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Yesterday I reported on the news that Alaska Airlines had increased their prices for first and business class awards on Emirates

Thankfully at least in my case we just got back from an Emirates flight from Singapore to Dubai to New York.

Carolyn on Emirates First Class

Carolyn on Emirates First Class

(SEE: Help! I’m “stuck” in Emirates First class on ONLY a 777!!!)

Here’s the new award charts


Who’s to blame?

hackers-memeAlaska got pretty hammered on social media for this devaluation, and late yesterday put out a press release on their blog.  The whole thing is worth an interesting read, Here’s one snippet that I found particularly interesting

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

Yes it’s the “travel hackers” that “exploited” the award routing rules. This drives me bonkers.  It’s the same thing that I ran into when I was doing “extreme couponing” 10 or so years ago.  It always amazed me that companies would give things away (either literally or metaphorically) and then act surprised and outraged when people wanted to take advantage of it.

It happens with a 49 cent can of green beans, so how much more is it going to happen on $28,000 first class flights?

I didn’t make the award chart, I didn’t make the rules that let you sign up for multiple Alaska Airlines credit cards, nor am I the one holding a gun to Alaska’s head and making them sell miles with huge bonuses.

What about the no-notice?

I understand the concepts of airlines periodically devaluing their charts.  It is going to happen and it’s just part of life. When American Airlines announced their devaluation, they gave people advance notice of the date things would be changing (March 22), which allowed people to book tickets with their existing mile balances.

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.

Which is a nice way of saying nothing really.  My suspicion was that it was something along the lines of:

  • Emirates basically told them they had to
  • The cost to Alaska became cost-prohibitive
  • Alaska doesn’t care about the types of frequent fliers / travelers that were using their miles to travel on Alaska

Probably some combination of the 3.

It just goes to show you that earning miles is a short-term game.  Earn em and burn em.  It’s also the reason the first piece of advice I give to people starting out is to Begin with the end in mind: a beginner’s primer to miles and points.  If you keep a big stash of miles around, you’re just asking for something like this

Readers: Did you get burned by a large stash of Alaska miles you were saving up?

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