Q&A on changes to Emirates award levels in Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Today Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan made a small but significant change to award levels for Emirates Business Class and First Class. Award levels for Economy Class are not changing.

“Our goal has always been to offer our customers the best loyalty program in the industry. It is a priority to ensure Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members retain access to first and business class on Emirates. Today we made a necessary change that caught many of our members by surprise,” said Ryan Butz, Alaska’s managing director of loyalty marketing. “We apologize to the customers who may have been surprised by today’s update, which we were unable to communicate in advance.”

What changes have been made?

Effective March 30, 2016, award levels for Emirates Business Class and First Class have increased for all regions.

Business Class

Region One Way Round Trip
Between North America and India or Middle East 82,500 165,000
Between North America and Africa 120,000 240,000
Between North America and Asia 105,000 210,000
Between North America and Europe 105,000 210,000

First Class

Region One Way Round Trip
Between North America and India or Middle East 150,000 300,000
Between North America and Africa 200,000 400,000
Between North America and Asia 180,000 360,000
Between North America and Europe 180,000 360,000

Why is Mileage Plan making this change?

Alaska’s premium Emirates awards have long been known as an exceptionally good deal. With the rise of “travel-hacking,” intended to exploit Mileage Plan’s award routing rules, coupled with below-market award levels, our previous award levels were unsustainable. The new award levels enable Alaska to continue to offer Emirates Business Class and First Class as a redemption option.

What if I purchased miles intending to book Emirates Business or First Class before I had a chance to book at the previous award level?

If you purchased miles on or after March 1, 2016, you can contact our Customer Care team for a refund.

Why didn’t Mileage Plan give advance notice? How can I expect other awards to not change suddenly?

Given the dynamics of this particular award, we were unable to announce changes in advance. This approach doesn’t represent a new normal. Our policy is to communicate significant program changes with at least 30 days’ notice when at all possible.

I’ve been saving my miles for this award. What am I supposed to do?

You’ll continue to have access to awards in premium cabins on our other partners with coverage to most of the same destinations. Future changes, if any, to these award levels will be given with advance notice.

What if I want to make changes to my existing award?

All changes made online will be ticketed at the new award level. Members who have existing award reservations can contact our Customer Care team for a one-time award change without spending more miles.

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