Alaska Airlines Devalues British Airways Awards, Adds Connecting Flight Surcharge

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.)

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, 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 is insidious but not unexpected given the inflationary miles / points economy. You just wish they’d have the guts to own it. NB BA awards using Alaska miles have been last-resort options for years because of YX. There is almost always an alternate way to get there.

  2. Now that they have joined One World they can be more predatory and rob their customers
    I’m done with them after 20 years but this wasn’t the primary reason just one of many
    Mileage Plan treated me poorly asking me to fly 20,000 miles to reclaim status when I missed the mark by 2000 miles.I moved all my business to another One Wold Partner where I am Emerald

  3. It’s not “our” Alaska Airlines anymore nor can they claim to be the “hometown” airline in the NW.

  4. Fuel surcharges seem to be much lower right now ($267), although looking later into the year they jump back to $890. Not sure what’s going on there.

  5. I believe they also raised prices for USA-India from 70.5k (can’t confirm this is old price) to 80k in J on BA.

  6. All of you are free to fly another carrier. No matter what one thinks, Alaska is still the hometown Airline of the PNW. Who else flies as extensively in/to the state of Alaska? They are still a better Airline in so many ways. They’re just doing what everyone else is doing or going to do with their frequent flyer programs. The skies are not falling. I promise.

  7. All the airlines seem to treat their customers like dirt, and you better like it. Every time their is a “modification” to any airline’s award programs, you can bet the customer is getting the s#@=].

  8. This seems like much ado given that BA miles are relatively easy to accumulate via Chase, etc. and AS miles are rather difficult as there are no transfer partners. So the better play is use AS miles for sweet spot redemptions to Asia or even Finnair, rather than wasting them on BA flights (which can also be booked cheaply thru Iberia).

    The bigger problem with AS is not devaluation (which regularly affects all carriers) but rather the booking engine which typically displays phantom inventory. You get excited when the search results show a partner biz class seat for a saver price (e.g. 57.5k one-way) only to discover that in fact it is a mixed award and the TATL or TPAC portion is in economy. Very frustrating.

  9. I am not surprised, on a recent trip to join a cruise in the Middle East we had first class seats on Alaska from Hawaii to San Jose, connecting in two days to BA , Alaska now has a 50 ib limit in first class , other airlines including their partner British Airways have a 70 lb limit. or more. Alaska is uncompetitive and we were forced to pay a excess baggage fee . Why aggravate your highest paying passengers ? Frequent flyers used to be treated with respect and valued by Alaska Airlines, apparently not any more. Suitcases today with four wheels can often weigh 20 lbs empty, and taking two cases each for a additional 10 lbs of clothes is nonsense and adds another 20lbs / passenger and using more fuel for the airline.

  10. Lived in the PNW for over 40 years and have never loved Alaska, I don’t get the hype. They’re often unnecessarily expensive compared to other carriers and their quality is a hair better than a Fronteir. I almost always fly Delta out of Seattle if I can, a much better airline imo. Air Canada out of YVR has way better deals if you can make the drive.

  11. British Air awards are a joke. About $250 fee for one way economy, $900 in Business!! Qatar Airways have doubled mileage requirements to 100,000 for one way economy and about 200,000 miles for one way Business.

  12. Killing the golden goose. Alaska Airlines is much more interested in LGBT rights, faux social justice, and virtue signaling by banning plastic than they are in giving its customers good value. Mileage Plan worked so well for so many years it seems foolish to mess with it.

  13. How do you search for US to India on JAL via Alaska Miles? Do you have to do multi city or just any US JAL Gateway to Mumbai? I can’t come up with that route via search. Thanks

  14. I just bought two business class tix on British using Alaska miles. 65K nonstop from West Coast and $267.

    Hasn’t either flying on British with any currency always triggered these fees? Gary writes as if this is a new thing. AA miles on British metal cause the imposition of fees and always have.

  15. As an Alaska elite for the last 4 years, I really don’t understand most of everything that Alaska Airlines has been doing recently. They seem to be going out of their way to push customers to other airlines, especially with lousy scheduling that they “blame” on pilot shortage. They have forced me to earn elite on AA last year instead.

    I guess they only want to be the airline for gullible customers with narrow manipulated social values.

  16. Alaska has always been scammy with its pricing – add a discount code and prices go up – but even more so with their partner awards. Sounds good until you try to book. Business to South Pacific destinations is only ever mixed class, first class domestic and then economy for international. I also missed out on my 75k by 1000 miles but years of loyalty mean nothing to them. They prefer to focus on their new woke agendas and push their loyal customers to other airlines.

  17. Totally agree with Boraxo. Searching for B or F seats and finding out the main leg is in E always happens and is SO frustrating.

  18. @Jamar
    Yea there was some glitch with the fuel surchages a few days ago. I got lucky and booked some business awards for $288 instead of the $800ish ones that I see now. It was random. I even saw it on some first class awards, which I should have booked instead! Now it seems back to normal.

  19. Compared to United this is nothing. One way to Europe in economy is 75,000
    and in Business 175,000. However the fees on BA are high.

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