Big changes to Alaska's program

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Hey, y’all. Welcome back to Daily Drop, the newsletter that’s about to blow your mind with some epic airline points hacks.

Today’s a long one, so let's get started:

✈️ Big changes to Alaska’s program

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan loyalty program is one that we don’t often talk about.

Not because it’s not a good program, but rather because it’s been fairly limited and inflexible.

… until now, that is. 😏

Late last year, Alaska announced some big-boy changes to its program, many of which are coming into effect this month.

So let’s talk about it.

An Alaska plane flying over a mountain

Here are the big updates:

  • The addition of distance-based award charts

  • Global award redemptions on partner airlines

  • Mixing of airline partners on a single award

Distance and zone-based award charts

Most airline programs have switched to using distance-based award charts to determine mileage pricing, especially with partner awards.

In my mind, it was only a matter of time before Alaska did the same. And honestly, there are some EPIC ways to maximize these charts for outstanding value.

Here’s how it works:

Alaska has created three charts for different regions, each with award pricing based on distance:

  • Chart 1: Within the U.S. and Americas (Caribbean, Central America, South America)

  • Chart 2: Within Asia (and flights between the U.S. and Asia)

  • Chart 3: Within Europe, Africa, and the Middle East (and flights between the U.S. and these regions)

So let’s take a look at one of these bad boys:

A screenshot f the ew Alaska 2024 award chart

As you can see, domestic flights in the U.S. under 700 miles will only cost 4,500 miles, which is a screamin’ deal, as we say in the biz.

One important thing to note is that the pricing on ALL of the charts is based on whether or not there is Saver Award availability.

Much of the time, the prices will be higher than this… sadly.

Still, the fact that you could fly from Seattle to San Francisco for 4,500 miles is awesome.

Since Alaska allows you to book flights on American Airlines, you could also fly routes like Philadelphia to Atlanta (666 miles) for 4,500 Alaska miles one-way, which is less than what American charges for their own flights on the same route. 👇

An example of booking PHL-ATL for 6,500 AA miles

There are also plenty of sweet spots with the other award charts.

For example, let’s look at the Asia Pacific award chart, which includes travel between Asia and the Middle East.

An example of one of Alaska other award charts between Asia and the middle east

Since Alaska is partnered with OneWorld alliance airlines, this means we can book Qatar Airways BUSINESS class (a.k.a. Qsuites, theoretically) from Doha to Mumbai (1,425 miles in distance) for just 15,000 Alaska miles.

For reference, Qatar charges more than double that (if not even more) for the same exact flight.

An example of booking Qatar from Doha to Mumbai for 32,500 Avios

Overall, there are definitely going to be ways to use these new charts to our advantage when flying some world-class airlines around the world.

Global redemptions on partner airlines

One of the big drawbacks of Alaska’s loyalty program before now was the fact that you could only redeem miles on certain airlines for certain classes of service between certain regions…

It was confusing, limited, and about as fun as putting out a fire with your face (not fun, in case you were wondering).

Now, however, Alaska will start allowing more traditional partner redemptions with OneWorld airlines, and even some other non-alliance partners like these:

A screenshot o vaious logos for alaska airlines non-alliance partner airlines

Additionally, Alaska will begin allowing the mixing of multiple partner airlines on a single award, which was another major drawback of the program.

FYI, that last change I mentioned will not roll out until later in 2024, so don’t go trying to book complicated multi-carrier itineraries just yet…

Overall, I see these changes as a net positive.

Some of you might be upset that some of Alaska’s previous sweet spots (mainly between North America and Asia) will no longer exist.

However, I think the added partner availability, mixing of airlines, and more predictable global charts are more valuable than the handful of sweet spots we will lose.

Now if only there were a way to transfer points from our banks to Alaska Airlines… 🤔

🇬🇧 Virgin Atlantic is selling points with a 70% bonus

Virgin Atlantic is temping us with an up to 70% bonus on buying Virgin points.

They claim it’s their “best-ever promotion,” but is it really… 🤔

The first thing you should know is that this promo is tiered, meaning the more points you buy, the bigger your bonus will be:

  • Buying 5,000 to 24,000 points = 20% bonus

  • Buying 25,000 to 69,000 points = 30% bonus

  • Buying 70,000 to 124,000 points = 60% bonus

  • Buying 125,000 to 200,000 points = 70% bonus

It’s kind of a go big or go home situation.

A young boy wiggling his eyebrows and staring into the camera

That’s right. I said go big or go home, baby.

So yes, in order to trigger that 70% bonus, you’ll have to drop a few (thousand) pennies—and that is definitely worth noting 😬

Screenshot of purchasing 125,000 Virgin points with a 70% bonus

125,000 points unlocks the 70% bonus

Now purchasing upwards of 200k Virgin Atlantic points (with the bonus) is an absurd amount of points… unless you were trying to find award space for a half a dozen people, perhaps.

You’d most likely want to use this deal if you were looking to top up your account, or you found an amazing redemption to where buying points actually helped you come out AHEAD.

I also don’t usually recommend just buying points speculatively and having them rot in your account, so you’ll want to have a trip in mind that you’d use these for.

Here are some additional terms and conditions to be mindful of:

  • This promo is good through March 31st, 2024

  • The cap at buying 100k points a year for Flying Club members has been increased to 200k for this promo

  • All purchases will incur a $22 transaction fee

  • Before you can buy Virgin points, you must have made at least one Flying Club points-earning or spending transaction

This actually happened to me. Even as a travel-hacking pro, I’m a literal Virgin Atlantic virgin 🤭👇

Screenshot of buying points policy that details you need to earn or spend first

Not to fear, as I simply transferred over 1,000 MR points to my Virgin account, and this unlocked my ability to buy points 🙌

You can also use Virgin’s online shopping portal, Shops Away, to get some points into your account.

But keep in mind, those points may not show up for another 45 days… So plan ahead if you want to buy points in the future.

💡 Don’t forget! You can also still take advantage of a 30% transfer bonus from Thank You points to Virgin Atlantic right now.

WOW… It’s crazy to think that we’ve had a YouTube channel for over a year now…

So it’s only fitting that in this week’s video, Brendan is going to break down the deets of how much we’ve grown in one year, look back at some adventures, and tell you all of our dirty (YouTube) financial secrets.

That’s all for today, folks! I hope you are as excited about this Alaska update as I am…

It feels like Alaska is going to be another household program, at least as soon as one of the banks lets us transfer points there…

Anyway… thanks for tuning in as always, and I’ll see you tomorrow ❤️

Mike Dodge
Head Writer, Daily Drop

52°22'35.4"N 52°15'17.4"W

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