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. With the bonus being available on inital purchase and then again on transferring…to get two first classs tickets to hawaii–how many points do i buy initially(and what does it cost)?–how many will i get after the bonus?–then how many do i transfer?–and how many will i get after the second bonus? The math is hard to follow

  2. To fly anywhere on AS out of ATL you have to connect through SEA. I can find zero saver First Class space between sep and mid year 2013.

  3. Gary, being this is not how Icelandair INTENDED the miles to be used, shame on you for posting this.

  4. I’ve been chewing on this for hours now, and I can’t figure out any decent redemption from the east coast (specifically PHL)… anyone else?

  5. Karen, I’m sure Iceland Air is quite well aware that they have partners on whose airlines their miles can be redeemed. Unless you’re privy to some Iceland Air revenue mgmt inside information, it’s funny to assume you know how they intended the miles to be used

  6. Gary, flights from PHL to ORD have been prohibitively expensive as of late, though still a lot less expensive than a 1st class ticket to Hawaii

  7. You can buy 41,666 miles. With 20% bonus = 50,000 miles

    You can transfer those miles with another 20% bonus = 60,000 miles.

    Total cost = ?

  8. I have been trying to get an account since last night… nothing, called, can find me in the system, told to just resend email, done that a few times. Can’t even get an account. tried for family members and three different browsers. Retried again, but it again says system has a maintenance problem. grrrrrr!

  9. OK, I bit the bullet and am taking my family to Hawaii in April. What can I expect from their First Class service? Anyone with real experience have insight? The reviews sound terrible! I’m not complaining since these tickets are cheap even for economy class that time of year. We’re flying from OAK to KOA and then return OGG to OAK. Thanks!

  10. @Gary did you edit the post? Earlier you said that in your experience it was easier to get FC saver space out of ATL then a few other cities, now I don’t see that. I was going to ask you if you had found and ATL Saver space.

  11. @Scott, sorry, I was in the middle of editing because I wrote Atlanta but meant bizarrely enough Minneapolis (both Delta hubs and all). I was going to strikethrough Atlanta and correct myself with MSP, then I got distracted. 🙂

  12. @MillValleyMom – it’s domestic first class. It’s not a special experience, 737s and DigEplayers for entertainment, decent enough width and pitch, standard Alaska Airlines first class food…

  13. I don’t understand how people purchased 50K for $525. I purchased 42K plus 8,400 bonus for 65,000 ISK plus 3,000 ISK fee. Then transferred 50K plus 10K to another account for 3,000 ISK.
    So, total spent for 60K is 71,000 ISK which equals $594.

  14. Sorry, I made a mistake. I purchased 50,400 miles for 65 ISK total. And transferred them to 60K for an additional 3,000 ISK. Total spending 68,000 ISK or appr $567.

  15. how are you people getting accounts? I still havent gotten my account setup and i have emailed them already….whats the turnaround time for the Saga account to be setup manually?

  16. If you buy the miles with an AMEX card that gives $200 credit on the airline of your choice, will this qualify as an appropriate purchase?

  17. @Carol I believe they use points.com for the points purchases, so i assume not, you’d have to pre-designate icelandair in any case so you would have to not have already chosen an airline for the year. But I think it’s a long shot.

  18. @Karen there’s nothing wrong with this. Jared, who originally posted the deal, has been emailing directly with the head of their Saga FF program and she knows about it. She is even grateful for the publicity. And on that note, it really is great publicity. Look at how many people it is directing to their website and FF program? That is great exporsure. I just booked our trip to Puerto Vallarta in first, very excited.

  19. I actually think Karen was kidding, because of comments made in some earlier posts about how I shouldn’t be sharing information for the world to see and take advantage of, since folks who already have that information want to keep it a secret

  20. I was jumping with joy till I read further .. can’t get it for cheap from Washington DC to Maui.

    Gary, did you figure out any good flights from DC to use this on?

  21. @Nick there’s better first class availability DCA-LAX on Alaska than DCA-Seattle. So go to Los Angeles or via Los Angeles to Mexico. (Just search for the space you want before buying miles.)

  22. just used the website to sign up for saga club. after hitting submit, the returned page says:

    Your application has been received but we are experiencing some technical issues that we are currently working on.
    You should receive a confirmation to your e-mail address with your Saga Club number and username and password.
    If a confirmation with your Saga Club number does not arrive within 2 hours we ask you to contact us by email at icc@icelandair.is

    Please send us the following information and we will register you manually:

    Full name
    Date of Birth (DD/MM/YYYY)
    Home Address
    Telephone Number
    E-mail Address
    We do apologize for any inconvenience and hope to resolve the matter as soon as possible.
    Icelandair Saga Club

  23. If this is still alive next year, then I might bite. I was too late to take advantage of Alaska’s 2 for 1, but this might be just a couple hundred dollars more.

    The key for me is that it’s tough to mainain ExPlat on AA and I can fly on Alaska to Hawaii from LAX on revenue and earn AA EQM and pay for my wife via Saga points.

    The only drawback is I like to fly into LIH, and that’s not a non-stop on Alaska. The alternative is to buy a revenue ticket way in advance (so I’m a lock for an upgrade) and use BA miles for the same AA flight for my wife (cheaper than booking with AA miles).

    Still it’s a great tip, thanks for passing it on. If only it was cheap to get to Iceland! I’ve been wanting to go!

  24. I also tried to create an account last night (18 hours ago) and got the same results as Qi posted above. No email response from Icelandair.

    I live in Seattle, so this is probably a lot more usable for me than many here – we have nonstop flights on AS to Oahu, Maui and Kauai (in fact, I’m on one of those flights to Kauai in about 3 weeks – on an award ticket earned by getting 2 AS credit cards, but I digress).

    2 questions…

    Someone above said they just booked a trip to PV (Mexico). I thought this was limited to AS domestic flights only – no?

    Also, as we’re going to Kauai in just a few weeks, I’m having some difficulty justifying this deal to my wife (who doesn’t like “repeating” trips). I’d consider banking these miles for at least a little while. How long does it seem this deal will stay fresh before the miles start to rot?


  25. @frank yes
    @Beelzabubba – the Icelandair website SAYS U.S. and Canada destinations, so they could limit you to that, but as I recommend in the post… call and have them check availability and tell you the miles price, and THEN buy the miles

  26. Gary, could you then transfer those 60k back to the other account for only $25? Almost a “Perpetual Point Machine”?

  27. my two cents: I jus bought 42,000 miles ($543) plus 20% = 50,400 miles….transferred 50,000 to my wife’s acct. ($25) so we have 60,000 miles for $568…..we are in PHL..so PHL-HNL (if possible) First Class for $284 each is a Grand Slam…but it we can’t work that, PHL-SEA or SEA-HNL FC for $284 is still a home run…and we “may” have up to four years to book this…not much downside!

  28. FYI folks. I got the error as well during acct setup, so I sent the email to set acct up manually. The auto reply says that they (Saga Club staff) are only available M-F 9a-4p their time. Iceland is EST +4

  29. @Gary: So we will have to take 2 flights to get to HNL each for 30k miles, which makes it around $568 per ticket.

  30. Everything finally worked for me – found a solid transcontinental positioning flight so I could avoid the problem with multi-leg / overnight bookings and will pay the change fee if they ever get it fixed. Looks like they might have changed some of the flight numbers overnight just to give everyone a heads up.

    I’m headed to Maui with the SO in first!!!

  31. Here’s what I did to get 90,000 miles for $874 ($291 each) for 3 roundtrip Alaska first class tickets.

    I used 3 Saga Club accounts. By the way, my accounts were created within hours even though they gave me that error saying they weren’t created. Also, certain browsers give problems, so I’d recommend switching browsers if the site doesn’t seem to be working. Firefox under OS X worked for me, as did Internet Explorer under Windows. Also, the password that you give them when you sign up doesn’t work – you have to use the one they give you in your email confirmation.

    Account A purchased 32,000 + 6,400 Bonus miles ($418)
    Account A transferred 38,000 + 7,600 Bonus miles to account C ($25)
    Account B purchased 38,000 + 7,600 Bonus miles ($406)
    Account B transferred 37,000 + 7,400 Bonus miles to account C ($25)
    Account C now has 90,000 miles

  32. I just received the email back from Iceland Air giving me my Saga number. The first 6 numbers are my birth date in three sets of 2 digits in day-month-year order. I found that sort of odd. Is everyone’s Saga numbe like that or was mine an amazing coincidence?

  33. I guess there is no way to correct typos. Of course I meant to write Saga number not Saga numbe.

  34. I am a little concerned that these miles will be devalued by the time I can use them. I would be happy to buy now if I thought I could wait until next autumn and still get the same 1st class r/t for 30k. Call me paranoid.

  35. @Edgardo I am very clear in my suggestion — don’t buy them until you are ready to use them. And the 20% bonus is short-term but even without it this is still a value

  36. Good thing I follow Mommy’s suggestion and call Icelandair for availabilities. Sadly I can’t participate in this great deal because all the dates I am interested in, they don’t have seats available.

  37. I’m trying to get 2 first class tickets from DCA to OGG, but I’m not seeing any availability for anything less than 150,000 miles. What am I doing wrong?

  38. If you can use this, then this is an amazing way to fly the Alaskan network ‘availability providing’ cheaply.

    I see on Flyertalk Coupon Connection these points are being traded already, as for some I would imagine this value is anticipiated to be short lived

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