As a frequent flyer – and a longtime fan of Alaska Airlines – I’ve earned and redeemed more than a million miles with Alaska over the last decade. Along the way, I’ve learned some tips that can make your international travel experience with Mileage Plan a little more rewarding.
Take advantage of free stopovers: Booking award travel on Alaska Global Partners follows different rules than you may be accustomed to with other airline loyalty programs. Each partner has its own award chart, so you can’t combine multiple partners on the same award. What you can do is book different partners in each direction, so a roundtrip itinerary can have two partners, plus additional flights operated by Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air.
Mileage Plan makes up for this with free stopovers that let you visit two or three cities for the price of one. Let’s say you’re booking a trip to Singapore. Consider flying on Japan Airlines to Tokyo: Stop there for a few days, and then continue your journey to Singapore. On the way back, you could visit Hong Kong before continuing home with Cathay Pacific. Singapore Airlines also recently became a Mileage Plan partner.
Always search for award travel one flight at a time. An itinerary with connections will require that every flight has award space. If one flight is missing, you’ll see zero results. The solution is to search for the longest flight first and consider a few alternatives before building out the rest of the itinerary.
Imagine you want to fly from Sacramento to Barcelona. Look for flights to London on British Airways that depart from San Jose, San Francisco or Los Angeles. After you find availability, look for flights from Sacramento to your local international gateway, and for a connecting flight from London to Barcelona. Record the dates of each flight and perform a new multicity search to book the complete trip.
Call on agents for assistance. When searching for award availability on alaskaair.com, be aware that award-travel options on some carriers can be more difficult to find. Call an Alaska reservations agent for assistance with partner airlines not found on the website. They may be able to suggest more options.
Earn miles while flying internationally. You can also earn Mileage Plan miles with Alaska Global Partners, including Aer Lingus, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Fiji Airways, Icelandair, Qantas, Singapore Airlines and more. To earn miles with Mileage Plan, make sure to provide your account number when you book your ticket, or ask the agent to add or change your account number when you check in. Earning rates vary by partner.
Remember to check Alaska Airlines first for flights to Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica. If you’re flying internationally within North and Central America, check your options on alaskaair.com first to take advantage of the fact that when flying on any Alaska or Horizon flight, a mile flown equals a mile earned. You’ll also be able to take advantage of your Mileage Plan elite benefits, such as complimentary upgrades based on availability.
As a bonus: If you have the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® card, remember that it comes with Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare™ offer. The companion fare can be used on any one-way or roundtrip flight operated by Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air, as long as there are still two seats for sale in the Main Cabin or Premium Class. The primary passenger pays the usual price, while the companion pays just $99 plus taxes and fees (from $22 roundtrip) – making it a great value for more-expensive trips such as that vacation to Mexico or Costa Rica. Even better, the companion is still eligible for complimentary elite upgrades and will continue to earn miles for the trip just as they would with any other fare. In my opinion, it is the single most important card benefit and one reason I’ve held onto the card for several years.
Scott Mackenzie founded Travel Codex, a blog devoted to maximizing travel loyalty–program value.
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The Alaska credit card program is issued and administered by Bank of America, N.A. Visa and Visa Signature are registered trademarks of Visa International Service Association and are used by the issuer pursuant to license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.