Alaska Mileage Plan, the loyalty programme of recently-enlisted oneworld alliance member Alaska Airlines, has made its first significant programme shift since joining the partnership, with the announcement that earning and redemption for its members on Emirates flights will soon be discontinued.
From 31st July 2021, it will no longer be possible to book award space on Emirates flights using Alaska miles, however you can still book tickets up to the end of the available schedule if you wish, up to 330 days in advance.
“Our partnership with Emirates will end July 31, 2021. Changes made to a booked award on Emirates on or after August 1, 2021, will require cancellation of the award and re-booking on a different Alaska Airlines partner.”
This ends a a nine-year partnership between the two airlines, but for most of our readers the impact isn’t too substantial.
Emirates awards using Alaska miles are poor value
There’s not much lost here – redemptions on Emirates flights using Alaska miles are simply poor value, since the redemption chart was devalued with no warning in March 2016. The move included up to 80% increases in miles needed overnight, and it didn’t go down well with members.
Redeeming Emirates First Class from Singapore to New York, for example, went from 100,000 Alaska miles to 180,000 Alaska miles, without any notice.
Most Singapore-based members of Alaska Mileage Plan buy their miles in one of the airline’s regular bonus sales at around 2 US cents each, so these hiked Emirates award rates simply became too expensive.
In any event, Emirates already removed First Class award space from the Alaska programme with effect from 1st April 2021, though this was part of a wider policy by the Middle East carrier also affecting other partners, with the exception of Qantas Frequent Flyer.
Earning is a good deal
On the flip side, earning Alaska miles on Emirates flights is a completely different matter. Generous rates include 350% of miles flown for cash fares in First Class and up to 225% of miles flown in some of the more expensive Business Class fare buckets.
Indeed we credited a Geneva to Singapore Emirates First Class flight (in the new Boeing 777 First Suite – review here) to Alaska Mileage Plan in 2018, netting 23,414 Alaska miles in the process.
That’s only marginally short of a Singapore – Tokyo redemption on JAL in Business Class.
For most of our readers with little or no future travel booked, crediting future paid flights on Emirates to Alaska miles looks like a thing of the past.
If you already have a ticket, however, you can still earn miles with the programme, in accordance with the following table provided by Alaska.
As you can see if you’re travelling with Emirates after 1st August 2021 on a ticket you already booked before 2nd June 2021, you’ll need to submit a request to have the miles credited.
Otherwise it’s no more earning for flights after 31st July, even if you book them now.
Qatar awards are coming in August
In a strangely coincidental twist of fate, no sooner will Emirates awards using Alaska miles disappear from our list of options, redemption tickets on fellow Middle East carrier Qatar Airways will become available for redemption.
Qatar Airways and Alaska Airlines forged their own partnership, outside the oneworld alliance, in December 2020.
This redemption option was originally promised from 31st March 2021, but later deferred to “Fall 2021” (i.e. late September to late December 2021), but just a few minutes after Alaska announced the end to its Emirates partnership, Qatar redemptions have magically been brought forward again!
“[Qatar Airways] award bookings will be available in August 2021.”
Wider oneworld awards using Alaska miles are still slated for “later in 2021”, so it’s not yet known whether this benefit will initially include access to all Qatar Airways routes, which will certainly be possible once full oneworld partner awards are made available, or just U.S. routes to begin with.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on redemption rates for these flights on routings like Singapore – Europe, Singapore – USA and Singapore – South Africa (assuming they are all possible from day one), since this will be a new way to redeem the excellent Qsuite with (we hope) no fuel surcharge applied.
To avoid hefty fuel surcharges on Qatar Airways redemptions, you are currently restricted to redeeming using the airline’s own (recently enhanced) Privilege Club miles, or American Airlines AAdvantage miles, but good news is that Alaska Mileage Plan also does not levy fuel surcharges on most award tickets.
Crucially, the Qatar Airways award chart might also be our first hint as to how Alaska’s oneworld redemptions are likely to be priced later this year, most probably in the form of a ‘harmonised’ award chart for all alliance partners.
Good news is Alaska has committed to giving us good notice if devaluations are coming up, for example to the Cathay Pacific or JAL award charts.
We gave our opinion on how the new rates might look in our recent musings on the airline’s oneworld integration, and it generally doesn’t look too good.
With Alaska Airlines joining the oneworld alliance, there were always going to be existing partners from alternative alliance networks, and those who aren’t members of any alliance, simply not ‘fitting in’ with the new union.
Emirates remaining in the fold alongside fierce local rival Qatar Airways always looked untenable, and it has proven to be so.
It also remains to be seen whether Singapore Airlines continues to survive as an Alaska partner, though like Emirates the only benefit here is earning, with poor redemption rates almost across the board. Another one to watch will be SkyTeam member Korean Air, also a current Alaska partner.
The addition of Alaska Mileage Plan’s Qatar Airways award charts in August, once the Emirates partnership is a thing of the past, might give us the first indication of what we can expect from the programme’s oneworld rates in the future.
This will be especially important for the current ‘sweet spots’ to and from Asia with Cathay Pacific and JAL.
Stay tuned for the latest Alaska Mileage Plan updates as we get them. There is bound to be much more news this year!
(Cover Photo: Agent Wolf / Shutterstock)