A bitter day for Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members who liked to take advantage of the programs generous routing/stopover rules within Asia as effective immediately those are no longer available.
Coincidentally last week I wrote on a related matter that Alaska probably can’t keep being that generous anymore in light of the competition pulling the screws tighter at every opportunity. Little did I know it would only take a couple of days until these words unfortunately ring true.
You can see the changes at first when accessing Alaska’s Award Chart for Asia-Asia redemptions:
(7) Cathay Pacific, Hainan, Singapore, Korean and Japan Airlines award flights must be booked at least 72 hours before the departure time. …
(10) Stopovers are not available on Intra- Asia award redemptions.
The problem is that “Asia” is a huge zone with Mileage Plan (pretty much all of Asia) and that doesn’t allow for circumventing the rules by booking bordering regions anymore.
How did the loophole look like in practice? Here is an example:
This was essentially a booking from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur – via Tokyo and including a stopover of several days. At 25,000 miles in Business Class. This has been available for years and I certainly used it many times to my advantage.
It is still possible to add stopover on multi region itineraries though so in that respect Alaska remains a great choice to earn and redeem mileage for the time being (especially on Japan Airlines & Cathay Pacific).
However: Longer transfers (stops under 24 hours) are still permitted:
I was planning to book a trip with stopover from Korea via Japan to Thailand for next week but that option has now disappeared. Maybe as a final hooray for my Alaska Airlines balance I’ll treat myself with a long haul flight in Japan Airlines First Class for my birthday in a few months.
It was inevitable that Alaska has to curtail these redemptions sooner or later. The program has to pay the operating carrier and these trips were likely very expensive for Mileage Plan. In addition they have also become quite popular and well documented in frequent flyer circles. Has this change been made with advance notice then I bet many (myself included) would have gone and booked quite a few more tickets using the stopover loophole.
It’s another lucrative door closed but that’s simply name of the game when it comes to using miles. I can’t count anymore how many great opportunities have come and gone over the years. Instead of sulking over it I’m just happy that I was able to enjoy so many nice trips before using these loopholes that after all existed because the program provided the rulework.