I suppose the title is a bit ridiculous because plenty of people use Alaska Mileage Plan miles in this manner. But they rarely write about it. Seriously, due to this currency being more valuable than your firstborn, it’s usually saved for first class on Cathay Pacific or when you can put together an insane itinerary (with a free one-way flight to Hawaii tacked on).
Well, I’m here to tell you that I did the unthinkable. I went ahead and redeemed Alaska miles on a flight from Portland, Oregon to Orlando, no free add-ons to speak of. Worse yet, I actually burned 20,000 miles on it. Gasp! The revenue ticket was running at $215, so I got a little more than one cent per mile. Inconceivable! (hat tip “Princess Bride” movie)
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You may remember that few months ago I signed up for Alaska co-branded credit card with the idea of using BOGO deal on our flights to/from California. It looks like I may let the certificate expire without taking advantage of it (more on that in another post). But I didn’t have any specific plans for miles, the bonus itself was more of a side benefit. I don’t consider myself to be a points hoarder, but I do like to pick low-hanging fruit when opportunity presents itself.
While some people would rather run over their own grandma than dip into their Alaska stash, this currency has never been very appealing to me. We don’t have a very good Alaska Air coverage since we are based in Florida. Sure, the program partners with American Airlines, but you can only use miles if you can find sAAver seats on AA.com. Enough said. Now that Alaska/Delta partnership has gone the way of the dodo, Mileage Plan has become even less appealing.
But what about flying to/from Europe? If I wanted to bring my parents, Alaska miles would not be very useful for flights from Belarus to US. Our best option is Lufthansa and unfortunately, Alaska Air doesn’t partner with that airline. Not to mention, my parents’ tickets can be bought for around $670 all-in these days.
If I chose to redeem Alaska currency, I would have to spend 60k miles during peak season, plus around $130. That’s the best case scenario. On top of it, my parents would probably have to deal with crazy routing. As you can see, I wouldn’t even get 1 cent per mile when you factor in taxes.
Which brings me to the topic of my post. Not long ago, my sister-in-law was looking for a ticket to Oregon to visit a good friend who lives there. Alaska Air was by far the best option, with non-stop routing from Orlando to Portland. Roundtrip ticket would cost her $410 all-in. I told her I wanted to use my miles instead.
First things first. I wasn’t being charitable. We recently cancelled my in-laws’ flights to Puerto Rico due to hurricane damage and she just let me keep 65k Rapid Rewards points. She is the generous one, I assure you. The least I could do was cover her flight to Oregon. And that’s what I did.
She was somewhat flexible on dates, but she told me she wanted to leave Oregon on Monday. That way she would spend a full weekend with her friend who works full-time. There was a low-level economy award to Oregon and I was able to burn 12,500 AAdvantage miles on it. I actually went ahead and transferred some AA miles from my husband’s account and paid a fee for the privilege. As a result, our AA balance is close to zero at the moment. As much as I hate paying fees, sometimes it makes sense to do it.
Unfortunately, the returning Monday flight was running at 20,000 Alaska miles. If she instead left on Sunday, we could book it for 12,500 miles. I know my sister-in-law and if I told her about the situation, she would just fly on Sunday, so I can save 7,500 miles.
So, I didn’t mention anything and simply booked her on Monday flight for 20,000 miles+$5. It’s my little secret. She is not familiar with Alaska program pricing, so she thought that’s just what all the awards cost. As I said before, she does a lot for us, so this is my way of saying “thank you.”
I didn’t attempt to tack on any free one-ways because I know for a fact that she will not be able to use it. So what’s the point? Do it just because? I realize that I just burned Alaska miles in the most unsexy way possible: by redeeming them on a “standard” level domestic award within lower 48 states. Meh.
But I saved $210 and have zero regrets. My reason for participating in this hobby is to save money on trips we plan to take anyway. I’m not opposed to splurges, but I don’t plan vacations and flights for the sole purpose of bragging about ridiculous (yuuge!) value I got out of my loyalty points.
Some value Alaska mile at 2 cents apiece, but I don’t
I’m sure right now many are shaking their head at the fact that I “sold” Alaska miles at 1 cent apiece. And hey, I get it. If you are saving them for first-class on Cathay Pacific, you probably shouldn’t blow them in the manner I just described. But the thing is, I’m not planning to fly on Cathay Pacific any time soon, possibly ever.
Not everyone likes (or is able to) circle the globe a few times per year. Many of us have jobs and school schedules, not to mention, limited amount of money in a savings account. As a result, we don’t speculatively value our miles at more than 1 cent each. And yes, that includes Alaska program. Adding free one-way to Hawaii is a sweet deal, but I can’t afford to go there, plus Tahiti in 2018.
And frankly, I don’t like flying, it messes up my stomach. My husband downright hates it. I don’t know how some fly few times per week. It sounds like a cruel and unusual punishment to me. I like the destination, but flying there is just a means to an end. So yes, I will burn my Alaska miles and feel good about getting 1 CPM. Once again, that’s my personal view on it.
It does depend, of course, on where you live. If you are based on West coast, these miles are probably quite valuable to you. Alaska Mileage Plan awards start at only 5,000 miles one-way on its own metal, assuming you can find availability. You may also want to read post 17 best ways to redeem Alaska Mileage Plan for max value If you are mostly interested in “Point A to Point B” awards, you can look up prices on this page
There are some very good deals to be had. You can fly Fiji Airways from LAX (or SFO) to Sydney or Auckland and stop in Fiji for few days for only 40k Alaska miles one-way. Business class will run you 55k miles, which is actually quite cheap. There are many other good opportunities where you can maximize your Alaska miles. As always, do what makes sense in your particular situation.
Readers, do you have a hard time parting with your Alaska miles? Share the most ridiculous deals you got via redeeming them!
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Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.