How to Use Airline Miles to Get to Alaska

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To wrap up my series on Alaska I’m going to cover some good ways to to use airline miles to get there.  While booking a trip to Alaska on miles isn’t near as complex as booking an around-the-world journey or similar, there are still several different options to get there with some choices costing fewer miles than others.  I’m pretty passionate about how amazing of a destination Alaska is for families, so if you want to get a taste of how awesome it can be, take a peek at a few of my posts below.

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Flying Seven Hours with a Kid to Alaska

Review of the Sheraton Anchorage Hotel and Spa

What Alaska Hotels Need to Learn from Las Vegas Hotels and Casinos

Don’t Wait Until You are Retired to Visit Alaska

Holiday Inn Express Seward Review

Fun Activities for Families Near Anchorage

Restaurants, Dog Sledding, and More in Seward

Log Cabins and Horse Rides in Alaska

Even though Alaska is in the United States, it isn’t treated like it is part of the lower 48 by all programs.  This means that even though it is a domestic flight, it can cost more miles than say a flight to Nebraska with programs that put it in a different zone.  Naturally programs that use a distance-based chart aren’t usually a great choice for trips to Alaska if you live on the East Coast since it is over 3,300 miles one-way from New York (just shy of the distance from New York to London).  However, not all programs group Alaska in a different zone from the rest of the lower 48 so it pays off to be strategic – here are a few tips.

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Transfer Ultimate Reward Points to Korean Air to fly Alaska Airlines – 20,000 miles round trip

Even the heading sounds confusing, essentially Korean Air has an award chart sweet spot for their partner Alaska Airlines where you can fly round trip within the lower 48 or Canada for 20,000 miles round trip in economy or 40,000 miles in first class.  That is pretty solid by itself, but they also allow one stopover on your journey.

This means you could fly from Houston to Seattle (stopover) and then continue on a few days later from Seattle to Anchorage.  When you are done in Alaska you can fly right back to Houston without a stopover.  Alternatively, if you wanted to use your stopover to check out different areas of Alaska you could use Anchorage as your stopover and then continue on to Nome, Fairbanks, or any other Alaska Airlines destination.

You can transfer Ultimate Reward points from the Ink Plus® Business Card, Ink Bold® Business Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card to Korean Air to book this type of award.  However, before you do I would read this report on the process of booking a Korean Air award as it is a bit different than using most US frequent flyer programs.

Here are some guidelines for Korean Air redemptions on Alaska:

  • No infant and child mileage discounts are applicable : The same miles with adults will be redeemed in case of seat occupation.
  • Ineligible flight range for award travel. Only flight range AS 001-899 and AS 2000-2849 are eligible.(It may be subject to the change according to Alaska Airline’s regulations. Please, contact Korean Air service center for the detailed information.)
  • One stopover is permitted.
  • Departure and arrival at the same city is allowed twice. (Effective January 1, 2013)

Book via American Airlines – 25,000 miles round trip

American Airlines still classifies Alaska along with the lower 48, so it is the regular 25,000 miles to book an economy award ticket.  You can fly American Airlines, US Airways, or Alaska Airlines operated flights as part of an American Airlines award ticket.  This means you have a decent number of flights to pick from.  Some American co-branded credit cards also give 10% of redeemed miles back so that can drop your effective cost to 22,500 miles for a round trip.  You can book all of those partners on American’s website.

You could have enough miles for a family of four to Alaska just by meeting the spending requirement on the 100,000 mile American Airlines Executive Airlines MasterCard.

Book on Delta or Alaska Airlines via Delta SkyMiles – 25,000 miles round trip

It can be tough to find availability at the lowest saver level on Delta-operated flights, but since Delta also partners with Alaska Airlines then you can use Alaska Airlines operated flights that are available at the lowest saver level for just 25,000 miles round trip each.  That’s a pretty solid use of Delta SkyMiles in my book and you can even book online via Delta’s website!

Book via Alaska Airlines – 25,000 miles round trip

Alaska Airlines miles can obviously be used to book Alaska-operated flights, as well as American Airlines and Delta operated flights.  They also allow a free en route stopover if you are solely on Alaska Airlines operated flights (even on a one-way ticket)!  You can get two stopovers on round trip tickets operated by Alaska Airlines, but note that awards with stopovers can only be booked through an Alaska Airlines call center.

I have seen Alaska Airlines credit cards offered by Bank of America for as high as 50,000 sign-up bonus miles, but currently it seems that around 25,000 miles is the norm.  Still, that is enough for a round trip ticket to Alaska with up to two stopovers.  You can also transfer points from the Starwood Preferred Guest program if needed.   Having the Alaska Airlines card also gets you a coach Companion Fare from $118 which means that your companion can fly with you on an Alaska operated flight for just $118!  That isn’t free, but it can be a good way to help get a family to Alaska for less.

Book via Singapore Airlines to Fly United – 25,000 miles round trip in coach, 40,000 miles round trip in first

Just like Singapore Airlines can save you miles to get to Hawaii, it can also save you miles to go to Alaska.  Singapore Airlines is a Star Alliance partner along with United, so instead of paying the higher mileage price to use United Airlines miles you can book via Singapore Airlines miles to fly United operated flights to Alaska.  United has put Alaska in another zone than the lower 48, but Singapore Airlines still has Alaska with the rest of the 48 so it is 25,000 miles round trip in coach and 40,000 miles round trip in business…which is domestic first on a two-cabin plane like the ones United operates to Alaska.

What is especially great about Singapore is that you can transfer miles into Singapore both from the Ultimate Rewards cards Ink Plus® Business Card, Ink Bold® Business Card or Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card and the American Express Membership Reward cards such as the Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card or  American Express(R) Premier Rewards Gold CardYou can also transfer points from the Starwood Preferred Guest program if needed. 

This means you have lots of sources to accumulate enough miles for your family to book via Singapore Airlines.

Book Using United Miles for 35,000 miles round trip, but…

As I mentioned, United has now put Alaska in a different zone from the lower 48 and tacked on an additional 5,000 miles each way for the redemption.  This means it will be 35,000 miles round trip in coach.  The only upside to this is that the “free one-way” that is used on some international redemptions between different zones also currently works to tack on a free one-way for United redemptions to Alaska.  This means that using United miles to get to Alaska isn’t a bad option if you can add another flight on to the itinerary.  For example, I could book Houston – Anchorage – Houston – (months later) New York for the same 35,000 miles as just going Houston – Anchorage – Houston.

Use British Airways Distance chart from West Coast

While Alaska is pretty far from the East Coast, it isn’t all that far from the West Coast so you can use distance based award charts such as the British Airways award chart to fly for just 10,000 points each direction from say Seattle – Anchorage.  In fact any flight that is 2,000 miles or less will ring in at 10,000 miles each direction and you can fly British Airways partners such as Alaska Airlines and American Airlines operated flights.  You could also use British Airways Avios to hop around Alaska on Alaska Airlines operated flights for as low as 4,500 Avios each direction for flights 650 miles or less.  Just like with Singapore Airlines, there are tons of sources for British Airways Avios including the Ultimate Rewards program, the Membership Rewards program, Starwood Preferred Guest, as well as from the British Airways Visa Signature® Card card itself.

As you can see there are lots of different options to get to Alaska using airline miles.  I’m sure I have left out some options, but these choices should give you a great start to take your family to that awesome state without breaking the bank.  I know my family is actively working on the most cost effective way to get back!  Later this week I will share the final post in the series – using hotel points to bring down the cost of lodging in Alaska.

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Disclaimer: The comments below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  1. Even though there are obvious big drawbacks to the program now, Frontier still offers one of the cheapest award flights to Alaska, if you have the Frontier CC. 20,000 miles round trip for first ticket and then 15,000 for the “companion” ticket. Companion ticket only available if you have Frontier CC–35,000 miles round trip. Now, obviously Frontier added all kinds of crazy fees, but 35,000 miles for two people to Alaska is pretty good. If you were going to check a bag anyway, then it really anymore costly b/c all airlines, save SW, have bag fees now, unless airlines treat Alaska as international and permit a bag for free. I haven’t looked that up.

  2. I’ve heard horror stories about booking through the BA call centers (since AS is not available online). Have you found a way to make this relatively tolerable??

    • UAPhil, no. Word is the Singapore call center is reportedly a good option. I also have good luck right when they open…usually. It is a mess though.

  3. I’ve been wanting to do an Alaska trip, but I’m not sure when in the year to go. I had no clue about the Korean Air partnership and option of a stopover, but also love the idea of using British Airways Avios as I have stockpiled quite a few! (Thank you 100k Amex Platinum deal and transfer bonuses)

  4. Delta allows a free one way too. When you include that, even booking at 40,000 miles for the medium level is not too bad.

  5. Having booked a couple dozen Alaska award tickets for myself, frienda and family over the past few years, I could give a “how to get to Alaska for free” seminar in my sleep. 🙂

    While there are always exceptions to the rule, 90% of award ticketholders will wind up in Alaska on Alaska Airlines. That’s because they probably have 90% of the award seats. 🙂 So step no. 1 is to play around with Alaska’s award availability on their own site. If the flight’s available in the “low” award category, you can use your AA, DL or BA miles for it. Look at Alaska’s route map and you’ll see that most of their Alaska-bound flights start in Seattle, but there are exceptions worth considering if you can’t find a SEA itinerary that works.

    Keep in mind that Alaska has fantastic summer award availability west of the Mississippi but very poor award inventory on their transcons. That often means you’ll have to get to SEA on ANOTHER airline: AA, US or DL, typically. This CAN be a nightmare, because seats will be sparse. But it’s often possible to find something that will work. Of course, always plug in your itinerary into your primary airline’s website (AA.com works pretty well) and hope that something just pops up (most of the time it won’t, though). Keep in mind that the airlines will generally limit your connecting time at SEA (or elsewhere) to 4 hours, which can make it difficult to find award seats.

    Another sometimes worthwhile alternative is to find a cheap ticket to SEA (often possible if you find a crazy sale months in advance) and then buy an Avios ticket for 7500 miles to get you to ANC or your final destination. I actually got a transcon from the East Coast to SEA this summer on UA for about $100 ow, and this was by far my best option. Sadly, the crazy transcon fares are getting much harder to find, though.

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