Signing-up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
If you collect Alaska Airlines miles (or Starwood points), you now have more opportunities to get Big Travel!
Alaska Airlines has switched to a distance-based award chart. And most folks will only benefit from the change! You can now book short-haul flights in coach for as little as 5,000 Alaska Airlines miles one-way.
Note: Your flights must be for travel within the continental US and Canada, and operated by Alaska Airlines.
I’ll help you understand this new distance-based award chart! And give you ideas of how to make the most of it, like adding a free one-way flight to end of your trip!
Alaska Airlines Miles Are Now More Valuable for Short-Haul Flights!
Alaska Airlines is now using a distance-based award chart for its own flights. This means the price of an award ticket depends on the length of the flight.
With this new distance based award chart, the shortest coach award flights will cost just 5,000 Alaska Airlines miles one-way, and the longest only 12,500 miles one-way (Business and First Class flights aren’t affected). Before the award chart changes, the cheapest award seats cost 7,500 Alaska Airlines miles.
|Distance Flown||Old Price of Award Ticket||New Price of Award Ticket|
|Less than 700 miles (intra state)||7,500 Alaska Airlines miles||5,000 Alaska Airlines miles|
|Less than 700 miles||12,500 Alaska Airlines miles||5,000 Alaska Airlines miles|
|701 to 1,400 miles||12,500 Alaska Airlines miles||7,500 Alaska Airlines miles|
|1,401 to 2,100 miles||12,500 Alaska Airlines miles||10,000 Alaska Airlines miles|
|More than 2,100 miles||12,500 Alaska Airlines miles||12,500 Alaska Airlines miles|
If you need help finding the flight distance between any 2 cities, check out my post about how to quickly find flight distance & duration with Great Circle Mapper (remember to add connections if there are any!).
Here’s what you need to know about this new distance-based award chart from Alaska Airlines!
1. Multiple Segments Qualify
There are other airlines that use a distance-based award chart to charge less for short-haul flights, like British Airways.
British Airways charges 7,500 Avios points for one-way flights under 650 miles in North America on partners Alaska Airlines and American Airlines. The only problem is, they also charge at least 7,500 Avios points per segment. So even if your destination is less than 650 miles away, you’ll end up paying more if you have a connection!
So you’ll need to find a non-stop flight if you want to pay 7,500 British Airways Avios points.
But with Alaska Airlines, it doesn’t matter how many connections you have! They only charge you according to the total distance you fly.
Alaska Airlines allows you 1 stopover on a one-way ticket. They will calculate the award price based on the total total flight distance. So your one-way flight with a stopover will cost the same as a regular one-way flight, as long as the stopover doesn’t bump you into a higher distance tier.
For example, you will fly 859 miles from Orange County to Portland. Because the flight is between 701 and 1,400 miles, the ticket will cost 7,500 Alaska Airlines miles.
If you add a stopover in Reno, your total flight distance is 860 miles. Because the flight is still between 701 and 1,400 miles, the ticket will still cost 7,500 Alaska Airlines miles.
As you can see, this stopover lasts ~3.5 days, and then continues on to Portland. But you can extend your stopover for months! You can book the last scheduled Alaska Airlines flight if you like!
How Much Big Travel Can I Get With My Points With This New Award Chart?
This new distance-based award chart can save you a lot of money! I’ll give you examples of what you can save with Alaska Airlines’ new rules.
1. Portland to Salt Lake City With 1 Stopover
You can book a ticket from Portland to Boise to Salt Lake City for just 5,000 Alaska Airlines miles and ~$12. Because the total flight distance is less than 700 miles.
If you buy the same ticket, it will cost $195. So you’re getting a value of ~3.7 cents per mile ($195 ticket – ~$12 in fees that come with the award seat = $183 / 5,000 miles = ~3.7 cents per point)!
2. Reserve an Extended Stopover (Add a Free Flight After Getting Home)
You can reserve stopovers with several months in between flights. So if you have no need for a stopover at the moment, you can use this lenience to book future flights you will use!
Say you are visiting San Jose, California, and you need to book your flight home to Eugene, Oregon. Instead of making Eugene your destination city, you can make it your stopover, and select another city, like Seattle or Portland, as your final destination. That way you’ll have a free flight to somewhere else later!
If you buy the ticket it will cost $227. So you’re getting a value of 4.3 cents per point ($227 ticket – ~$12 in fees that come with the award seat = $215 / 5,000 miles = 4.3 cents per point)!
Are There Limitations?
While the award chart changes are all positive, there are some restrictions folks should be aware of!
1. Only US and Canada Flights Qualify
These discounts apply only to flights within the continental US and Canada (that includes Alaska, but not Hawaii). So you can’t fly to Baja California (or anywhere else in Mexico) for fewer Alaska Airlines miles. Bummer!
2. Flights Must Be Operated by Alaska Airlines
Only routes that are operated entirely by Alaska Airlines qualify for the reduced award price. So you can’t fly on partners like American Airlines for less. You’ll be charged the standard 12,500 Alaska Airlines miles each way.
This means the reduced award prices are only really useful for West Coast travel. If you are traveling between West Coast cities, or if you are traveling TO and FROM the West Coast, these award chart changes will benefit you.
So if you live near a West Coast hub like Seattle, Portland, or Los Angeles, you can fly to several cities around the US with Alaska Airlines’ reduced award flights. If you live anywhere else Alaska Airlines serves, you’ll only receive reduced awards when flying to the West Coast. The upcoming merger between Alaska Airlines and Virgin America could help fix this problem in the future.
Need More Alaska Airlines Miles?
There are plenty of ways to earn Alaska Airlines miles. Especially because you’ll be able to convert Virgin America points to Alaska Airlines after January 9, 2017 at a ratio of 1 : 1.3.
Some quick ways to earn Alaska Airlines miles are:
- Bank of America Alaska Airlines cards (personal and small business) – Earn 30,000 Alaska Airlines miles after making $1,000 in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account
- Comenity Bank Virgin America Signature – Earn 10,000 Virgin America points (converts into 13,000 Alaska Airlines miles) after spending $1,000 within 3 months
- Comenity Bank Virgin America Premium Signature – Earn 15,000 Virgin America points (converts into 19,500 Alaska Airlines miles) after spending $1,000 within 3 months
Note: The Virgin America cards will likely be discontinued soon. So I wouldn’t wait long if you’ve been considering these cards.
You can transfer Starwood points to your Alaska Airlines account at a ratio of 1:1. Or transfer your Starwood points to Virgin America at a ratio of 1:1, and transfer those Virgin America points to Alaska Airlines at a ratio of 1 : 1.3 after January 9, 2017! And remember, you’ll get a bonus 5,000 miles for every increment of 20,000 Starwood points you transfer.
So by transferring 20,000 Starwood points to Virgin America, and then from Virgin America to Alaska Airlines, you’re getting an effective transfer ratio of 1:1.625 (20,000 Starwood points = 20,000 Virgin America miles + 5,000 mile Starwood bonus X 1.3 transfer ratio to Alaska Airlines miles = 32,500 Alaska Airlines miles. 32,500 Alaska Airlines miles / 20,000 Starwood points = 1.625)
You can also transfer other flexible points to Virgin America, like AMEX Membership Rewards points, Citi ThankYou points (until January 22, 2017) to Virgin America at a 2:1 ratio, and then to Alaska Airlines at the 1 : 1.3 ratio. Though I do not recommend this, even with the new and improved award chart. Because you can get more value by transferring your points to other partners!
International First Class Is Still a Better Value
I’m really happy to see these improvements to the Alaska Airlines award chart. It raises the value of the points, and there are some definite sweet spots on the West Coast!
However, my favorite use of Alaska Airlines miles is still international Business and First Class with Alaska Airlines partners. You can book flights to all over the world with Alaska Airlines partners. And they’re a great value for your points! Especially First Class.
For example, you can fly Cathay Pacific from North America to Thailand in First Class for just 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles one-way. The same ticket can cost ~$4,500! So you’ll get a value of more than 6 cents per point ($4,500 / 70,000 points = 6.38 cents per point). And you’ll get much more value by adding a stopover!
Or use 70,000 Alaska Airlines miles to fly all the way to South Africa in First Class, with a free stopover in Hong Kong!
But not everyone wants to spend that many points on a single flight. If you have more use for your points within the US, or if you aren’t able to earn that many Alaska Airlines miles, the new award chart should work to your advantage.
Alaska Airlines has changed its award chart – for the better!
You can now redeem fewer Alaska Airlines miles on shorter coach flights when traveling within the continental US and Canada:
- Flights under 700 miles now cost only 5,000 Alaska Airlines miles
- Flights between 701 and 1,400 miles cost 7,500 Alaska Airlines miles
- Flights between 1,401 and 2,100 miles cost 10,000 Alaska Airlines miles
- Flights over 2,100 miles cost 12,500 Alaska Airlines miles
The flights have to be operated by Alaska Airlines, which is primarily a West Coast airline. So folks on the West Coast should get a lot of benefit from this change!
Let me know what you think of the new Alaska Airlines award chart!