Japan Airlines Business Class Cabin

We don’t make the rules, we just play by them. And if dealing with airlines has taught me anything, it’s that any forward facing decision we encounter has already faced too many signatures and sign offs by the time it reaches us.

What I’m saying is: airlines know what they’re doing or at least their intention, most of the time. As a boutique airline, I always thought Alaska intentionally created great opportunities to redeem miles so that people would engage with the program more, and the airline would gain an outsized amount of a customers wallet share, as Gary Leff likes to call it.

Today, it appears the airline has just “no notice” devalued one of the strongest redemption benefits, taking away the free “stopover” on intra Asia tickets using miles. If true, this is yet another gut punch, not necessarily because it’s happening, but because it’s been done without any warning, under the cover of darkness. That’s just not ok…

a red pagoda with Mount Fuji in the backgroundReports Of Alaska Mileage Plan Devaluation

Top Singaporean blog The Shutterwhale reports that Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has devalued intra Asia flights with their new partner Singapore Airlines by 2.4X overnight, and also simultaneously killed the Asian stopover in the same swoop. There was no advanced communication of this to members, and of course, the airline just had a f**king sale on points.

What’s the Alaska Mileage Plan free “Asian stopover” you may be asking? It was an opportunity to effectively create a 2 for 1 trip in Asia, by routing intelligently through the hub of the airline you were flying. It was brilliant, and amongst the very best opportunities in points.

Credible sources point to an impending move against Cathay Pacific availability as well, and the elimination of that potential stopover too, so if this is something on your list, best to get ticketed in the very near future than hold out. It’s always easy to cancel.

Japan Airlines Business Class CabinWhat The Intra Asian Stopover Meant

Since all of Asia counted as one region for Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific, and actually included India, it was possible to buy a one way ticket and have a multi city trip. Alaska charged 22.5K miles for Cathay flights, and 25K miles for JAL flights.

The maneuver allowed you to fly from Southeast Asia to Tokyo, stopover in Tokyo for a few days or more, and then carry on to India or another city in Asia. Of course, the same in reverse would work too. Think…

Hanoi > Tokyo – multi day stopover – Tokyo> India for Japan Airlines.

Kuala Lumpur > Hong Kong – multi day stopover – Hong Kong – Seoul for Cathay Pacific.

And you could even kind of make a simple round trip from Southeast Asia to North Asia, since everything connected via Tokyo, all this for 25,000 points “one way” amazing! Like…

Singapore >Tokyo >Bangkok all for 25,000 miles.

In practical terms…

This meant I could fly into Asia, let’s say… starting in Singapore. I’d land from my long haul flight, enjoy the city of Singapore for a few days, and then could start my Alaska Mileage Plan booked ticket on JAL for a flight to Tokyo. The flight would cost me 25K miles in business, and I could stop there, but I could also then use the free stopover to take that flight from Singapore to Tokyo, stop in Tokyo for a few days, and then take another flight to another destination for the same 25K.

Victoria Peak skyline at nightYep, all of this for the same price as just taking one of those flights on their own. The same went for Singapore Airlines flights, using Singapore as the stopover, though it was divided into two regions. But overnight, Alaska raised the redemption rates for using their miles on Singapore Airlines flights by 2.4X, less than 10 days after the partnership launched! Who does that?!  From Southeast Asia to Southeast Asia – think Singapore to China or Japan – the rates jumped as follows…

  • Business Class: 25,000 jumped to 60,000
  • First Class: 35,000 jumped to 75,000

Imagine you go in to a new coffee shop in a Wednesday and pay $2.50 for a great latte, and the next week it’s $6 for the exact same thing, and they didn’t even bother to hang a sign in the window saying “prices are going up” in the meantime.

This is a case of don’t hate the player, or the game, just the terrible league commissioner – in this case Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan – for apparently duping members by offering a sale on points and then devaluing their use with immediate effect, with no notice. It’s things like this which ruin trust and will ensure I don’t spend a dime with the airline going forward.

As they say about trust: “so hard to gain, so easy to lose”.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Bloggers showed Alaska a way to “Break/ hack” their program and Alaska closed the loophole. It was never intended. Why are you upset? If it is too good to be true, it probably is…

    1. If it was a true loophole, they wouldn’t have left it open for years. They did. Choosing to close it with no notice is a sign of disrespect for something which was not a loophole, but a great value.

  2. What’s a “loophole?” Is that akin to a roundtrip itinerary with an open-jaw? 🙂
    There are no loopholes…there are rules/laws and intents, hidden or public.

    Gilbert – I agree with your interpretation. Alaska, as great a mileage program as they come, has pulled this stunt on a number of occasions, namely and most painfully, the dead-of-night Emirates first class devaluation.

    Keep up the good work. Cheers!

  3. Bloggers have literally over-published and destroyed everything that was ever good about redeeming miles. Amazing how in the late 90s and early 2000s I was able to have an amazing time flying on miles without the need for blogs. Devaluations hit when all this stuff went viral. IF YOU WANT TO KEEP IT DON’T BLOG IT.

  4. I gave up on Alaska when they closed my account and forfited my 300K miles just because a partner double credited a flight into there program , I even informed Alaska that I was more than happy to have the double points removed, However there response was to reply ” case closed and your account remains closed”

    A simple case of an easy way to steal my 300k points by using one of there many rules and enforcing it in a draconian fashion !

    As a travel agent I now book all of my clients with anyone except Alaska which will cost themin excess of $100k a year and what a self damaging action of theirs to steal my 300k miles. Serves you right Alaska and now you sell miles and devalue the program overnight in Europe we call that fraud ?

    Stop trusting Alaska now they have shown they can not be trusted.

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