When Alaska Airlines introduced its new, unified award chart that replaced the separate charts for each airline partner on its website a month ago, it was a loss for transparency.
Instead of showing what a given award on a partner airline would cost, it simply showed a ‘starting price.’ In addition, they only even published starting prices for awards to and from North America. For all other regions of the world, prices because a secret – you wouldn’t learn those without searching each award separately.
The big concern, of course, is that this effectively eliminated award charts at Alaska Airlines. By sharing less information about award prices, they can increase those prices without telling consumers. They had previously committed to share changes with members in advance. But as long as the ‘starting from’ price doesn’t change, they can increase most award rates at will.
That appears to have already begun.
When the new award chart was published it showed some awards with higher ‘starting from’ prices than Alaska had previously charged. For instance,
- U.S. – India in on Japan Airlines went up 5000 miles each way in business class and 10,000 miles each way in first class.
- U.S. to South Africa on Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong) went up 7500 miles each way in business class and 15,000 miles each way in first class.
Now it appears they’ve increased the cost of award travel on British Airways for Midwest and West Coast departures which is especially egregious because they also add fuel surcharges to British Airways awards.
- Changes apply to flights from the West Coast (like Seattle and Los Angeles) and Midwest (such as Chicago) but not from the East Coast (e.g. New York JFK, Washington Dulles, Miami, Atlanta). They’ve effectively created different zones within the U.S. for partner pricing.
- For the Midwest and West Coast travel British Airways non-stops in economy and premium economy appear to have gone up by 2500 points, from 32,500 miles to 35,000 miles in coach and 42,500 to 45,000 in premium economy. And business class has gone from 57,500 miles to 65,000 miles in business.
- And now connections cost more on these itineraries, too. If you add a connection that costs 5000 additional miles (whether it’s an Alaska Airlines flight, or a British Airways flight beyond Heathrow).
The connecting surcharge doesn’t appear to apply to business class awards, though another way to look at it is that by raising all BA business class awards from the Midwest and West Coast by 7,500 miles the connecting surcharge applies to business class even when there’s no connection.
Some of these changes so far appear to apply only to summer travel. Searching at the end of the schedule still generates flights at earlier pricing, except that the 5000 mile connecting surcharge for British Airways connections beyond LHR still applies if crossing the Pond in premium economy.
Earlier pricing applies on non-stops in December for Chicago – London Heathrow
And of course with these changes, Alaska doesn’t update its award charts or tell members about changes in advance. Are they violating their pledge? They wouldn’t think so. The new award ‘chart’ structure lets them be as slippery as they wish.
(HT: Thomas W.)