Alaska Airlines Reveals Data on Where Members Redeem and How Much They Fly

Five years ago Alaska Airlines shared that 84% of redemptions were for flights on their own aircraft, that American Airlines was by and large the second biggest carrier members redeemed for travel on, and non-U.S. airlines accounted for just 3.5% of redemptions.

Most members use their miles for domestic coach travel even though the best value comes from premium cabin international awards — especially with Alaska which has great partners and reasonable award pricing on most of their partners (not Emirates).

Alaska shares that in 2018:

  • Mileage Plan members credited 19 million flights to their accounts
  • One member credited 338,480 flight miles, his name is Richard
  • Alaska’s 8 most popular redemption destinations are — 1. Phoenix 2. Las Vegas 3. San Diego and then Portland; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Orange County; and Juneau make up the rest of the 8.
  • Elites and co-brand credit card customers checked almost 5 million bags at no charge
  • A new member joins the program every 30 seconds. Taken literally that’s 1,051,200 new members per year.

During the first half of the year we know that saver redemptions were up 40%, with much of this being American AAdvantage members gobbling up inventory (American’s own planes lacking in this regard) that they shouldn’t have made available but they were new to managing space on Virgin America Airbus routes and planes.

The airline’s managing director of loyalty underscored their commitment to continue to award miles based on distance flown rather than as a function of ticket price,

We love rewarding our members with miles based on how far they fly – not just how much they spend – and easy-to-earn elite benefits.

Alaska Airlines has previously said that moving to revenue-based mileage-earning would benefit only 5% of their members and so continuing to award miles based on actual travel flown represents a competitive advantage for them now that Delta, United, and American have stopped doing that.

For now Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has the most compelling frequent flyer program in the United States.

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. Shhh! I was crediting AA and Delta flights to my Alaska account since I stopped flying United. What a shame that stopped.

    I’ll continue to fly Alaska when their fares are within 10% of the competition.

  2. @chub – People just don’t think that way. If you ask pretty much any friend who isn’t “into” this stuff (ie, blog readers like us), they all get excited saying they redeemed a flight for a free trip to Orlando. I just shake my head, but it does leave the better redemptions for us.

  3. Well OK, if 96.5% of MP’s redemptions are largely to a handful of west-coast(ish) destinations, and in Y to boot, that leaves the juicy premium seats on Alaska’s eclectic mix of international partners to me and likeminded folk! Seems a win-win IMHO!

  4. Alaska’s award search engine for international flights is a joke at best and it seems it was designed to punish members who attempt to redeem. Their award seats in premium on Hainan although show on the results, you can never confirm. And the routing is atrocious. JL mostly releases economy seats and never all the way biz class seats. Tax and fees ex-Asia cities (on the return flights) are abhorrent and could be as high as $400 PP or more.

  5. Not so compelling when they are gutting the VX national route structure that was useful for many business travelers. Also less useful without ability to transfer in Chase points. Hard to accumulate enough miles for those TPAC saver awards with crappy BofA card ($99 companion notwithstanding)

  6. Has @Boraxo ever considered (gasp!) buying some miles for his travels? It forever amazes me that so many people think it’s their right to travel for free, or next to free!

  7. I get that readers of this blog will razz Alaska’s ignorant mileage redeemers for using their miles to fly to Phoenix, Las Vegas, and San Diego, but remember that a lot of those redemptions are 5,000 miles so you can get pretty good value.

  8. @Glenn T the company provides the business model allowing redemption of flights using miles earned with credit card spend; those miles are purchased from the airline by the bank (providing revenue) specifically for redemption by customers. It is not a customer’s job to pay more than the company asks for a service. I have yet to see people telling other businesses that they’d prefer to just pay full price for “buy one, get one” offers or for items on sale, and I see no reason why airlines should receive different treatment.

  9. Well good! The fewer people realize how great Alaska miles are, the more likely those redemption options remain available for a long time.

  10. I am really surprised that none of HI was not on the list for most redemptions. People on the WN board seem to think that HI flights will be used for all the points when they are finally up and running.

  11. I wish Alaska would get a hub on the east coast. I would strongly consider switching my loyalty to them, and I’m a DL Diamond Medallion. Living in Atlanta, the only available Alaska flights go to Seattle. As much as I’d like to do more business with Alaska, I’m not going to spend 10-12 hours flying coast to coast to reach east coast destinations.

  12. Sad that Alaska remains a regional airline.
    Not very useful if you’re east of the Rockies, unless you’re flying to LA, SF or Seattle

  13. I think the 2for1 credit card deal, is the big score here. Delta has it with their Amex card, but not to Hawaii. One can still transfer Marriott points. Cathay business isn’t impossible. Cathay is especially good for Australia. You have to play every program for its sweet spot.

    If one lives on the west coast, then Alaskan is your best choice.

  14. I feel relieved that majority still use the program mostly for AS flights, which leaves us non-American residents more room to redeem on partners (for as long as such options are available). But I do believe that the data is skewed because it’s not as easy to redeem on partners as only few are bookable using AS’ website.

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