Alaska Airlines Emirates Awards Update

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Alaska Airlines jacked up the number of miles required for business and first class Emirates awards by up to 100% yesterday (read more here) without any prior notification to its members.

Alaska Airlines MileagePlan Emirates Awards Update

Alaska Airlines has been actively selling MileagePlan miles that many members have then in turn used for awards on can you guess which airline? Emirates!

You can access Alaska’s blog post about these changes here.

Here’s what Alaska posted:

Today Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan made a small but significant change to award levels for Emirates Business Class and First Class. Award levels for Economy Class are not changing.

“Our goal has always been to offer our customers the best loyalty program in the industry. It is a priority to ensure Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members retain access to first and business class on Emirates. Today we made a necessary change that caught many of our members by surprise,” said Ryan Butz, Alaska’s managing director of loyalty marketing. “We apologize to the customers who may have been surprised by today’s update, which we were unable to communicate in advance.”

Why is Mileage Plan making this change?

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.

What if I purchased miles intending to book Emirates Business or First Class before I had a chance to book at the previous award level?

If you purchased miles on or after March 1, 2016, you can contact our Customer Care team for a refund.

Why didn’t Mileage Plan give advance notice? How can I expect other awards to not change suddenly?

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.

I’ve been saving my miles for this award. What am I supposed to do?

You’ll continue to have access to awards in premium cabins on our other partners with coverage to most of the same destinations. Future changes, if any, to these award levels will be given with advance notice.

Conclusion

Alaska Airlines has been actively selling miles (one sale just ended) that many members in turn used for various partner awards including those on Emirates.

Alaska Airlines claims that “travel-hacking” is the reason behind this change. The airline could have instituted stricter control what routings are allowed on these awards and also implemented MPM base restrictions.

The airline claims that their “policy is to communicate significant program changes with at least 30 days’ notice” and then that “given the dynamics of this particular award, we were unable to announce changes in advance”.

It is really unfortunate that airlines are now doing these changes unannounced.

Delta is tinkering constantly with the number of miles required for various awards without any prior notification (they don’t publish award charts anymore).

American Airlines discontinued Oneworld awards (I issued two over the years) overnight without any notice as well as ended stopovers at gateway cities on international awards.

It is so fun to sell miles to partners such as credit cards and Points.com, but then it is so difficult when people actually use them on desirable partner awards. Airlines cannot have it both ways.

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