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Alaska Air - Do I use Miles or Miles + Money

Discussion in 'Vacation Travel Information' started by T_R_Oglodyte, Feb 5, 2019.

  1. T_R_Oglodyte

    T_R_Oglodyte TUG Lifetime Member

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    When using mileage awards at Alaska Airlines for flights that involve only Alaska Air metal, you have the choice of booking a flight using:
    • miles only (which still entails a residual charge for other fees - small domestically, much larger for international flights).
    • 10k miles per ticket + fees. This nominally results in a $100 credit toward air fare (but no more than 50% of base fare).
    • 20k miles per ticket + fees. This nominally results in a $200 credit toward air fare(but no more than 50% of base fare).
    The 10K and 20K miles show as $100 and $200 credits against the fare (provided that amount is greater than 50% of base fare), which means that points are being valued by Alaska at $0.01 per point). But since some fees are based on air fare, the fee charge also goes down as the number of points used increases, so the net value comes out slightly over $0.01 per point.

    ******

    I was just looking at these options for booking a one-way flight SEA-BOS. I want to arrive before 9 pm and no red-eye.

    I thought the comparison of the options might be interesting to others. This example also illustrates the advantages that come with being a frequent flyer, and why I am loyal to Alaska when I fly.

    Flight details.
    • "Main" fare (not "Saver" fare) = $229.
    • Miles + money = $121 + 10k miles.
    • Miles only = $6 + 20k miles.
    I'm selecting "Main" fare because that automatically qualifies me for Premium Class Upgrade, and puts me on the waitlist for first class upgrade.

    Other considerations:
    • I am MVP Gold on Alaska Air. So I get a 100% bonus on air miles and I get two pieces of free checked luggage for myself and everyone on my itinerary. I can cancel or change my flights anytime without cancellation charges or fees.
    • I book on Alaska Air using the Alaska Air Visa for booking flights, which posts 3 miles to my FF account for every dollar spent at Alaska Air.
    Attached is a screen snip showing the comparison of options.

    upload_2019-2-5_17-27-19.png

    For comparison. The same itinerary on Southwest is $266 using "Wanna Get Away". And that is an 8:30 flight duration (one connection) vs 5:30 duration (non-stop) on Alaska. If I wanted to go No Frills and forego upgrades, Alaska Airlines "Saver" fare is $199.

    The big competition on this route is not SWA but Delta. Delta's equivalent of Saver fare is $20 less, their equivalent of "Main" fare is less, and they are also non-stop. Alaska beats Delta on upgrade options. Interesting to see the playout. Delta is going after more of the mass market; Alaska is creating more value for FFs. SWA isn't competitive on this itinerary, even with their two bags free policy.
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2019
    slip likes this.
  2. Jimster

    Jimster TUG Member

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    Alaska and Delta used to be more or less partners. However, a couple of years ago Delta decided it wanted SeaTac and has discontinued the relationship with Alaska. Ever since then, Seatac has become one of the most competitive markets. So while your comparison is interesting, I think it is limited mainly to Seattle and Portland.
     
  3. T_R_Oglodyte

    T_R_Oglodyte TUG Lifetime Member

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    Yeah - Delta and Alaska used to be real buddy-buddy. The western US was a hole in Delta's route map, so much of their West Coast operations were actually codeshares done with Alaska metal. So if you bought a ticket on Delta to fly from Seattle to Los Angeles, you were actually flying on Alaska.

    After digesting Northwest, Delta wanted to fill that hole. So they tried to merge with Alaska, but Alaska wasn't interested. And since Alaska was much more profitable than Delta, they couldn't do a hostile takeover. (IIRC. Alaska was about one-tenth the size of Delta. but Alaska's market capitalization was about one-third of Delta's).

    At that point Delta said, "This means war", and Alaska said "Bring it on."

    *********

    BTW - In my 20 years of experience flying out of SeaTac, even before Delta entered the picture, Alaska routinely beat Southwest on fares and convenience. I stopped checking SWA routinely, because they were almost never cheaper. With Delta moving in, the difference has gotten bigger. The times I've checked, Alaska's Saver Fare beats Southwest's WannaGetAway by a significant amount.
     
  4. DeniseM

    DeniseM Moderator

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    Steve - How about your trips to Hawaii? Do you still fly Alaska Air? What class do you book? Miles, or Miles +money?
     
  5. T_R_Oglodyte

    T_R_Oglodyte TUG Lifetime Member

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    Always Alaska. Most of the time we burn one of our Companion Fares on Hawaii travel. Occasionally I use Miles + Money, especially if I see a good price on First Class seating.

    Never Miles only. Getting miles credited to accounts for Hawaii travel is worth somewhere between $150 and $200, depending on what bonuses apply to the flight. Plus the Hawaii flights, along with our annual trips to Mexico, move me a good part of the way to maintaining my MVP Gold status.

    This year we're traveling in August on peak days (Saturday, no red eye). The base RT fare is close to $1000 per ticket (Y class). With the companion fare, the air mile bonuses and the credit card bonuses, our net cost comes down to about $450 per ticket for Premium Class seating (free upgrade for both of us because I'm MVP Gold).

    I also check to see if I can score a fare that I can use to burn MVP Gold upgrades to First Class. When that pops up, I can land First Class seating using a Companion Fare ticket. I wind up with one first class ticket that's typically 2/3 of a first class fare, plus a second first class ticket at the $99 + fees companion fare charge.
     
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  6. DeniseM

    DeniseM Moderator

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    Thank you! What is the best strategy for someone with the AlaskaAir credit card, and plenty of miles, but no status? DH is tall so we need at least Premium Class.
     
  7. rickandcindy23

    rickandcindy23 TUG Review Crew: Expert TUG Member

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    Flying in and out of Oakland has been our best price for 1st class on Alaska. I love Alaska, but they sure spoiled us for Hawaii with that companion pass back when. We used to get a second ticket pretty inexpensively.

    Since Alaska is our favorite, and their seats are inexpensive for first (as long as you buy within a few weeks of the schedule opening up), we just book with Chase points through the UR portal. And because we book first class, and it's like we booked Expedia cash sale through Chase, we get the bonus miles for booking first class.

    A seat that costs $900 RT is only 60K miles through the portal of the Chase Sapphire Reserve. It's equivalent of a cash outlay, so we get points for our seats. Those points add up fast in First Class. Our SEA-OGG earned us 4,600 miles in September.

    When we book our award flights with these awarded miles, which we consider to be free because we booked the seats with Chase points, we book DEN-OGG for 80K each way to give us the best bang for the points. I rarely see seats for 40K anymore, not even out of PDX, SEA or OAK. They are usually 80K. That is a terrible use of miles. Using the 80K out of Denver saves us about $1,100 for the one-stop flight, usually Seattle is the stop, and I love Seattle's airport and Board Room.

    Alaska is better than United, by far, for service and seat comfort, and I love the digital players, too. The last United flight we had no working outlets in first class, so my electronics were only good for listening to my audible book, which was fine. My tablet will no longer stream a movie without being plugged in. Rick asked me how I could read a book while listening to a book. I cannot. I just like to fall asleep listening to the drone of an audible book. :)
     
  8. T_R_Oglodyte

    T_R_Oglodyte TUG Lifetime Member

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    I think your best options would be:

    1. use Miles + Money to book a Premium class ticket. Be sure to check whether it's cheaper to just book Premium Class directly or to book a regular fare, and then select the mileage upgrade option. Note that unless the fare exceeds $400, you should not accept any offers that involve redeeming 20k miles since the ticket discount can't exceed 50% of the ticket cost.

    2. Use your companion fare certificate to book Premium Class. It works the same as with Miles + money described above.

    If you've got miles to burn, #1 is probably the best option.

    ********

    When using Miles + Money, always look first at what the options are for a direct booking, and identify the flight options that you are interested in, considering price, flight times and number of connections. Only do Miles + Money after you've first checked a straight booking. There are two reasons.

    1. you will be able to tell how much money you are saving using miles. Divide the saving by the miles required, and you know what value is being placed on the miles. It should be close to $0.01 per mile.
    2. when you plug in Miles + Money as an option, you don't get a screen where you pick outbound and return flights individually. Instead Alaska responds with various packages that you can select from, with different itineraries and 10k and 20k redemption options. But those packages don't always provide all combinations of outbound and return flights. By checking first, you will know if there is a routing that you prefer that isn't being offered. If you see that, you can usually get the itinerary by booking it as two one-way flights. When redeeming miles + money on a one-way flight, I've never not been offered all of the available options.
    Sometimes when using Miles + Money, Alaska might offer the itinerary you want, but won't offer a 20k mileage redemption option even though the fare exceeds $400. The solution in that case again is to book as two one-way flights using Miles + Money, taking the 10k mile option each way.

    Also, if the ticket cost exceeds $400 for both outbound and return, you can book each leg of the flight individually, using the 20K option for each leg. That way you can create a 40K Miles + Money option for the trip.

    ********

    Also check your options using Miles only; you may get offered a routing on American that will have a very low miles cost for upgraded seating. Example: I was recently looking into an option for DW to fly from Quebec City to Seattle. That's not a route that Alaska serves directly, so the only way it appears is by Miles Only, flying on partner airlines. Alaska responded with a 25k mile charge on AA metal, with regional jet from Quebec City to Philadelphia and first class from PHI to SEA. I think the cheapest miles only option on Alaska SEA-PHI is a coach class miles only saver option for 20k miles

    When doing bookings to Hawaii I do occasionally check the miles only option, and sometimes I do see Hawaii itineraries on AA metal. From SEA we would need to connect somewhere in California (usually SFO). Since you're in California already it might come up for you as a direct flight.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
  9. T_R_Oglodyte

    T_R_Oglodyte TUG Lifetime Member

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    BTW - we have three Alaska air VISA cards, primarily for the companion fare certificates. We typically burn one going to Mexico, one going to Hawaii, and one on a visit to see children. We spend $75 on an annual card fee for each card and usually net between $200 and $1000 in savings per card.
     
  10. T_R_Oglodyte

    T_R_Oglodyte TUG Lifetime Member

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    Cindy - have you looked into booking a mileage upgrade using your companion fare code? On the opening screen, select "Mileage" for upgrade type, and enter your companion fare code in the block.

    upload_2019-2-10_11-57-55.png


    When you click to search you will see upgrade options. You want to be sure the flight has white "F" inside a blue box; that means it is available for first class upgrade.

    upload_2019-2-10_12-5-25.png

    Then proceed to book. At the end of booking you should then have the option to upgrade to first class using miles.
     
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  11. MULTIZ321

    MULTIZ321 TUG Member

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    Hi Steve.

    How are you able to transfer those screen shots into a Tug post?

    Thanks.

    Richard
     
  12. DeniseM

    DeniseM Moderator

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    When you take a screen shot, it creates a file on your device - just like a picture.

    Click reply or start a new thread on TUG

    Click Upload a File

    Click Choose file

    Select the screen shot from your device

    Click Full Image

    Click Post Reply

    Screen Shot 2019-02-10 at 12.48.20 PM.png
     
  13. MULTIZ321

    MULTIZ321 TUG Member

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    Hi Denise,

    Thank you so much - very helpful information.


    Best Regards

    Richard
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
  14. T_R_Oglodyte

    T_R_Oglodyte TUG Lifetime Member

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    Very simple, I grab the portion of the screen I want using the Windows Snipping Tool, then just click Ctl-V inside the message to paste the grab. In the above examples, I did some markup with the snipping tool pen after snipping and before pasting.

    Simpler than Denise's method. To illustrate, below is two steps: 1) snip. 2) paste.

    upload_2019-2-10_13-15-15.png

    I use the Snipping Tool so often I have it pinned to the Quick Access toolbar on the bottom of my screen.
     
  15. DeniseM

    DeniseM Moderator

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    I'm on a Mac, so it's a little different, but the same results.
     
  16. MULTIZ321

    MULTIZ321 TUG Member

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    Thanks Steve for the update with another method.
    I'll have to explore the Snipping Tool - I haven't used it

    I love the idea of having it pinned to the Quick Access Toolbar. Sound very handy.


    Best Regards,
    Richard
     
  17. T_R_Oglodyte

    T_R_Oglodyte TUG Lifetime Member

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    If you're using Windows 10, just type "Snipping Tool" in the search window.

    I use it a lot when I'm working in Excel and I'm linking information on one worksheet to data on another sheet. I then take a snip of the source worksheet, and put that on one monitor, while I work on the target in my other monitor. Much easier than clicking back and forth between worksheets when all I need is a cell reference.

    I also use it quite often to send screen grabs to clients in emails.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2019
  18. rickandcindy23

    rickandcindy23 TUG Review Crew: Expert TUG Member

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    Thank you, Steve. I had no idea about the instant upgrade. I will check that out. I need to book airfare in about two months. I appreciate the advice.
     
  19. T_R_Oglodyte

    T_R_Oglodyte TUG Lifetime Member

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    Glad to help Cindy. Just be aware that the number of FC upgrade seats is limited. I almost never see them on heavy travel dates, such as weekends. So think about traveling mid-week, and booking early.

    Premium class upgrades, though are much easier to score.
     

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