A Dirt Cheap Way to Fly Alaska Airlines First Class (Anywhere They Go!)

Yesterday I mentioned an incredible deal, you can fly Alaska Airlines first class anywhere that carrier flies for about $329 plus taxes.

This is not an error or a glitch.

It’s a function of:

  • Icelandair is a partner of Alaska Airlines. Their award chart for using miles on Alaska is extremely favorable: 20,000 miles roundtrip in coach, 30,000 miles roundtrip in first class. I do not know why it is so favorable, considering redeeming for flights on Icelandair can be extremely costly.
  • The Icelandic Krona isn’t worth much these days. So you can buy Icelandair Saga Club miles quite inexpensively. US$328 buys you 25,000 miles.
  • There’s a 20% bonus on purchased miles running through September 28th. That means those 25,000 purchased miles actually get you 30,000 miles, enough for a roundtrip ticket in first class on Alaska Airlines.
  • It’s one price for the entire Alaska route network, such as Chicago to Seattle to Hawaii and back for that same 30,000 miles.

Online Travel Review, which I cited yesterday as having first publicized the opportunity, posted a followup today.

He points out you can get the cost down even further using the ‘transfer miles’ option:

[T]hey only charge 3,000 ISK ($25) to transfer miles to someone.

So, if you buy 50,000 miles it will cost you $525. If you then go and transfer those miles to someone, they will have 60,000 miles (because of the 20% bonus). Those 60,000 miles, then, will cost you a total of $550. That means you are either getting 2 first class flights on Alaska for $275 each roundtrip, or 3 coach flights for $183 each roundtrip.

Of course when you buy or transfer these points, or do anything in a foreign currency, be sure to use a credit card that adds no foreign currency transaction fee (or else you are hit with an extra 3% in fees).

This deal is round trip not one-way as some folks seemed to think, Icelandair does not have a one-way redeption option on partner airlines.

Some people were told there is a 10 day waiting period for new accounts to be able to redeem miles. That’s apparently been waived.

Others have had a hard time opening new accounts, the website is having some troubles so just keep at it.

Of course the biggest ‘risk’ if you can call it that is that the flights you want on Alaska Airlines will not be available. But it does seem that Icelandair has the same access to reward seats on Alaska as Alaska’s own Mileage Plan members.

In my experience flights from Boston, Newark, and Washington DC to Seattle are tough to get in first class. Chicago and St. Louis are easier. So are the Texas flights, Denver, and anything to the West. Getting to Hawaii isn’t too tough though you want to make sure seats are available if that’s your goal, and remember that Alaska serves Kona, Lihue, Maui, and Honolulu. And of course Mexico as well. Here’s the Alaska Airlines route map.

Change fees are roughly US$80. There are no cancellation options to refund your points, however.

Mommy Points shares her story of booking first class award tickets to Hawaii with this deal.

There’s always the chance that a given flight option doesn’t work out, that an overnight connection forces the award to price double, or that Icelandair changes the rules (e.g. that they stop allowing redemptions to cities where they do not codeshare). All speculative.

So what I would do is Icelandair Saga Club, find the award seats on Alaska Airlines that you want, ring up Iceland Air at 1-800-223-5500, and have them verify availability and cost of the award. Then buy the points you want, and redeem for the tickets.

I wouldn’t bank Icelandair miles for the future. This isn’t a glitch or mistake, but it’s too good of a value to last. At some point the opportunity will go away. Icelandair does permit purchasing up to 100,000 miles per account each year. I would only buy right in advance of redemption, personally…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This looks decent and thanks for posting it. Very blogworthy.

    Im almost inclined to dive in for my family of four since ill soon not be able to earn as miles through other means (due to another blog thread which ive argued should not be on here) but whats interesting is that ive found one can use as miles to fly on iceland and get pretty decent redemption when flying say bos-ams thru iceland @ 55k pp for next may for example. Most carriers want 90k pp for that. So what im now wondering is: can i buy iceland miles, get the bonus, transfer them to as, and use those to book an iceland award? Dont see why not but am curious of others’ thoughts

  2. @Marathon Man – I’m pretty sure you know quite well that you cannot just buy Icelandair miles and move those miles over to an Alaska Airlines frequent flyer account.

    The Icelandair deal is great for redemptions on Alaska. If you do enough points transfers in a chain you should be able to get the cost down to where it is not CRAZY for redemptions with category 7 Hilton HHonors properties. Or where it is not CRAZY for redemtpion on Icelandair. But not amazing even then no matter the contortions you go through. Even if you get the cost per point down to half a cent it’s still not worth buying IMHO for Icelandair or Hilton redemptions.

  3. I was just told that my trip is not being honored. It was SEA to PVR. They said because it was such a new program, they were not all familiar with it, and that only DOMESTIC flights were available.

  4. It’s interesting because the description a few lines above Continental US says “Saga Club members can redeem their Saga Points with Alaska Airlines. Why not fly to Hawai, Las Vegas or Los Angeles for only 20.000 Saga Points for a round trip travel? ”

    Unless Hawai is a town somewhere in the US and isn’t Hawaii…

  5. Considering the publicity and the good deal, anybody want to speculate whether these miles will actually be useable? I guess if you can nail down some plans now, you could check availability. I’m worried that availability will become like Delta’s, blocked out for months on end.

  6. Any good deals on flights from the West coast airports to anywhere on the Alaska network using these Saga miles (SFO, SJC, OAK, LAX, BUR, LGB, SNA, ONT, SAN)?

    Any good use of these miles on other Iceland partners within Europe, and to Asia from Europe for example (not on the Alaska network obviously)?

  7. This morning, I was able to secure 2 1st class tickets from SJC to LIH for November 6th-14th. I live in SEA so it wasn’t my 1st choice, but I had enough existing Alaska Airlines frequent flier miles to get nearly free tickets to SJC. For anyone on the west coast trying to fly to Hawaii-or at least to Kauai, flying from SJC seems to be the best bet. I spent $667 in total on the points-because I did 2 transactions instead of 1-my mistake-I could have spent less-had wanted to transfer points from my husband’s account to mine, and take advantage of the transfer bonus, but it took 24 hours for my initial 50K miles to post, so I did not want to run the risk of the seats being gone by the time a transfer went through. My second purchase of 10K miles posted instantly-while I was on the phone with Iceland Air. Apparently there will also be fees of about $64 per ticket that Iceland Air charges. All in all though, a great deal, with less than $800 spent on 2 1st class roundtrip tickets to Hawaii.

  8. This is now useless from DCA. Everything in awards(first and coach)for the next 4 months is no longer available. Unless Alaska opens up more reward seats to Iceland Air then this is a big waste of time.

  9. Deal Dead 🙁 Icelandair got crushed with calls and emails once the strategy was leaked. Tried to book but was told Alaska is no longer honoring the agreement based on mileage award difference. Good by beach….hello snow shovel 🙁

  10. Award Miles Refund due to schedule change???

    Hi Gary:

    Months ago I booked a trip from SMF to PHL thought Iceland Air on AS metal using your advice on here, thank you. But, AS changed the return connection flight hours ahead of the original schedule.

    I was ‘originally’ set to return:

    Depart PHL at 5:55pm, arrive SEA at 9:00pm.
    –overnight connection–
    Depart SEA at 10:30am, arrive SMF at 12:13pm.

    My new schedule per an email I received has my return portion of the trip leaving SEA at 6:40am (3 hours 50 minutes earlier than planned on my overnight layover.) I had plans to leave the airport for the night and visit friends a few hours from SEA, but this is no longer possible with the forced schedule change. ***Do I have any rights to cancel and get my award miles back for this schedule change?*** I’ve looked but cannot seem to find an answer to this specific question, Iceland Air is closed today, and my trip begins this Tuesday. Looking for some advice if you know of any. I’d simply like to cancel the trip and get my miles back if possible.

    Anyhow, even if you don’t get back to this, thanks for your awesome blog. It’s massively helpful and fun to read.

  11. You shouldn’t have difficulty getting Icelandair to refund your miles / cancel the ticket. But you’ll have Icelandair miles — which no longer will be redeemable for Alaska Airlines trips.

  12. Awesome, thanks. I hope so. I tried to cancel the ticket earlier this year before the schedule changes occurred and Iceland Air told me the points could not be put back into my account. (They didn’t even offer me a fee option to re-credit my account balance.) I’m hoping now that there was a change on their end that they’ll be forced to refund me. Fingers crossed. Thanks!

  13. Does anyone know if this is still a valid way to purchase points to get first class seats on Alaskan airlines now. July 10 2014. Or is there some other deal that I can look at.

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