Alaska Airlines will update its Mileage Plan award charts in 2024 with new zone and distance-based pricing. There are winners and losers versus current redemption pricing, but I am optimistic these changes represent a sustainable path forward for the program.
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Plans Sustainable Changes In 2024
At the very outset, kudos to Alaska Airlines for giving us notice more than three months in advance of these changes. And indeed, for keeping award charts. This is the blueprint for all loyalty programs and a stark contrast to United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, which have repeatedly devalued without notice.
First, we will discuss the changes then I will argue why I think these changes are about the best we could have hoped for.
New Mileage Plan Award Charts Coming In March 2024 That Combine Zone And Distance Pricing
Alaska Airlines is taking what has become a cumbersome series of pricing unique to each Mileage Plan partner and an award chart that is therefore quite misleading and creating a unified trio of award charts in 2024.
Starting in March 2024, Alaska Airlines will offer only three award charts:
- Europe, Middle East, Africa
Pricing on the three charts below is to/from the USA or within that zone.
Award pricing is based on the cumulative distance of one-way travel, not round-trip travel. Current award routing rules will apply.
The “starting at” pricing signifies pricing for saver-level space rather than a price floor with no upper limit. However, Alaska Airlines has managed to negotiate additional award inventory with some partners and that may price at a higher level (but might also be uniquely available through Mileage Plan and not other oneworld programs).
Alaska Airlines claims that with these changes, 60% of partner nonstop routes in economy class will start at a lower price point, while 64% of partner nonstop routes in business class will start at a lower price point.
More Redemption Options
Concerning that last point, Alaska Airlines plans to offer additional redemption seats on more partners, though these might not be at saver level. For example, you may be able to book more seats on Qatar Airways than you would with your American Airlines or British Airways miles, but at a higher cost.
However, Alaska will also introduce premium economy redemptions on American Airlines and Japan Airlines (JAL). Furthermore, it will reduce pricing on Iceland Air, reclassifying Icelandair Saga Class from business class to premium economy class (Iceland Air markets its product as business class, but I’ve flown it and it really is a premium economy product).
Fewer Restrictions On Global Bookings
Alaska Airlines currently adds complicated restrictions to bookings, prohibiting some bookings that originate outside the USA or between regions that do not touch the USA.
Starting in March, these restrictions will be lifted and global bookings will be permitted, regardless of origin and destination.
However, View From The Wing reports that a 72-hour rule will be in place for “for tickets wholly outside the US” in order to reduce fraud. While I understand the problem of fraud in the world of miles and points, this is something important to keep in mind for planning purposes. I redeem a lot of miles each year for last-minute one-way tickets within Europe. While hardly an aspirational redemption, using points instead of paying for a very pricy last-minute ticket often represents one of the best uses of miles and points.
Ability To Mix Partners Coming In Late 2024…Sort Of
One of the historic annoyances of Mileage Plan was the inability to mix and match partner awards on a single reservation (just Alaska Airlines plus one partner in each direction).
That will be changing…incrementally…in late 2024 with plans to allow two partners plus Alaska Airlines on a single one-way reservation.
We’ve always assumed this has been a technological limitation, but compare that to Aeroplan which allows for the mixing of alliance and non-alliance partners alike on a single ticket with seamless pricing (except for Emirates).
This change is long overdue and greatly welcomed, though it is a shame that apparently only two partners will be permitted on one award.
Hopefully, over time Alaska Airlines will allow the mixing and matching of multiple partners on a single booking (and also without triggering a secret award chart with higher pricing, as is the case for British Airways Executive Club for multiple partners).
Stopovers To Stay, Sales Coming
Two other key points:
- stopovers on one-way awards will remain
- Alaska plans quarterly “flash sales” in which select partner awards will be priced at up to 50% off
I quite like the idea of a flash sale, much like Alaska did with Starlux award space, and believe that such initiatives drive partner engagement.
My Thoughts On Mileage Plan Changes Summed Up In One Word: Reasonable
For years, I have predicted a massive devaluation at Alaska Airlines. Turns out there will not be one after all.
Indeed, some of the most aspirational awards are going way up in price. For example, a one-away ticket from Los Angeles to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific in first class will rise from 70,000 miles to 130,000 miles. Ouch, right?
Well, when was the last time you actually booked a Cathay Pacific first class award with partner miles? It has been YEARS for me.
Qantas first and business class awards are also going way up in price.
So while these are big devaluations, these awards have been mostly theoretical for several years anyway. Sure, paying 85K instead of 50K for a transpacific business class award on Cathay Pacific or Qantas will hurt…but even that space was extremely limited and frankly the pricing was so cheap that I had been predicting a devaluation since 2018. A bit of inflation is reasonable impacting these specific sweet spots.
On the other hand, I greatly appreciate the transparency of the new award chart scheme and believe that such a policy encourages loyalty and engagement.
And there are winners too. Shorthaul pricing and nonstop pricing will go down in many cases. There will be new sweet spots, but overall the program will remain competitive and the devaluation is not as bad as I was fearing.
These changes are the sort of sustainable changes that hopefully will keep the program valuable for redemptions, unlike Delta SkyMiles.
Alaska Airlines has unveiled bold changes to its Mileage Plan program set to take effect in March 2024, including a new trio of award charts with an emphasis on zone + distance pricing.
I think this is the best we could have hoped for in terms of a “devaluation” (I’d say the better word here is evolution) of Mileage Plan. In fact, I think overall the program will benefit more people and while I hate to see certain sweet spots go, such sweet spots have largely become theoretical over the last several years due to limited award space.
What are your thoughts on the changes coming to Alaska Mileage Plan in 2024?