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Until August 9, 2015, you can buy Alaska Airlines miles for as little as 1.97 cents each. Go to the sale page for Alaska miles and input your Alaska Mileage Plan number. People are being offered bonuses of 35% to 50% on purchased miles. I received a 40% bonus offer.

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Non-cardholders of the Alaska Airlines Visa seem to be getting the 35% bonus offer, and cardholders are getting a maximum bonus of 35%-50%.

The sale is structured as a bonus on the normal number of miles you’d receive. The bonus is tiered, so the biggest 35%-50% bonus comes from purchasing 40,000 miles at the normal price of about 2.96 cents each after tax.

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To buy 40,000 miles during this sale costs $1,182.50.

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  • If your bonus for buying 40,000 miles is 35%, you can buy 54,000 miles for 2.19 cents each.
  • If your bonus for buying 40,000 miles is 40%, you can buy 56,000 miles for 2.11 cents each.
  • If your bonus for buying 40,000 miles is 50%, you can buy 60,000 miles for 1.97 cents each.

I don’t think Alaska miles are worth even 1.97 cents each, but they are worth close to that, and if you have a specific redemption in mind, it isn’t hard to get more than 1.97 cents of value per mile.

Airlines on which You Can Redeem Alaska Miles

Here are the Alaska partners on which you can redeem. (Plus Alaska Airlines is about to allow us to redeem miles on Hainan Airlines.)

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Four Favorite Redemptions

Here are my four favorite redemptions with Alaska miles:

1. Emirates A380 First Class

Emirates First Class on an A380 costs 100,000 miles one way for two flights to Africa, Asia, or Europe.

DSCN1588Emirates First Class

Here is my review of Emirates First Class on the A380. I am very excited to have two more segments in it coming up in September.

2. Cathay Pacific First Class

Cathay Pacific First Class costs 70,000 miles one way from the United States to Johannesburg with a free stopover in Hong Kong.

Here is my review of Cathay Pacific First Class.

3. Fiji Airways Business Class

You can fly from the United States to Fiji to New Zealand or Australia for only 55,000 Alaska miles one way in Business Class with a free stopover in Fiji.

4. AeroMexico Business Class

You can fly from the United States to Southern South America like Brazil or Argentina in AeroMexico Business Class for 45,000 Alaska miles one way. Try to get at least one segment on AeroMexico’s Dreamliner.

I will fly AeroMexico Business Class in October.

Alaska Airlines Award Routing Rules

Alaska Airlines is extremely generous allowing a stopover on one way awards, anywhere you’d like en route.

Here are the basics for redemptions of Alaska miles.

Logistics of Buying Alaska Miles

Unlike many miles sales when you are capped at how many miles you can buy, with Alaska miles sales, you can generally make several maximum purchases to get all the miles you need.

Remember that Alaska Airlines miles sales are handled through points.com, so they are not considered airfare or travel purchases for the purposes of earning a category bonus on your credit card.

By contrast, Avianca miles are sold through lifemiles.com and DO count as airfare/travel spending.

Alaska runs a 35% or 40% bonus on miles purchases every quarter. The last one ended in April and offered a 40% bonus on purchased miles.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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I recently booked myself an award from Chicago to Buenos Aires in Business Class on a Dreamliner for 45,000 Alaska Airlines miles and $19 in taxes and fees.

AeroMexico releases a ton of award space from United States to Mexico City and from there to Buenos Aires (or elsewhere in Central and South America) in economy and Business Class.

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Fresno only has a direct flight to Guadalajara from where you can connect to Mexico City and beyond. Source: gcmap.com

AeroMexico is a member of SkyTeam, so you can book its award space with Delta SkyMiles and Air France Flying Blue. It is also a partner of Alaska Airlines, which is how I booked the award space. (Economy/Business one way prices to Argentina)

Just how good is AeroMexico award space?

AeroMexico Award Space

Below are some calendars from delta.com. You can also search on alaskaair.com or airfrance.us. Every day below that says “65,000” has award space for two people in Business Class from Mexico City to Buenos Aires. (Oddly Delta charges more from Mexico to Argentina than from the United States. If you start your Delta award in the United States, you pay just 62,500 miles.)

Other than some missing days around Christmas–and even then there’s space if you’re flexible–you can see there is award space for two people in Business Class from Mexico City to Buenos Aires almost every day.

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The pattern is the same from Buenos Aires back to Mexico City. What about getting between the United States and Mexico City?

Award Space Between the United States and Mexico

AeroMexico serves 14 American destinations.

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Fresno only has a direct flight to Guadalajara from where you can connect to Mexico City and beyond. Source: gcmap.com

If you live in any of the cities on the map, you can get to Buenos Aires on AeroMexico with only one connection in Mexico City.

I’ll be going from the Chicago Seminars to Buenos Aires to repeat my now annual tradition of spending the summer down there. Searching and booking my award with Alaska miles took about five minutes because award space is so plentiful.

I started my search from the main search box on alaskaair.com.

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On the results screen, I clicked “Calendar” under “View By.”

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That brings up a calendar like this:

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I had the calendar set to show the lowest price award available each day. It shows that economy award space from Chicago to Buenos Aires is not great in October, available just five days–the ones that say 25k + $19. But on every day of the month, Business Class space is available for 45k + $19.

That’s not that unusual. Business Class space is also widely available in December 2015 and March 2016.

Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.49.40 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.51.29 PM

I picked the date I wanted and was given two options. The first has only one layover for six hours in Mexico City. That’s long enough to leave the airport, but it’s probably too early in the morning for anything to be open. The other option is two layovers, but 1.5 hours less of travel.
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The longer one-stop itinerary looks better to me. I can nap or work more easily at Mexico City’s airport than in the air, and I have less chance of missing a connection.

I clicked on “1 stop” to get more flight details. As you can see, the long flight is on a 787 Dreamliner.
Screen Shot 2015-05-26 at 4.47.25 PM

AeroMexico Dreamliner

Four days a week, AeroMexico flies its new 787 Dreamliner between Mexico City and Buenos Aires. The rest of the flights are operated by 767s. AeroMexico also flies its Dreamliner on some New York <-> Mexico City and Los Angeles <-> Mexico City flights.

The Dreamliner has fully flat beds in Business Class in a 2-2-2 configuration, so, as usual, pick a middle seat if you’re flying alone to avoid having to climb over or be climbed over by anyone else.

God Save the Points has a review of Business Class on the AeroMexico Dreamliner. The review is complimentary of the seat, bed, and entertainment though it refers to the crew as “ghosts, you know those things you can’t see, talk to or receive a drink from.” [Scott: hahaha, I believe it]

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AeroMexico Dreamliner in reclined, but not yet flat, position. Source: http://www.godsavethepoints.com/news/dreamlinerreview

Try your hardest to fly a day served by the 787, because the 767 doesn’t feature fully flat beds.

Other Latin American Destinations

AeroMexico has fantastic award space throughout the Americas, and it is cheap with Alaska miles as well as Delta and Air France miles.

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Alaska Airlines chart for AeroMexico Flights

Here are all the places that AeroMexico flies from Mexico City. There are great options in Mexico, Central America, and South America.

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Awards within Argentina

Argentina is much more than Buenos Aires.

Check out glaciar hiking at El Calafate; Patagonia in Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego; the Lake District of Patagonia; the waterfalls of Iguazu; the wine in Mendoza; and much more.

To get around Argentina, use British Airways Avios to fly LAN or Delta SkyMiles to fly Aerolineas Argentinas.

Bottom Line

Buenos Aires is a very easy award ticket for 45,000 Alaska miles + $19 in Business Class. Pick your dates correctly to get the 787 Dreamliner from Mexico City to Buenos Aires.

Alaska also offers cheap awards on AeroMexico throughout the rest of Latin America.

Pay your award taxes with the Citi Prestige® Card. The first $250 in award taxes, airfare, or airline fees per calendar year are refunded to you as a statement credit. If you’ve already maxed out the statement credit, you will still earn 3x ThankYou Points on the award taxes.

Further Reading

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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This is the eleventh post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

Why Collect Alaska Airlines Miles?

Alaska Airlines miles are great for booking Emirates First Class and Cathay Pacific First Class. These are two ultra-luxury cabins, and Emirates First Class is not part of any airline alliance. Check out my trip report! (Here’s how to book Emirates First Class.)

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Emirates First Class Suite

Collecting Alaska Airlines miles is easy. Both the personal and business cards from Bank of America are churnable, meaning you can get the same bonus over and over.

Alaska Airlines partners with 14 airlines from SkyTeam, oneworld, and outside the three alliances.

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  • What airlines can you fly with Alaska Airlines miles?
  • What are the routing rules for Alaska Airlines awards?
  • What are the special features of the Mileage Plan program?
  • How can you book an Alaska Airlines award?

Mileage Price?

Alaska Airlines miles are region-to-region based. (The Five Types of Miles)

A region-to-region chart means that instead of having to calculate the number of miles for an award from your origin city to your destination city, say Atlanta to Rome, you merely figure out how many miles you need for an award from your origin region to your destination region, in this case North America to Europe.

Alaska Airlines has a different chart for every partner to every region. Here are the charts to Europe, and you can choose different regions along the left hand side of the page.

Partners

Alaska Airlines is not a member of any of the three alliances. It has partners from oneworld, SkyTeam, and other non-allied airlines.

Unfortunately you cannot freely combine partners onto a single ticket.

You can fly one partner on an award, or you can fly one partner plus Alaska Airlines. On a roundtrip, each direction can have a different partner.

As an example, you can combine Alaska and Cathay Pacific flights on a one way award, and you can fly Cathay Pacific one way and Emirates for the return on a roundtrip award. However you cannot combine American Airlines and LAN–or any other two partners’–flights on a single one way award.

Routing Rules

You cannot combine two partners’ flights on a one way award or in one direction on a roundtrip award.

Some Alaska Airlines partners allow one way awards, and some do not. Each type of partner is clearly indicated on the award charts at alaskaair.com.

Alaska Airlines awards can have one stopover per one way award or two per roundtrip.

Special Features

There are three main special features of the Alaska Airlines program:

1. You cannot freely mix partner flights on an award. All the other US-based airlines allow you to mix as many partners on a single award as you’d like. Alaska lets you use one partner plus Alaska flights.

2. You can’t start your award anywhere you’d like. Most airlines have a price on their chart for any possible origin and destination region, but Alaska generally only lets you start or finish awards in the United States with some exceptions noted on the award charts.

Plus there’s no way to use Alaska miles to get to certain destinations with certain partners, like Australia with Emirates.

3. Alaska has the most diverse collection of partners. You are not constrained by Alaska’s alliance because it is not in one.

Taxes, Fees, and Fuel Surcharges

Taxes

Alaska Airlines awards require you to pay the government taxes associated with the itinerary.

These start at $5.60 each direction for domestic awards and go up to $300 if you fly to roundtrip to the United Kingdom in Business Class. Generally international awards have roundtrip taxes of $50 to $150.

Fees

Award Processing Fee: Alaska Airlines charges a non-refundable $12.50 per one way partner award just to book the award.

Phone Fee: Alaska Airlines charges a non-refundable $15 fee per ticket for awards booked over the phone.

Changes/Cancellation: There is a $125 fee per person to change or cancel an Alaska Airlines award within 60 days of departure and no fee if more than 60 days before departure.

Full details on Alaska Airlines’ award fees can be found here.

Fuel Surcharges

Alaska Airlines only collects fuel surcharges on British Airways flights. These can be up to $500 per flight, so avoid British Airways flights.

How to Book Alaska Airlines Awards

All Alaska Airlines partners are bookable at alaskaair.com except LAN and Cathay Pacific.

LAN and Cathay Pacific flights can be booked by calling 1-800-654-5669.

If you can’t seem to find the award you want for your dream trip, you can hire my Award Booking Service to search and book your Alaska Airlines awards. We have the expertise to search every Alaska partner to maximize convenience and luxury while minimizing out-of-pocket cost.

BOTTOM LINE

Alaska Airlines miles are fantastic to fly any of Alaska’s 14 partners. I’m specifically saving my Alaska Airlines miles to book Cathay Pacific and Emirates First Class.

Alaska Airlines miles are easy to earn from churnable sign up bonuses on their personal and business credit cards from Bank of America.

Any questions? What did I leave out?

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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For only 42,500 Alaska Airlines miles one way, you can fly in Cathay Pacific Business Class between Hong Kong and 10 European destinations. These are 13 hour flights in 6’10” long beds on one of the world’s most renowned airlines for just a few miles more than you would expect to pay for economy travel.

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Here are some questions this post will answer.

  • How do Alaska Airlines miles work and how can you get them?
  • Where does Cathay Pacific fly in Europe?
  • How good is Cathay Pacific Business Class?
  • How can you search for these underpriced awards?
  • How can you book these sweet spot awards?
  • Which routes have the best award space and what are the award space patterns?
  • How are these awards useful for an American?

How Alaska Airlines Miles Work and How to Get Them

Alaska Airlines is not part of any of the three major airline alliances. Instead Alaska Airlines partners with 14 airlines from SkyTeam, oneworld, and outside the three alliances. You can use Alaska miles on any of the following partners:

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For each partner, Alaska has a unique award chart for each region. Here is the chart for Cathay Pacific flights booked with Alaska miles between Hong Kong and Europe:

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What strikes me is how insanely good of a deal the Business Class awards are on this chart! They are only 12,500 miles more than economy awards on flights that can be as long as 13 hours. For comparison, American charges a bit more in economy and Business Class between Hong Kong (Asia 2) and Europe.

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Alaska Airlines miles are extremely easy to get over time.

Both cards have a $75 annual fee that is NOT waived. You can get both cards over and over every 91+, even without closing previous cards.

You can also transfer SPG Starpoints to Alaska miles at a 1:1 rate with the customary 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred.

Where Does Cathay Pacific Fly in Europe?

Cathay Pacific flies or will fly to the following destinations in Europe:

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Source: gcmap.com
  • Paris
  • London
  • Moscow (ends June 1, 2015)
  • Dusseldorf (begins September 1, 2015)
  • Manchester
  • Amsterdam
  • Frankfurt
  • Zurich
  • Milan
  • Rome

The westbound flights are slower because they fly into the wind. Several of the destinations in Western Europe are 13 hours or just short of that from Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific Business Class

Cathay Pacific Business Class is widely considered the nicest or one of the nicest in the world.

The newest iteration of the Business Class looks like it has thought of everything. In addition to “standard” business class offerings, the seat can move forward 11 inches (independent of the recline feature) to make speaking to a companion easier. Your phone can plug into the entertainment system, so you can play your own content over the 15″ TV screen.

But most important are the bed and service.

The 6’10” bed also allows the armrest to be lowered and an extension pops out at arm/hip level to make the bed much wider than most Business Class beds.

The food and service on Cathay Pacific are legendary.

Searching These Awards

Cathay Pacific award space is not searchable on alsakaair.com. Search the award space on ba.com; here’s how. Alaska Airlines reps will have access to all the space you find there.

Booking These Awards

Once you find award space on ba.com, note the flight number, date, and cabin and call Alaska Airlines reservations at 800-252-7522 to book the awards. You will pay 42,500 miles per person one way + taxes + $12.50 for booking a partner award + $15 for booking by phone.

Award Space

The Gimme: Manchester

The best award space I found was to Manchester. There are a lot days with 2 Business Class or 5 Business Class award seats like these four days in early September.

Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.41.53 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.42.04 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.45.18 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.45.45 AMScreen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.46.44 AMThe Surprising Non-Gimme: Moscow

The Moscow route is being cut June 1, presumably for lack of passengers. That usually equates to lots of award space, but I couldn’t find good award space between now and May 31 on the route in Business Class.

Last Minute Award Space

Often Cathay Pacific opens up good award space at the last minute. That varies by route to Europe.

London and Rome have no award space at all for the next 10 days in any cabin.Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.47.58 AM

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Paris shows some good award space in the next week including 7 Business Class seats one day.
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CDG

Zurich has even more award space in Business Class on upcoming days including 9 Business Class award seats on a few days.
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ZRH 9
ZRH 9

Milan also has good award space in the next few weeks.
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MXP

11 Months Out: As usual, the goldmine

The goldmine of Cathay Pacific Business Class award space on most routes (including USA to Asia) is 11 months out. That’s no different between Europe and Hong Kong.Screen Shot 2015-04-17 at 4.41.53 AM

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If you want to book these 42,500 mile awards, try to book them 11 months in advance.

Usefulness for Americans

Most readers of the blog live in the United States. Here are some ideas for getting to Hong Kong or Europe as part of a trip that encompasses these cheap awards.

Bottom Line

Alaska Airlines charges only 42,500 miles one way in Business Class between Europe and Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific Business Class.

Alaska miles are super easy to get.

Award space is excellent 11 months in advance, excellent to Manchester, and excellent on some routes at the last minute.

World travelers will find plenty of uses for these awards as part of larger, perhaps RTW, trips.

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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Emirates First Class is now bookable with Alaska Airlines miles again! A search today for May:

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Click on “Nonstop” or “1 stop” to see flight details for each flight. The aircraft is listed on the pop up. Emirates Flight 204 is served by an A380, which means showers are onboard.Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 3.35.03 PMIn case you missed the saga, for a while, Emirates First Class was only bookable on alaskaair.com for flights through March 28, 2015. If you wanted to book Emirates First Class for dates beyond March 28, you had to call Alaska and ask the agent to use the ‘old system’ to book your award. Then Alaska Airlines told their phone agents not to use the ‘old system,’ so we couldn’t book Emirates First Class at all. Alaska told me they were looking for a way to bring the First Class space back online, and now they have.

Guide to Booking Emirates First Class with Alaska Airlines Miles

  • Why Alaska Miles
  • Why Emirates First Class a Big Deal (The Product, Including an Onboard Shower)
  • How Many Miles You Need (Award Chart)
  • How to Search & Book
  • Maximizing the Award (Stopovers in Dubai & Booking Three Emirates A380 Segments on Single Award)

Why Alaska Miles

Alaska Airlines has a number of incredible partners despite not being a member of any of the three airline alliances. Alaska miles are perfect for Emirates awards because:

  • Alaska doesn’t collect fuel surcharges on Emirates awards
  • Alaska’s chart for Emirates awards is fair, though not exactly cheap
  • Alaska allows stopovers on one way awards, so you can see Dubai for a few days then continue your trip

Why Emirates First Class Is a Big Deal

Being able to book Emirates First Class with Alaska miles is a BIG DEAL because Emirates First Class on the A380 is one of the nicest products in the sky, and until recently, its A380 was the only commercial airline that offered First Class passengers the opportunity to shower onboard. (Etihad A380 First Class also has a shower now.)

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I flew Emirates First Class on a 3.5 hour hop from Auckland to Sydney and was blown away. Here is the first part of that trip report, and my video inside the shower spa.

How Many Miles You Need

Alaska charges 90,000 miles one way in First Class to Dubai and 100,000 miles one way to Africa, Asia, or Europe via Dubai.

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Unfortunately you cannot use Alaska miles for all Emirates routes. Your award needs to start or end in North America and cannot go to Australia.

Alaska does not collect fuel surcharges on Emirates awards. You just pay low government taxes + $12.50 per one way partner award.

How to Search & Book

You can search alaskaair.com for Emirates awards.

Screen Shot 2015-04-02 at 4.00.12 PMThe award search is completely intuitive and offers the chance to look at month-by-month calendars. Days that say 90k definitely have Emirates First Class space between New York and Dubai. Days that say 80k may.

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There are two related drawbacks of the alaskaair.com search.

  1. You cannot search routes that don’t touch North America–for instance Dubai to Seoul.
  2. On a multi-city search, it can be cumbersome to figure out two days that both have award space because instead of letting you search segment one first and then segment two, it makes you search both at once.

These problems are solved by searching Emirates award space on Expert Flyer, a paid service, that I explained how to search here.

The fare bucket to search is Z for First Class. This is where it gets a little bit weird.

  • If Z = 1, Alaska may have access to 1 award seat in Emirates First Class.
  • If Z = 2, Alaska may have access to 2 award seats in Emirates First Class.
  • If Z = 2, Alaska definitely has access to at least 1 award seat in Emirates First Class.

If I need to search for segments that don’t include North America, I go to Expert Flyer and search dates with Z = 2.

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The search screen on Expert Flyer

In these search results, you can see that the Emirates flight from Houston to Dubai on April 19 has Z = 2, but on April 20 only has Z = 1. That means Alaska definitely has at least one award seat on the Emirates flight for April 19.

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Once you’ve found your award space on alaskaair.com and Expert Flyer, book on alaskaair.com to avoid a phone fee.

Maximizing Your Alaska Award in Emirates First Class

Stopovers

One stopover is allowed on one way Alaska awards for as long as you’d like, subject to the fact that you can only book up to 11 months in advance. Here is an example with a 32 hour stopover. Make it a week or a month if you’d like.

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The easiest stopover point by far will be Dubai, but a stopover in Seattle, Bangkok, and a few other cities is possible.

Getting the Most Time in the Emirates A380

Your Alaska Airlines award on Emirates has to start or end in the United States and pass through Dubai.

The longest flight from the United States to Dubai is from Los Angeles at 15hr50min. Here are the other destinations, though Orlando, Boston, and Seattle are served by 777s.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emirates_destinations
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emirates_destinations

After a few days in Dubai, you can continue on some long flights up to 10 hours. Unfortunately you cannot use Alaska miles to fly Emirates to Australia or New Zealand, so you are limited to connections to Europe, Africa, and Asia. Here are all the places Emirates flies from Dubai.

Here are some sample legal routes.

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Source: gcmap.com

A continuation to Southeast Asia like Bangkok is shorter than I was expecting. It’s actually shorter than backtracking to London.

The farthest flight shown is to Tokyo, but it is operated by shower-less 777s. Johannesburg also is flown by 777s.

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Source: gcmap.com

I think the farthest flight from Dubai to Asia, Africa, or Europe served by an A380 is to Seoul with the second farthest to Hong Kong. Correct me in the comments if I’m wrong.

Maximizing Your Segments in Emirates First Class

Each segment of Emirates First Class comes with its own pleasures, including lounge access and five minutes worth of water in the shower.

You can get three segments on a single award if you fly to Hong Kong via Dubai and Bangkok. The Bangkok-to-Hong Kong segment is less than three hours, but you can enjoy a shower on it as well. Here’s an award with 25 hours in Emirates First Class on an A380, three showers, and a three-day stopover in Dubai for 100,000 Alaska miles + $38.

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 7.49.35 AMHere’s the same award, but the stopover has been moved to Bangkok.

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Other Example Itineraries

Here are all the Emirates A380 routes.

I priced out awards to Africa, Asia, and Europe on Alaska’s website and confirmed by clicking the words “1 stop” or “2 stops” which aircraft is operating each flight.

Los Angeles to Dubai to Hong Kong (23hr45min in A380 First)

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Los Angeles to Dubai to London (23hr20min in A380 First)

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Los Angeles to Dubai to Cape Town (15hr50min in A380 First and 9hr50min in 777-300ER First)

Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 8.54.56 AMScreen Shot 2014-06-30 at 8.55.03 AM

Getting Alaska Airlines Miles

There are four credit cards that earn Alaska Airlines miles. The Alaska Airlines cards earn the miles directly, and the Starwood cards earn Starpoints which transfer 1:1 to Alaska miles with 5,000 bonus miles for every 20,000 Starpoints transferred.

CKANbanner_300x250_v6b

The Alaska Airlines personal card offers 25,000 bonus miles on account opening (not even first purchase) and the business card is good for another 25,000 miles after first purchase. Both have a $75 annual that is NOT waived. I’m gotten both bonuses multiple times without having to close my old Alaska cards.

The Starwood cards currently offer 25,000 bonus Starpoints each after spending $5,000 in the first six months.

Recap

Emirates First Class is now bookable again with Alaska miles on alaskaair.com. Book your one way award to Europe, Asia, or Africa with a stopover in Dubai for 100,000 miles one way + taxes + $12.50.

If you want to maximize segments, you can route through Dubai and Bangkok to Hong Kong. If you want to maximize flight time on an A380, you can fly from Los Angeles to Dubai to Seoul. Or you can maximize the destination.

Alaska has no cancellation fee or change fee more than 60 days before departure and a manageable cancellation fee of $125 after that.

Book your ticket with your Arrival Plus and you can then remove the taxes and fees from your statement by redeeming Arrival miles.

Are you going to book Emirates First Class now?

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Earn up to 20 free hotel nights after meeting spending $2,500 in the first 90 days on the Club Carlson Visa. There are several Club Carlson properties in Dubai for a two-night stay.

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Update 4/2/15: This ends tomorrow 4/3/15.

Until April 3, 2015, you can buy 56,000 or more Alaska Airlines miles for 2.11 cents each.

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The sale is structured as a bonus on the normal number of miles you’d receive. The bonus is tiered, so the biggest 40% bonus comes from purchasing 40,000 miles at the normal price of about 2.96 cents each after tax.

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To buy 56,000 miles (40,000 + 16,000 bonus) during this sale costs $1,182.50, which is 2.11 cents per mile.

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I don’t think Alaska miles are worth 2.11 cents each, but they are worth close to that, and if you have a specific redemption in mind, it isn’t hard to get more than 2.11 cents of value per mile.

  • What are the best redemptions for Alaska miles?
  • Does this miles purchase count as airfare or travel spending for category bonuses?
  • How many miles can you buy during the promotion?

Best Deals with Alaska Miles

Here are the Alaska partners on which you can redeem.

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The two redemptions I have been saving my Alaska miles for are Emirates First Class and Cathay Pacific First Class.

Other fantastic deals with Alaska miles:

  • Alaska charges the same off peak prices for American Airlines flights that American Airlines charges to Europe and South America. That means you can fly one way in American Airlines economy to Paris or to Buenos Aires for 20,000 miles one way.
  • From the United States to Fiji (stopover as long as you’d like) to Australia or New Zealand on Fiji Airways is 40,000 miles one way in economy and 55,000 in Business Class. More here.

Here are the basics for redemptions of Alaska miles.

Logistics

Remember that Alaska Airlines miles sales are handled through points.com, so they are not considered airfare or travel purchases for the purposes of earning a category bonus on your credit card. By contrast, Avianca miles are sold through lifemiles.com and do count as airfare/travel spending.

While you are limited to 56,000 Alaska miles per transaction, there is no limit on the number of transactions. You can buy unlimited quantities of Alaska miles through multiple transactions. Is that a good deal? Is even a single purchase a good deal? The answer is almost always the same on buy-miles promotions:

It is a bad deal to speculatively buy the miles without an immediate use. Not only are Alaska miles probably not worth 2.11 cents in the abstract, but miles can always be devalued before you use them. However, if you have an immediate use of Alaska miles where you get more than 2.11 cents of value–very achievable–this is a good deal.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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Emirates First Class is not bookable with Alaska Airlines miles for flights past March 28, 2015. There has been a workaround, but I think all Alaska agents have gotten the memo not to use it.

I reached out to Alaska Airlines for a statement on what’s going on. This is from a spokeswoman for Alaska:

It’s not a glitch. Emirate awards show in our system if there are a minimum of three seats available per flight. The minimum threshold is due to the connection in place between Emirates and our shopping system vendor. We are actively investigating work-arounds, but there is not an immediate solution.

There’s a lot I find odd.

  • How is it “not a glitch” that award space only appears when there are 3+ seats available?
  • There is an immediate solution. “The old system.” But Alaska agents have been told not to use it.
  • I can’t completely verify that the statement is true.

I checked into whether only days with 3+ Emirates First Class seats appear to have space on alaskaair.com. It holds true for Houston to Dubai flights this month.

For instance, here’s the calendar for award space for 1 person in First Class.

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Any day that says 90k + $20 has award space in Emirates First Class. Here’s the same calendar for 3 people and all the 90k + $20 days remain.

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That means that it is true that the only days in March that show 1 Emirates First Class seat from Houston to Dubai show 3+.

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I can’t verify that’s true on every route on every date though I haven’t found a date with 1 First Class Emirates seat that doesn’t also have 3 seats.

But I still don’t think Alaska Airlines is correctly displaying Emirates award space even on these days. Expert Flyer and Alaska award space just don’t match up.

For instance, March 26 shows 2 First Class award seats on Expert Flyer. Alaskaair.com shows 3. Alaska is showing a seat that I’m not sure exists. (I don’t know whether you can book it because I don’t have 270k Alaska miles.)

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March 29 (and many later days) show 3 First Class award seats on Expert Flyer and none on alaskaair.com. Alaska is definitely not showing space that does exist.

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Something stinks with how Alaska Airlines is displaying Emirates award space. I don’t know whose fault this initial screw up is. Alaska blames its “shopping system vendor.” (Let’s all thank that vendor for the extra First Class award seat from Houston to Dubai on March 26.)

But I place the blame firmly on Alaska for not allowing its “old system,” which as far as we know still works perfectly, to be used by agents to book Emirates First Class award space that Emirates has released to Alaska.

Thanks to Alaska for commenting on the issue, though it sheds no light on the situation.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

Screen Shot 2015-01-08 at 8.29.19 PM

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Update 2/18/15: I cancelled my award reservation in Emirates First Class using Alaska miles. I was invited to a wedding that changed my plans. I tried to change my reservation to different dates.

I called up and asked for the change. The agent said the date I wanted had no First Class award space even though Z = 3. I asked her to look in the old system, and she said a supervisor had told her not to.

I called twice more, running my little social-engineering trick of “I just got cut off trying to make a change. The agent had found the space in the old system.” Both agents said they couldn’t use the old system. In the end, I canceled my award because it was 61 days before departure, and free changes and cancellations only last until 60 days before departure.

I reached out to Alaska Airlines asking for a statement on what’s going on because this is what they told One Mile at a Time in January:

First thank you for bringing this to our attention. When you first contacted me, we thought that perhaps your search return was limited because of the original query. However, in digging deeper into this issue, we learned that we were wrong and quickly launched an investigation with our vendors to identify and try to resolve what we believe is a system glitch. We have a strong partnership with Emirates and our mutual customers have been enjoying award travel on both airlines fora number of years. I assure you that Mileage Plan™ members have been able to book First Class awards on Emirates without issue and we are working to restore that functionality. We apologize for any inconvenience this is causing our customers and assure you and your readers that we are working with Emirates to resolve the technical glitch and hope to have it fixed soon.

I will update if I hear back from them. My take is that maybe it is Emirates fault that its First Class award space isn’t showing up on Alaska’s main system, but it is definitely Alaska’s fault that we can’t book the space if they are telling their agents not to use the old system, which displays the award space perfectly well.

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One Mile at a Time broke the news that Emirates First Class award space does not appear on alaskaair.com for any flights beyond March 28, 2015. Business Class and economy class award space does appear until the end of the bookable schedule (mid-December.)

He speculated that the Alaska/Emirates partnership might be ending or at least the chance to book Emirates First Class beyond March 28, 2015 might never again exist. My interpretation is similar: I suspect Alaska permanently wants to block Emirates First Class award redemptions for travel beyond March 28. (Any flights already booked for travel beyond March 28 are safe.)

But just now I was able to book myself an award in Emirates First Class for April. Following my steps, you should be able to book yourself Emirates First Class through mid-December, the end of the schedule.

Being able to book Emirates First Class with Alaska miles is a BIG DEAL because Emirates First Class on the A380 is one of the nicest products in the sky, and until recently, its A380 was the only commercial airline that offered First Class passengers the opportunity to shower onboard.

I flew Emirates First Class on a 3.5 hour hop from Auckland to Sydney and was blown away. Here is the first part of that trip report, and my video inside the shower spa.

Why Alaska Miles?

I desperately want to get back into Emirates First Class because Auckland to Sydney was the best flight of my life. The best way to fly Emirates First Class is with Alaska Airlines miles. Alaska charges 90,000 miles one way to Dubai and 100,000 to Africa or Asia.

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Unfortunately you cannot use Alaska miles for all Emirates routes. Your award needs to start or end in North America and cannot go to Australia.

Alaska does not collect fuel surcharges on Emirates awards. You just pay low taxes + $12.50 per one way partner award + a $15 phone fee.

The Problem

Someone is blocking Emirates First Class award space from appearing on alaskaair.com for flights after March 28. It’s probably Alaska, but it might be Emirates.

You can search Emirates First Class award space on Expert Flyer, a paid service, that I explained how to search here.

The fare bucket to search is Z. This is where it gets a little bit weird.

  • If Z = 1, Alaska may have access to 1 award seat in Emirates First Class.
  • If Z = 2, Alaska may have access to 2 award seats in Emirates First Class.
  • If Z = 2, Alaska definitely has access to at least 1 award seat in Emirates First Class.

So I looked for dates with Z = 2.

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The search screen on Expert Flyer

 

In these search results, you can see that the Emirates flight from Houston to Dubai on April 19 has Z = 2, but on April 20 only has Z = 1. That means Alaska definitely has at least one award seat on the Emirates flight for April 19.

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But that seat does not appear online. Online the April 19 flight only has economy and Business space.

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The Solution

This is why this hobby is amazing. As commentors despaired in the One Mile at a Time comment thread, commentor Carlos provided the solution.

After a lot of [hang up call again], I was able to book a F award flying on april. After getting the same answer that there was no F available (even though in EF Z=2), the magic sentence was to ask if the search could be made on the old system and voilà, space was found.

The “old system” is the magic phrase.

Commentors Chris and Tom quickly chimed in that it worked for them, and it worked for me just now!

My Experience

I picked out flights from Houston to Dubai and Dubai to Bangkok with a day and a half in Dubai. You can get free stopovers on Alaska one way awards on Emirates flights.

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This is going to be 15 hours in the A380 First Class and then six more hours a day and a half later.

For both flights, I found Z = 2 space.

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I called Alaska Airlines at 800-252-7522 and politely told the agent I wanted to fly First Class from Houston to Dubai and then Dubai to Bangkok in First Class.

She searched and came back excited, but it turned out there was space on the flights I had in mind in Business Class but not First Class.

It is important to note that apparently the agents have no idea that the website and their system only show Emirates First Class award space until March 28.

I tried Carlos’ trick.

“Hmm…I really want to fly First Class. I’ve heard that if you check your old system, there might be space available.”

She hemmed and hawed and eventually said she couldn’t do it. I thanked her and hung up after the six minute call. For the second call I had a different strategy.

The successful eight-minute call started out like this:

[in a friendly voice]

“Hi, I want to fly Emirates First Class from Houston to Bangkok. I was just on the line with another agent, and she had found the space and given me the flight info when my phone was disconnected. She said she found the space in the old system. Can I give you the flight info?”

When I said “old system,” this agent actually interjected, “That’s the right way.”

She took the flight info that I had found on Expert Flyer and disappeared for a few minutes, coming back to tell me that she had found the award space in First Class and it would cost 100,000 miles. Success!

I booked the flight on the spot. She gave me an Alaska and an Emirates confirmation number. Twenty minutes later, my confirmation email appeared from Alaska. I went to the Emirates website to make sure they can see my reservation, and they can! I am all set for travel.

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Bottom Line

Hat tip to One Mile at a Time for uncovering the possible end of the Alaska/Emirates partnership at least as far as First Class awards. Hat tip to Carlos for uncovering the trick to book Emirates First Class on flights beyond March 28.

When calling Alaska to book the award, the magic words are “old system,” and I recommend starting the call with a white lie about having just been disconnected after an agent found space through the old system. That may arouse less suspicion and make the agent feel comfortable that her colleague thinks it’s OK to use the old system.

Now there are a couple possibilities:

  1. This could just be a glitch, and Alaska may resume showing Emirates First Class space for flights March 29 and later. In that case, this post is nearly useless.
  2. This blocking could be intentional and could get worse by an outright prohibition on booking Emirates First Class that becomes widely known among Alaska phone agents. In that case, use the trick in this post ASAP if you’re hoping to fly Emirates First Class on an A380.

Alaska has no cancellation fee more than 60 days before departure and a manageable cancellation fee of $125 after that, so somewhat speculative bookings may be prudent if you fear that possibility 2 is more likely.

Book your ticket with your Arrival Plus and you can then remove the taxes and fees from your statement by redeeming Arrival miles.

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Are you going to book Emirates First Class now?

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I’ve covered what I think are the underpriced awards on the United (6) and American Airlines (5) award charts. But I also keep a keen eye on foreign, obscure programs for gems on their award charts.

With the proliferation of transferable points like Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints, Americans have access to cheap awards through tons of foreign programs.

Here are five underpriced awards on other award charts and how to get the miles needed to book the awards.

1. Singapore Awards Between Hawaii and the Americas

Singapore Airlines puts Hawaii and Central America–you know, those two places that are thousands of miles apart–into one region. This leads to awards “within” the region to price out at a ridiculously cheap 17,500 miles each way and 30,000 miles in Business Class.

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Roundtrip Award Prices

Similarly, Hawaii to South America is only 25,000 miles each way in economy and 40,000 miles in Business Class.

This is huge even if you don’t live in Hawaii because roundtrip Singapore Airlines awards allow for one free stopover and up to three more stopovers for $100 each.

That means you can book a roundtrip from Hawaii to South America with a stopover at your home airport in both directions for 50,000 miles + $100 + taxes. That would give you a roundtrip to South America plus two one ways to and from Hawaii on three separate trips.

Full details:

Singapore miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

2. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Southern South America

Virgin Atlantic has a number of partners including Delta. On Delta, to anywhere in South America costs only 45,000 Virgin Atlantic miles roundtrip or 90,000 roundtrip in Business Class.

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Compare that to the 60k or 125k Delta miles the same flights to Southern South America would cost.

Everyone disparages Delta award availability, but I find decent economy award space to South America on the carrier.

Virgin Atlantic miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

3. Promo Awards to Europe with Flying Blue Miles

Every month, Air France Flying Blue offers awards to Europe for 25% and 50% off from select cities. Here are the current offers.
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There are fuel surcharges, but I think the deal is still too good to pass up in economy.

I also really like Promo Awards from Brazil to Europe because flights leaving Brazil have no fuel surcharges by law. These enable a THINK BIG trip like your home airport to Brazil to France to your home airport.

Full details on Promo Awards: Fly to Europe or Israel for 12,500 Miles

Flying Blue miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints.

4. Alaska Awards to South Africa on Cathay Pacific

Alaska Airlines charges a very reasonable 70,000 miles one way between the United States and Asia on Cathay Pacific First Class.

 

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It charges the same amount to Africa from the United States in Cathay Pacific First Class.Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 1.01.45 PM

Hong Kong to Johannesburg is now served by a plane without First Class, but you can still get 16 hours in First Class from the USA to Hong Kong plus 13 hours in Business Class more to Johannesburg for only 70,000 Alaska miles. If you love flying, this is the deal for you.

Alaska miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. You can also get Alaska Airlines miles from their churnable personal and business credit cards.

5. Virgin Atlantic Awards to Europe in Economy and Premium Economy

Virgin Atlantic economy class awards to Europe require far fewer miles than competitors’ charge. From Boston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, you only need 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles for a one way flight to the United Kingdom.

And taxes and fees on the one way from the United States to Europe are only $131!

Combine a one way from the eastern United States to Europe for 17,500 Virgin Atlantic miles plus $131 and return from a low tax country to the United States on a one way award with United or American miles for a very cheap European vacation.

I wrote more about searching Virgin Atlantic award space, the fuel surcharges you’ll see, and booking the space in Huge Deal: 13k Miles to Europe This Summer.

You can also fly one way from parts of the United States to the United Kingdom in Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy for only 27,500 miles and $231.

Premium Economy on Virgin Atlantic is more akin to United First Class on domestic flights than United Economy Plus. It’s not just a big seat; Premium Economy comes with all the amenities in this promotional video.

Virgin Atlantic miles are a 1:1 transfer partner of Citi ThankYou Points, American Express Membership Rewards, and Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. Plus there is the “90k offer” on the Virgin Atlantic credit card.

Your Turn

Did I miss any of your favorite awards on the obscure foreign award charts? Tell me about it in the comments.
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Until December 20, 2014, you can buy Alaska Airlines miles for as little as 2.19 cents each.

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The sale is structured as a bonus on the normal number of miles you’d receive. The bonus is tiered, so the biggest 35% bonus comes from purchasing 35,000 to 40,000 miles at the normal price of about 2.96 cents each after tax.

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To buy 47,250 miles (35,000 + 12,250 bonus) during this sale costs $1,034.69, which is 2.19 cents per mile. This is the cheapest amount of miles that gets the maximum 35% bonus.

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I don’t think Alaska miles are worth 2.19 cents each, but they are worth close to that, and if you have a specific redemption in mind, it isn’t hard to get more than 2.19 cents of value per mile.

  • What are the best redemptions for Alaska miles?
  • Does this miles purchase count as airfare or travel spending for category bonuses?
  • How does this compare to past miles sales on Alaska?

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Update 11/6/14: Delta.com is again displaying Alaska Airlines and Virgin Australia award space. The disappearance must have been a glitch. Bookmark this post in case the glitch recurs!

Delta.com is no longer displaying award space on Alaska Airlines or Virgin Australia. You can search for award space on both airlines on other websites and book it by phone with Delta.

Virgin Australia Business Class

Delta.com is pretty terrible. It shows very few Delta partners, requiring me to search for award space for clients of the MileValue Award Booking Service on airfrance.us, Expert Flyer, or by phone.

Even the partners Delta.com does show usually don’t show up on the calendar of results, so it looks like the month only has Standard and Peak award space when partner space exists that always prices at the Saver level. (What am I talking about? Read this post, and thank me later.)

In the last few days, Delta.com has stopped displaying Virgin Australia and Alaska Airlines award space. This is a big blow for the average member of SkyMiles.

  • Virgin Australia has the best award space of any airline to Australia in Business Class. It is bookable for 160,000 Delta miles roundtrip.
  • Alaska Airlines has solid award space to Hawaii and Mexico (not great uses of SkyMiles) and to West Coast gateway cities for international award flights.

The silver lining of making award space harder to search is that it becomes more plentiful for those of us who know where to search for it. You can join that group right now.

  • Where can you search Alaska Airlines award space?
  • Where can you search Virgin Australia award space?
  • How do you book the award space you find?

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Emirates is releasing two First Class seats on its A380 flights from San Francisco and Houston to Dubai on a ton of days in Winter 2015.

My flight in Emirates First Class was my favorite ever because of the over-the-top service and amenities, like two onboard shower spas.

At the MileValue dinner, when I shared these five tips, a reader (wish I could remember a name for credit here) shared the tip that Emirates First Class award space on its A380s was wide open from San Francisco and Houston.

You can search Emirates award space at alaskaair.com and book it with Alaska Airlines miles with no fuel surcharges. You can get Alaska miles by opening the Alaska Airlines credit cards or by transferring SPG Starpoints to Alaska Airlines miles.

  • How good is award space on the Emirates A380s?
  • What if you don’t live in San Francisco or Houston?
  • How many Alaska Airlines miles do you need?
  • What about free stopovers on the award?

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Alaska Airlines is having a sale on award flights between select cities. One way flights are going for as little as 5,000 Alaska Airlines miles + $5.60 for flights between August 30 and October 31, 2014.

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Many cities are on the sale list. Check out the full list and sale prices here.

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Domestic awards and awards to Canada are discounted from their normal price of 12,500 miles each way to 5,000, 7,500, or 10,000 miles each way. Awards to Mexico are discounted from 15,000 to 12,500 miles.

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The sale cities have excellent award space, which is probably why they are so discounted.

Unfortunately this sale does not pair well with Alaska’s current bonus on purchased miles that allows you to buy up to 56,000 miles for 2.1 cents each. That sale is better if you want to fly Cathay Pacific and Emirates First Class, not Alaska Airlines economy.

  • Which city pairs are being offered for 5,000 miles each?
  • Are there any fees for booking Alaska Airlines award flights at the last second?

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This is the eighteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.

I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program.

Why Collect Alaska Airlines Miles?

Alaska Airlines miles are great for booking Emirates First Class and Cathay Pacific First Class. These are two ultra-luxury cabins, and Emirates First Class is not part of any airline alliance. Check out my trip report!

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Emirates First Class Suite

Collecting Alaska Airlines miles is easy. Both the personal and business cards from Bank of America are churnable, meaning you can get the same bonus over and over.

Alaska Airlines partners with 14 airlines from SkyTeam, oneworld, and outside the three alliances.

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  • What airlines can you fly with Alaska Airlines miles?
  • What are the routing rules for Alaska Airlines awards?
  • What are the special features of the Mileage Plan program?
  • How can you book an Alaska Airlines award?

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Many people on the west coast can take a trip to Honolulu, Fiji, and Australia or New Zealand with stops in each place for only 50,000 miles one way.

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If you live in a city with a direct Alaska Airlines or American Airlines flight to Hawaii, this price is available to you. For folks in other cities, the trip is available for 5,000 to 10,000 miles more.

The trip combines one Avios award with one Alaska Airlines award on Fiji Airways. There is a sweet spot on the Avios award chart between the west coast and Hawaii, and there is a sweet spot on the Alaska chart between Hawaii and Australia/New Zealand on Fiji Airways.

  • How can you search for award space for this trip?
  • How can you book this trip?
  • How long can you spend in each destination?
  • What are your options in Australia and New Zealand?
  • How can people who don’t live on the west coast book nearly as good of a trip?

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