By putting its miles on sale for as low as 1.72 cents per mile, Alaska Air is presenting its best-ever opportunity to purchase miles. And while stockpiling airline miles may not be top of mind these days, those looking to travel in late 2020 and beyond may want to consider this new promotion from Alaska Mileage Plan.
All airlines offer the option to purchase points in their mileage programs, but they’re typically sold way above market value. So we typically don’t recommend buying them. And considering how airlines are faring in today’s COVID-19 world, buying miles feels like taking an even greater risk. Nevertheless, Alaska Airlines’ mileage purchase promo with a 60% bonus may be an opportunity too good to resist. Considering the airlines’ strong backing and prolific airline partners, this presents an excellent deal for those willing to invest in the airline’s mileage program.
Here’s the scoop on this offer and why you should—or shouldn’t—take advantage of this historic mileage sale.
What is Alaska Mileage Plan’s historic mileage sale?
From now until Sunday, May 31, 2020, Alaska Airlines is granting a deep discount on Alaska miles, reducing the price from 2.96 cents per mile to as low as 1.72 cents per mile.
Through this promotion, Alaska Mileage Plan members can buy Alaska miles for a fraction of the regular price directly from its “Buy Miles” tab, navigable from the Alaska Air homepage. If purchasing anywhere between 10,000 and 100,000 miles, you’ll earn bonus miles with every purchase. However, to get the maximum value of this promotion of a 60% bonus, you’ll need to buy between 40,000 and 100,000 miles (and be part of a majority targeted for this promo). Lower mileage purchases lend to lower bonuses. For example, buy 10,000-19,000 miles, you’ll get a 20% bonus; buy 20,000-39,000 miles, get a 40% bonus.
How big is this Alaska Mileage Plan promotion?
A 60% bonus is the largest in the program’s history! A 50% bonus is the largest we saw in 2018 and in 2019 but we’ve never seen 60%
Is it wise to purchase Alaska Mileage Plan miles with this promotion?
In short, if you are maximizing the promo with a 60% bonus and if it makes financial sense for a future flight, then yes. But that will require a bit of homework on your part.
In general, mileage purchases are most valuable if seeking to fly long haul in first- or business-class on one of Alaska’s many premium partners like Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Fiji Airways, Hainan Airlines, Japan Airlines, Korean Air, LATAM Airlines and Singapore Airlines. Often in these cases, purchasing points and redeeming a points ticket can get you that business- or first-class seat for far less than retail price. If the math works out for one of these tickets, then YES.
However, if looking to score a business- or first-class seat on Alaska Airlines, don’t bother purchasing miles. Alaska’s redemption rates for its own premium seats are insane and far higher than its premium partners (ironic, right?). Also, if you tend to travel domestically or in economy class, it is almost always cheaper to just buy a regular ticket than to purchase Alaska miles for an award ticket. So here, it’s a firm NO.
It’s also important to note that Alaska Mileage Plan previously did not have a cap on the number of miles that can be purchased annually. However, most likely because today’s consumers are more informed from travel blogs like ours alerting them to the great deals that come from some of these mileage sales, we’re seeing this cap. In late February 2019, Alaska introduced a mileage cap of 150,000 purchased miles per calendar year for Alaska Mileage Plan members without elite status. Those with elite status on Alaska are still privy to an unlimited number of miles per year that can be purchased. Considering this bonus is a historic 60%, if you are looking to stockpile some points, now would be the time to do so.
What is an example of a smart use of this promo?
Alaska Mileage Plan members can purchase 100,000 Alaska miles at one time with this promotion and get 60,000 bonus miles. The total for these 160,000 Alaska miles is $2,750 which breaks down to $2,750 for the mileage purchase and nothing for federal excise tax (which is typically charged but not now during COVID-19). In total, this amounts to 1.72 cents per mile.
As an example, let’s look at taking a round-trip, business class flight between Boston and Hong Kong flying Cathay Pacific from December 2 to December 15, 2020.
The cheapest business-class flight direct between Boston and HKG return will cost you at least $7,234. On Alaska Air, this round-trip ticket prices out at 100,000 points. Buying 65,000 Alaska Air miles with the 60% promo yields 104,000 miles and would cost $1,787.50. Compare $7,234 to $1787.50. That’s a discount in excess of 75%!
You can maximize this deal even further with Alaska Air’s generous free stopover policy. It costs 50,000 Alaska Mileage Plan points from anywhere in the contiguous United States not just to Hong Kong but to anywhere in Asia that Cathay Pacific flies. So, if you decide to do a mileage ticket to, say, Thailand, you can do a free stopover in Hong Kong. But—and it’s a big but—you need to make sure there is award availability on the dates you want to stopover and actually fly. Airlines can be stingy with award space, so we recommend searching for award space via Alaska Air’s website (or on partner airline American Airline’s website, which has been views of Cathay Pacific availability), or simply calling directly to make sure there is award space on your desired dates.
It sounds like a lot of homework and these are definitely uncertain times, but think long-term and the savings may well be worth it!