Alaska Airlines Eliminates Close-in Redemptions on Cathay Pacific and JAL

Alaska Airlines has a fantastic award chart compared to many other airlines for premium class travel to Asia. And they have great partners, though they don’t always seem to have as much access to Cathay Pacific award space as other airlines do.

Now Cathay Pacific — and JAL — booking is about to get worse because Alaska will no longer allow reservations within 3 days of travel.

This is an especially big deal because for first class on Cathay the best availability is really close to departure.

Loyalty fraud is a big issue. Delta now requires close-in bookings departing Africa, Russia, and China to be ticketed in person. IHG Rewards Club doesn’t permit gifted awards in China made within a week of check-in and some personal information about the guest is required in advance.

Though when Hilton announced free points pooling their Senior Vice President Mark Weinstein made the point to me that controlling fraud shouldn’t create challenges for legitimate members. That’s a cop out.

Update: Hainan Airlines is included in the 72 hour ban.

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 BS as close in awards is what opens up most often so now they will go UNFILLED? Why not put the power of redemption into the customers hands and let us search and book on-line!!!!

  2. For a very long time British Airways and Qantas haven’t displayed or allowed online booking of Cathay awards in the 5 – 7 days before departure. There are tricks to get around it on Qantas but, I trust Alaska are having to do this at Cathay’s request.

  3. What I don’t understand is how they could not crack down on those that cancel the award, pay the cancellation fee and fly anyway. Just shut their accounts!

  4. I don”t think it really matters for JAL as they close award bookings 4 days out anyway. Cathay Pacific hurts as I’ve grabbed seats the same day of tavel.

  5. @James highlights the biggest flaw in this new restriction. CX very frequently does not make unfilled F seats available until that 72 hrs before departure window. Alaska is now denying their MP people the opportunity to enjoy a CX F flight. If you have a ‘placeholder’ Business award in anticipation of a late F seat opening up, you’d be pretty pissed if it does and you are denied it! I have no idea of the ins-and-outs of the alleged ‘fraud’, but do not see why the sins of the few should be paid for by the honest majority. Is no solution available, or is Alaska’s aging IT platform unable to cope? A retrograde development all round IMO !

  6. @ CoolHandLuke – Not much different from the frustration of having an SFO seat open up and being unable to change from an LAX ticket because the AS agents can’t see the available seat. Chalk it up to an IT glitch if you like, but the new 3 day rule just institutionalizes the fact that Alaska routinely keeps its customers from booking high value awards.

  7. Once I switched a seat from Y+ to F on the day before departure, where all we could get was one F seat in advance; and once, two in F came open, and we switched from two in J, on the morning of departure. They really need to allow changes to existing bookings. I also think that they should differentiate between BIS Alaska flyers and people who just buy their miles.

  8. Not a smart move for an airline that’s looking to be a customer-friendly alternative to the legacy carriers.

  9. @CoolHandLuke —> “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.” (Or, as many a lawyer has said, “You’re assuming facts not in evidence.”)

    1) @Bails369 wrote above: “I trust Alaska are having to do this at Cathay’s request.”
    2). @CoolHandLuke wrote above: “Alaska is now denying their MP people the opportunity to enjoy a CX F flight.”

    It CANNOT be both. So what FACTS do you OR Bails369 have to support your position? Is this CX’x doing? Or something being done by AS? Which is it? How do you/we know?


    Speaking strictly from a personal (selfish) level, I can’t remember booking a flight within 72 hours of departure, unless it was an emergency of some sort (like someone was in an accident, fell seriously ill, or there was a death in the family). Thus, this is largely irrelevant to me: any “big” trips (i.e.: overseas) are planned out in advance.

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