Uh Oh: Alaska Mileage Plan Partner Reward Changes

Alaska Airlines has released an update to its Mileage Plan Rewards Chart Page. Although details are limited, I can’t imagine this will be good news.

Alaska Airlines changes partner rewards

Here is the full update posted on the Alaska Airlines website:

Good news for 2022! Cathay Pacific awards will be bookable on alaskaair.com in October and LATAM awards will be available before the end of 2022.

Starting in late December, the way you view reward charts online is changing. We’ll have a simplified rewards chart to show you where reward tiers start based on the regions you’re traveling from and to. With this change, similar to rewards in Alaska, partner reward levels may vary based on multiple factors including route, distance, or demand. You’ll continue to get great value for your miles. As always, the best way to see prices and availability for the routes you’re interested in is to to search for your specific travel dates and destinations.

To recap:

  • Before the end of the year, it will be possible to book Cathay Pacific and LATAM rewards on the Alaska Airlines website
  • Starting in late December 2022, Alaska will have a simplified rewards chart where starting reward levels are displayed based on the region of departure and arrival.
  • Similar to how Mileage Plan has dynamic reward pricing in Alaska, there will also be more factors that impact partner reward levels, including route, distance and demand.
Alaska Mileage Plan Makes Changes to Partner Rewards

My Take on This Disturbing Alaska Mileage Plan Announcement

Despite this announcement beginning with “good news,” I think it’s safe to say that, overall, this development won’t be good news. Sure, the Cathay Pacific and LATAM awards coming to the Alaska website are good news, but that’s about it.

Beyond that, it’s unclear how serious these changes will be. We’re told to expect a “simplified rewards table” and dynamic reward pricing. Some thoughts on these points:

  • In the past, Alaska Airlines has promised to try to provide 90 days notice for any devaluation of the rewards chart, and these changes happen at the end of December, which is… 90 days from now.
  • Alaska Airlines certainly has a funny way of communicating changes in advance; yes the airline provides notice but we are not told exactly what changes
  • Since Alaska Airlines joined oneworld, the airline has promised a new unified partner rewards chart, although we were led to believe this would be in addition to the remaining individual partner rewards charts; anyone can guess if this is always the plan, or if there will only be one reward chart
  • While Alaska Airlines suggests that the rewards pricing will be more dynamic, in reality this is already somewhat the case, in the sense that Alaska these days has “standard” rewards on many partners, for situations where there is no economy tier award availability (e.g. transatlantic Aer Lingus business class awards can cost between 60,000 and 280,000 miles one way)
Alaska is changing partner reward costs, but we don’t know how

There are some amazing uses for Alaska Mileage Plan miles, especially for travel on airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Fiji Airways, Japan Airlines, and more. What are my expectations of these changes?

  • I suspect these changes will be negative, but I don’t think they will be catastrophically bad.
  • The important thing to keep in mind is that with Partner Rewards redemption rates being what they are, Alaska doesn’t have much incentive to dramatically increase Partner Rewards costs, especially if it keeps members engaged in the program.
  • Personally, I expect the “dynamic” aspect of reward pricing to come more in the form of different prices for different distance rewards in the same region; for example, maybe a premium from New York to London will have a different price than a premium from Los Angeles to London

So yeah, I don’t really know what to make of these changes. We know they are coming, but we don’t know much more than that.

Hope the best prices are not too devalued

At the end of the line

Alaska Mileage Plan will be making changes to partner rewards beginning in late 2022. We received about three months’ notice, but we’re not sure what we were told.

On the plus side, Cathay Pacific and LATAM rewards will be bookable online in the coming months, which is good news. We’re also told to expect a simplified attribution table and more variability in partner attribution costs. It remains to be seen how this actually happens.

What do you think of these upcoming changes to Alaska’s mileage plan?

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