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Alaska Mileage Plan changes include an award ticket fees hike

Book in the next 3 weeks to avoid US$125 cancellation or change fees outside 60 days of travel.

Alaska Air 737 (Tomás Del Coro)

If you read our article in March outlining the benefits of Alaska Mileage Plan for Singapore-based miles addicts you’ll know why this scheme is a dedicated fixture in our award points balance. Be it ‘cheap’ 25,000 mile round-trip (almost) redemptions to Tokyo in JAL business or a Singapore to Los Angeles flight in Cathay business for 50,000 miles, there are plenty of ways to make great value of Alaska miles to, from and within Asia.

What’s New?

Last week the airline announced a few changes to the scheme and while most aren’t of much interest to us (we have never actually flown Alaska Air nor plan to in the near future), some of the tweaks mean a potentially more costly and less flexible redemption booking with a partner airline.

The new fees come into force for tickets booked on or after 5th June 2018.

Here’s a summary of what’s happening:

  • The cost of award flights on Alaska Air is changing with some bookings getting more expensive (in miles terms) and some benefiting from a lower rate.
  • The 24-hour free change and cancellation policy will no longer apply to bookings made within 24 hours of departure. Realistically that only applies to Alaska Air bookings anyway.
  • Fees for some same day flight changes are increasing. Again it realistically only applies to travel on Alaska Air.
  • Partner award redemption rates, like JAL, Cathay Pacific and Qantas are staying the same (phew).
  • Alaska will no longer allow you to cancel or change your redemption ticket for free more than 60 days prior to departure. The change or cancellation fee of US$125, which previously only applied within 60 days of travel, will now always be applied.
JAL787SkySuite
Fly the JAL business class Sky Suite III for the equivalent of 12,500 miles per 7-hour flight using the Alaska miles stopover ‘trick’. Read our article to see how. (Photo: Japan Airlines)

Summary

The option to cancel or amend an award ticket made through Alaska Mileage Plan for free more than 60 days prior to travel was a really useful one and unfortunately this latest change makes it far less advisable to make speculative bookings through the program. US$125 is about S$167 at current exchange rates – a price you don’t want to be paying regularly just to have an award ticket in hand, which you later end up not using or changing.

Having said that it is still a reasonable fee compared with other frequent flyer programs in the US and you might still see it as a good value ‘insurance policy’, especially if the likelihood of you having to change plans is low.

Remember you can still book award seats using the program until 4th June and enjoy the existing terms, so if you have an Alaska miles balance you were thinking of using over the next year now may be a good time to pick out a redemption flight. Book prior to the deadline and you’ll still be able to make a free change or cancellation provided that’s done more than 2 months beforehand.

(Cover Photo: Tomás Del Coro)

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