As most of our readers will know, Singapore Airlines has a longstanding partnership with US carrier Alaska Airlines. That wasn’t actually ‘intentional’. In fact, SIA forged an alliance with (the largely forgotten) Virgin America way back in December 2012.
When Virgin was later bought by (and amalgamated into) Alaska Airlines, a new expanded partnership was announced between SIA and their new Seattle-based buddies, covering both former Virgin America flights and Alaska Airlines ones – taking effect in August 2017.
Back then the agreement covered codesharing and reciprocal miles earning between the two carriers, with Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer members able to redeem on all Alaska Airlines services.
Alaska Mileage Plan members, however, were told they would be able to redeem miles for Singapore Airlines flights “at a later date”.
Now we know “later” meant… “two years later”
Yesterday Alaska Mileage Plan finally launched Singapore Airlines redemptions using Alaska miles. Was it worth the wait?
Before we get into the details, here’s a rundown of the basic principles to be aware of, if you’re thinking of using your Alaska miles to redeem a Singapore Airlines flight.
- Only specific zone-to-zone awards on Singapore Airlines are available using Alaska miles.
- Online search and booking is available through the Alaska Airlines website.
- SIA’s long-haul Business Class seats are available to Alaska Airlines members.
- SIA’s long-haul First Class seats and Suites are available for some zone combinations to Alaska Airlines members.
- Premium Economy redemptions on Singapore Airlines flights are not available using Alaska miles.
- SilkAir flights are not available using Alaska miles.
Long-haul premium cabins are available
One of the biggest bits of news here is that Singapore Airlines is not currently restricting its long-haul Business Class and new Regional Business Class seats for award redemption using Alaska miles. It isn’t even restricting its First Class or Suites products on many routes, including Auckland.
That might be an initial system issue, with restrictions to be enforced later, or it might be a permanent arrangement.
Worth bearing in mind here that the “no long-haul Business” restriction to partners (especially Star Alliance partners) isn’t strictly true. Lufthansa Miles & More members get plenty of access to SIA’s latest Business Class seats, for example, especially on Europe and Australia routes.
It remains to be seen whether the generous allocation of SIA’s long-haul grade Business and First Class seats to Alaska Airlines members is here to stay, or a glitch to be ironed out.
Partner awards using Alaska miles are based on zone combinations. You can see the award charts and alter the zone combinations yourself to see which partners you can redeem on which routes at the Alaska website here.
Before you get too excited by some of the award chart pricing, the actual rates appearing for example bookings don’t always match the charts, so Alaska might not have finalised the award chart pricing. Expect some tweaks to come.
In summary these are the combinations applicable for redemptions on Singapore Airlines:
Intra SE Asia
South East Asia, as far as Alaska is concerned, covers all the countries you’d expect in the region, plus China. Japan and South Korea are in North Asia, so don’t fall into this zone.
|First / Suites||35,000||27,500 to
As you can see because this is one big zone on the Alaska chart, but five zones on the KrisFlyer chart, Alaska miles aren’t giving you any saving at the bottom end. For example close-in flights to Bali, Jakarta and Bangkok will all come out needing fewer miles using KrisFlyer.
At the more distant end though, specifically China (Beijing and Shanghai), there are savings in all cabins, up to 36% in Business Class where Alaska’s 25,000 miles rate compares favourably to KrisFlyer’s 39,000 miles.
First Class and Suites redemptions are also competitive (SQ802 above is a 2006 Suites cabin).
SE Asia to/from N Asia
North Asia only includes Japan and South Korea on the Alaska chart.
|First / Suites||75,000||70,000||+7%|
Not much value here, in fact practically none at all with KrisFlyer offering better rates in all but Economy Class for Japan and South Korea flights to and from Singapore.
Alaska miles using JAL still provide the best value here, even if you don’t use the stopover trick for your “free return” flight.
SE Asia (excl. China) to/from the USA
|First / Suites||130,000||130,000 to
There’s really no saving to be had flying between SE Asia and the USA, with rates broadly comparable to KrisFlyer. Cathay Pacific Business and First Class redemption rates using Alaska miles are much better value for USA redemptions, as are JAL rates.
N Asia to/from the USA
This covers SIA’s daily Tokyo-Narita to Los Angeles flight.
|First / Suites||110,000||107,000||+3%|
Depending on how you accrue Alaska miles (most of our readers have to buy them), a Business Class redemption on this route might make more sense under that scheme than using KrisFlyer miles.
SE Asia (excl. China) to/from South Pacific
South Pacific covers SIA’s Australia and New Zealand flights in the Alaska award chart. Here’s how the miles rates look to and from Singapore and most surrounding SE Asia cities.
|First / Suites||90,000||85,000||+6%|
You won’t want to be using Alaska miles to fly between Singapore and Australia / New Zealand, with a higher rate applicable compared to KrisFlyer on all routes. That’s especially so on Perth, a separate (cheaper) redemption zone for KrisFlyer members.
First Class and Suites to and from Sydney and Melbourne are completely blocked out to Alaska miles members, with no availability in either direction throughout the year, but Auckland in A380 Suites is available.
China to/from South Pacific
The one place you can find value over KrisFlyer using Alaska miles to and from Australia and New Zealand is, as you may have guessed, China.
Here’s how the miles rates look if you fly to or from the South Pacific and start or end your journey in Beijing or Shanghai.
|First / Suites||90,000||106,000||-15%|
Those lower KrisFlyer rates for Perth flights still win over Alaska miles, but now we can see that for Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Auckland etc… you can make a good saving using Alaska miles if you’re heading all the way to or from China, with Business Class at 65,000 miles rather than the 84,000 miles KrisFlyer is charging.
SE Asia to/from India
This is a strange one as the Alaska chart quotes very competitive rates, but when you proceed to book the rates are much higher (and not competitive at all).
|First / Suites||53,000||+70%|
Unless the rates get later corrected to those published on the chart, these are terrible value awards compared to using KrisFlyer miles.
SE Asia to/from the Middle East
This one appears in the Alaska chart at 25,000 miles in Economy, 65,000 in Business and 85,000 in First.
Theoretically it would include Singapore Airlines flights to and from Dubai and Istanbul, however there is no availability loaded on any flight. Even if there was, these rates compare poorly to the KrisFlyer levels of 25k, 49k and 75k respectively for the three cabin classes.
SE Asia and N Asia to/from Europe
Like the Middle East zone, we can’t find any availability using Alaska miles to or from Europe. Rates are not competitive anyway compared to KrisFlyer, even if there was some award space loaded.
SE Asia and N Asia to/from Africa
Again poor rates apply for these zone combinations, which would involve SIA flights to Johannesburg and Cape Town, and there is no availability loaded so it doesn’t even seem possible.
Fifth freedom routes
Note that there is no option to use Alaska miles on some of Singapore Airlines’ fifth freedom routes, such as Moscow to/from Stockholm (i.e. intra-Europe), Manchester to/from Houston or Frankfurt to/from New York (i.e. Europe to/from the USA).
It is possible however to redeem Hong Kong to/from San Francisco, Tokyo to/from Los Angeles and Singapore to/from Frankfurt as these routes fall under the applicable award zone combinations listed above.
The exception there of course remains Frankfurt, as we found no flights loaded for the SE Asia to Europe zone combination, so it’s a moot point.
A new stopover ‘trick’
Most of our readers will be familiar with the JAL stopover ‘trick’ using Alaska miles, a pseudo-return Business Class flight from Singapore to Tokyo for 25,000 miles with minimal taxes.
Since the Alaska Mileage Plan programme permits stopovers on one-way award tickets, with backtracking permitted, the new Singapore Airlines redemption partnership opens up similar opportunities using Singapore as a ‘stopover’ city.
Our regular readers will know that Singapore Airlines also offers a US$100 stopover option on a one-way saver award, but in many cases this Alaska miles deal comes out well on top in value terms.
For example if you are taking a trip to Shanghai and then another trip later in the year to Bali both in Business Class, you can already save miles using the KrisFlyer stopover, rather than redeeming:
- SIN-PVG-SIN: 78,000 miles
- SIN-DPS-SIN: 38,000 miles
- Total: 116,000 miles
Instead using a US$100 stopover in the middle as follows:
- SIN-PVG: 39,000 miles
- PVG-SIN-DPS: 39,000 miles (stopover in SIN)
- DPS-SIN: 19,000 miles
- Total: 97,000 miles
This saves you 19,000 miles, but will cost you an extra US$100 for the stopover in Singapore (which can be up to a year, read our article for full details).
Now there’s a very nice Alaska option on this itinerary.
- SIN-PVG: 25,000 miles
- PVG-SIN-DPS: 25,000 miles (stopover in SIN)
- DPS-SIN: 25,000 miles
- Total: 75,000 miles
Furthermore, the stopover with Alaska is free, saving you that US$100 fee imposed by KrisFlyer. Even better, use 19,000 KrisFlyer miles instead for the final DPS-SIN flight and you’ll save another 6,000 miles, bringing your total for this itinerary in at 69,000 miles (50,000 Alaska + 19,000 KrisFlyer).
Given this plan was starting at 116,000 miles before we used any ‘tricks’, that’s a great saving and fantastic value for two trips in SIA’s latest Business Class seats.
How to do it
You’ll have to be using the Alaska desktop site to get a stopover to work, the mobile app doesn’t currently support it.
At the main search page, click ‘All search options’.
Then you’ll need to select ‘Multi-city’ and tick the ‘Use miles’ box, followed by adding your two flight sectors both in the ‘Departing flight’ section (leave the ‘Returning flight’ section blank).
Click find flights and the search results should appear. Do be aware that just because a price appears, not all sectors will necessarily be in the displayed cabin class. You’ll pay the rate for the higher cabin, even if one sector is in a lower cabin.
The site does warn you of this when you select the rate.
Another good example
Take a Shanghai and a Hong Kong trip at different times of year in First Class. You can book Shanghai to Hong Kong with a stopover in Singapore for 35,000 Alaska miles, at completely different times of year.
This example is HKG-SIN in November 2019 and then SIN-PVG in May next year. Better still, it’s the latest A380 2017 Suites cabin on both flights.
Not only does this get you both a 4h and 5h 20m flight in the latest Suites cabin (over 9 hours in total), you’ll have access to the SilverKris First Class lounge in Hong Kong prior to your first flight, The Private Room in Changi on arrival for dinner, then The Private Room again on departure to Shanghai next year for breakfast.
Booked via KrisFlyer, these two flights would cost you 93,500 miles.
Of course this itinerary leaves you having to get to Hong Kong in the first place and back from Shanghai at the end via other means, but that shouldn’t be too much of a hardship.
An even better example
Let’s say you’re planning a Tokyo trip, then you’ll head home to Singapore for a while but your next trip is to San Francisco. Business Class is a must, as always!
Getting to Tokyo is a no brainer – 25,000 miles on JAL with Alaska miles or 47,000 miles with SQ means take JAL – provided there is availability.
Now for the next stage, using a stopover.
The Alaska Mileage Plan rate to fly from Tokyo to San Francisco is 80,000 miles, not that exciting versus the KrisFlyer rate of 92,000 miles on the non-stop Tokyo – Los Angeles flight. The latter is not useful to us in this case though, because we’re going back home to Singapore before the SFO trip.
But hang on, Alaska doesn’t care whether you fly this itinerary directly or via Singapore, with a free stopover of up to a year.
So it’s still 80,000 Alaska miles, with a few additional taxes.
Notice that on the date we checked, you can take any of six Singapore Airlines flights from Tokyo to Singapore, then have a stopover (we picked one week) and continue your journey on the nonstop SQ34 to San Francisco.
This itinerary would cost 142,000 KrisFlyer miles (due to SQ’s ‘no backtracking’ rule, it’s simply 47,000 miles + 95,000 miles). With Alaska, it’s still 80,000 miles.
22 hours in some of the best Business Class seats Singapore Airlines has to offer – for 80,000 Alaska miles. Or US$1,544 (S$2,120) if you buy them in one of the 50% bonus promotions.
So what have we achieved so far? Singapore to Tokyo for 25,000 Alaska miles on JAL, then Tokyo to Singapore with a stopover followed by Singapore to San Francisco for 80,000 Alaska miles.
You can get back to Singapore on SQ for 95,000 KrisFlyer miles in Business Class, or 100,000 Alaska miles. That’s a no-brainer. Or is it?
Remember San Francisco to Tokyo (or Seoul) with a stopover in Singapore comes in cheaper at 80,000 Alaska miles. Who cares if you never use the second sector? Just book it for a later date and ditch it if you wish.
In fact, there is never any need to use the 100,000 Alaska miles rate from the USA to Singapore, just tag on a Tokyo or Seoul flight at a later date with a stopover in SIN and you’ll save 20,000 miles.
Better still, schedule it for another Japan trip later in the year, or maybe Korea. That way you could have a USA trip bookended by two Japan trips in Business Class for 160,000 miles, plus use the JAL stopover trick at the very start and very end of the journeys for 25,000 miles.
Three holidays with a total of nearly 60 hours in Business Class for 185,000 Alaska miles across three different bookings with two stopovers. Now you’re a true pro.
Earning Alaska miles in Singapore
Alaska miles are quite an elusive frequent flyer currency in Singapore, with most Asia-based flyers obtaining a decent balance by buying them in Alaska’s regular purchase sales.
There’s one of those on offer right now, with up to 40% bonus for non-US based members, allowing you to buy miles at 2.11 US cents each.
To fly to Beijing in A380 Suites for example, which always has good award availability, you’re looking at US$738 (35,000 Alaska miles x 2.11 cents). We would definitely be doing that rather than splurge 53,000 valuable KrisFlyer miles.
Better still, the stopover example we presented from Shanghai to Singapore, then Singapore to Hong Kong, in new A380 Suites for 35,000 Alaska miles would also come in at US$738 under the current offer. Madness.
At the top bonus rate of 50%, which now comes around fairly regularly, you’re buying these miles at an even more competitive 1.97 US cents each.
It’s also possible to accrue Alaska miles with hotel bookings made through Kaligo and Rocketmiles, though this sometimes means paying a higher rate which is effectively ‘buying’ the miles anyway.
Miles purchased are limited to 150,000 per year
Assuming you don’t hold elite status in the Alaska Mileage Plan scheme (MVP, MVP Gold or MVP Gold 75K), you are limited to 150,000 miles credited per calendar year from points.com (i.e. in the buy miles promotions). That includes any miles gifted to you through points.com.
If this restricts you and you book as a couple then one option is to have your partner open an Alaska account too, which would then allow you to buy up to 150,000 miles each per calendar year, if required.
Remember this only applies to miles credited by points.com, and you are still free to transfer miles into Alaska on top of that limit from hotel loyalty programs for example, and of course from eligible revenue flying.
Change and cancellation fees
Bear in mind that if you wish to change or cancel your Alaska award a fee of US$125 per ticket is applicable.
You might not know exactly when you wish to travel on a subsequent flight following a stopover in Singapore for example, so moving your onward sector to a different date will attract this fee. It’s not much different in that example to paying the US$100 KrisFlyer stopover fee, but try either not to do it at all or only do it once if possible.
Is it good value?
Arguably the only real ‘sweet spot’ offered here is intra SE Asia in Business or First Class / Suites, especially to and from Beijing and Shanghai.
We buy KrisFlyer miles at no more than 1.9 cents each, but in reality we accrue most of ours through credit card spend which is at a negligible cost in Singapore, or certainly comes in a lot cheaper than that.
For Alaska miles however we only earn about 20% of our balance through crediting Singapore Airlines and Emirates cash fares, the rest we bought when a purchase bonus was offered.
Even if you’re buying all your KrisFlyer miles at our upper limit (1.9 cents each), that’s 1.4 US cents, about 30% less than Alaska miles cost even in the best 50% bonus promotions.
Alaska redemptions in that case would therefore have to come in around 30% cheaper than the corresponding KrisFlyer rate to start to be a good value proposition.
For those based in the US, where Alaska has its own credit card for example, it’s a different matter, as it is for Singapore-based members accruing almost all of their Alaska miles through revenue flights (we know a few people who do!).
It’s worth noting that you’ll typically accrue very generous levels of Alaska miles when you credit Singapore Airlines, Emirates etc.. flights to that program. Check wheretocredit.com to get an idea – but if your company is flying you J class on SIA for example Alaska will award you 225% of miles flown, compared to KrisFlyer’s paltry 150%.
For most of us though it’s Business and First Class awards to and from Beijing or Shanghai and some of the Singapore stopover options which are the only real value deals with this new partner relationship.
It was a long time coming, but it’s great to finally see the option to use Alaska miles on Singapore Airlines flights, with full online search and booking functionality included (unlike Cathay Pacific, whose awards still have to be redeemed over the phone using the Alaska scheme).
Singapore Airlines usually restricts its long-haul Business and First Class cabins for redemption only by KrisFlyer members, but that’s not the case here. Even selected Suites awards are currently available to Alaska members.
It remains to be seen whether awards in these premium Singapore Airlines cabins are a feature of the new partnership, or just an introductory ‘bug’ in the system.
As it stands there is some value in using Alaska miles over KrisFlyer in Business Class and First Class / Suites on the Beijing and Shanghai routes, but the main benefit here comes when you combine two one-way awards with a stopover in Singapore, like the example we used flying Tokyo to Singapore then at a later date Singapore to Los Angeles for just 80,000 Alaska miles.
You might also combine Shanghai and Hong Kong in new A380 Suites for just 35,000 miles, with a stopover in Singapore between the trips.
All we need now is for one of the credit card issuers in Singapore to add Alaska Mileage Plan as a transfer partner. Citi would be the most obvious one, with their plethora of options, but even the bank’s US customers don’t currently have an Alaska agreement. Wishful thinking for any deal in Singapore perhaps!
Meanwhile you might now want to consider crediting some or all of your revenue flights with Singapore Airlines to Alaska miles if you aren’t doing that already. Not only is the mileage accrual rate far superior, there’s now much more than just the ‘JAL stopover trick’ to use.
(Cover Photo: Aero Icarus)