t on the list! and subscribe to our newsletter for more expert miles & points info like this delivered to your inbox once per day.
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