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It feels like I’m writing this type of post on an all-too-frequent basis, where yet another “loyalty” program kicks its customers when they’re down by reducing the value of their miles and points overnight, with no notice. Just last week, I talked about Marriott changing a form of points redemption with no notice (though that was at least a little mixture of bad and good news). Maybe I should come up with a template that I can just bring out and recycle when this inevitably happens (again).
Devaluations are just a part of life in the miles and points world. Nobody LIKES them, but I think most people are at least resigned to know that they’re going to happen. It’s one reason that it’s not a great idea to hoard your miles and points. Generally speaking, your miles are never going to worth as much as they are right now. Earn em and burn em baby!
Background of Alaska’s “award chart”
Alaska’s old award chart was actually a series of different award charts. When you chose your origin and destination zones, you would be greeted with a series of different award charts, one for each partner (and Alaska themselves, if they flew the route). A couple of months ago, Alaska announced their new “award chart”, which basically said that just about every flight had a mileage cost “starting at” a certain level.
(SEE ALSO: Alaska Airlines unveils new award chart – it’s…. not great)
I said at the time that “when you say that the cost is “starting at” a certain cost, we all know that is fake. It’s like car commercials that say that the MSRP is “starting at” $39,999. Oh, did you want actual seats and more than 1st gear? That’s extra…. ”
At the time, there weren’t any devaluations noticed, but I guess it only took a few months.
Alaska devalues business and first class flights to Japan
Using Alaska miles to fly Japan Airlines to Japan has long been a sweet spot of the Alaska award chart. I used Alaska miles to fly first class from Chicago to Tokyo several years ago as part of our first class trip around the world.
(SEE ALSO: JAL first class review ORD NRT)
Previously, you could book business class on JAL between anywhere in the US and Japan for 60,000 Alaska miles in business class and 70,000 miles in first class.
Overnight, that has changed to 80,000 miles for business class and 100,000 miles one way in first class.
I have seen reports that flights from the West Coast (San Francisco) are still pricing at 60,000 in business class, but I didn’t personally see any seats at that price.
What next – are Alaska miles worthless now?
So while I at least have accepted the fact that companies are going to devalue their miles and take away their sweet spot redemptions, what galls me the most is when companies change their program with no notice to customers. I get that companies can do whatever they want, but it is a “loyalty” program – people spend months and years of their lives collecting these miles and points, so it’s a bit irritating when we get the rug pulled out from under us.
As I said back in January when the dynamic award chart was first announced – “So what’s next for redeeming miles on Alaska? No real need to make drastic changes right now, but if you’re sitting on a ton of Alaska miles, you might look at ways that you can spend that balance down a bit. Personally, I have about 200K miles and I am not planning on setting them on fire or booking speculative trips right now, but I will keep my eye open for how I can use those miles.”
Time to start being aggressive about finding good ways to spend down any Alaska MileagePlan balance that you have.
The Bottom Line
Alaska Airlines has raised the cost of a variety of different JAL partner awards by 30-40% overnight, with no notice. While this may not be a particularly SURPRISING move, it is nonetheless irritating. And it is yet another example of the idea that your miles and points will never be worth more than they are right now – so you should make sure to spend them!
What do you think of this Alaska Airlines devaluation? Leave your thoughts in the comments below
H/T Frequent Miler
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Not surprising. Also anytime an airline joins one of the three major groups, Star Alliance, One World or Skyteam, their award charts go shooting upwards. This is in addition to their constantly changing, non-chart award flights that they raise every year.
Right. Not surprising but still annoying
Not surprised but Alaska needs to do better at allot of things. One is customer service in loyalty.
As someone who has to share their miles with the other card holders on the account. This really screws us over. Also, the companion fare is pointless. Alaska Airlines prices are so much higher than most other airlines. When you go to book directly, it’s cheaper to just not use the companion fare and go with someone else.
Yes – generally I have found most cards’ companion fares to be worthless, because it’s just generally cheaper to either use miles or book with other (cheaper) airlines.
Incorrect. The companion fare is still a sweetheart of a deal on many routes, including my home market. Delta and American don’t come close to the regular fare, to say nothing of the companion fare.
I’m glad you’re able to get value out of it.