Devaluation Without Notice: Alaska Airlines Hikes Japan Airlines Award Pricing Up To 100%

After a debacle years ago increasing award pricing without notice for travel on Emirates, Alaska Airlines made an express commitment to notify members in advance when making changes to the program.

Sadly they did not do that this week, as Monday they increased the price of award travel on their oneworld partner Japan Airlines, and they did this without any advance notice. So members who were saving their miles for a specific trip had the rug pulled out from under them.

  • One-way first class has gone from 70,000 miles to 85,000 miles for departures from the West Coast and to 100,000 miles for departures from the Midwest and East Coast.

  • One-way business class has gone from 60,000 miles to 80,000 miles for departures from the Midwest and East Coast, although so far business class from the West Coast hasn’t changed.

  • One-way economy has gone from 35,000 to 45,000 miles for departures from the Midwest and East Coast, although so far economy from the West Coast hasn’t changed.

At the end of last year Alaska Airlines obliterated award charts as they’re traditionally known.

  • For flights that don’t start or end in North America, award charts were eliminated entirely
  • For flights involving North America, they list ‘starting at’ prices, rather than telling you the price of a partner award
  • And while they charge different amounts for different partners, the award chart no longer tells you about this at all
  • Nor is there any longer disclosure about what routes are unavailable for redemption on a given partner

Make no mistake, the elimination or ‘dumbing down’ of award charts is always and everywhere a tool to obfuscate devaluation. It’s a way to disrespect your customers. And by the way American Airlines is on the verge of doing something similar.

And would you be surprised if I told you that the biggest devaluation (100% increase!) is to an award outside of North America where there’s no award chart at all? Intra-Asia business class, like Singapore to Japan, has doubled from 25,000 to 50,000 miles each way.

When Alaska launched their new award chart they snuck in some price increases. With this change to Japan Airlines awards, even Alaska’s one-time commitment that changes would have at least 90 days’ notice is clearly no longer in effect (itself a change without notice). This comes after a no-notice devaluation of British Airways awards just six weeks ago.

That commitment was something they expressly reiterated during the pandemic: “As always, we’ll strive to give at least 90 days’ notice if changes were coming to any current partner awards.” I guess they didn’t strive very hard.

(HT: Troy)

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. What a shock (sarcasm) that in a period of rapid inflation, even higher airline fare increases due to supply/demand imbalance and bloated FF accounts (due to large sign on bonuses and less travel during COVID to burn them off) airlines are increasing the number of miles for awards. Frankly this is basic economics and shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. For all that say this is “unfair” understand these programs really don’t exist to benefit you (and I’ve been a member in them since the mid 80s). They are a marketing tool of the airlines and the airlines will always do what is in their own best interest (as they should as publicly traded companies). Anyone “saving” miles for a trip is crazy anyway. Have them already, buy them or transfer them (if possible) from Amex, Chase, Citi, etc. That is the only way to do it. There will be constant devaluations and many won’t be announced so accept that fact and move along.

  2. All FF programs are subject to inflationary pressure over time, but the AS program has really decayed recently, and the JL devaluation doesn’t begin to tell the story. There are far fewer premium cabin partner awards at any price (Aer Lingus J to DUB for 560k RT, anyone?). An awful lot of partner-metal longhaul avails involving two flights are “fake business” — e.g., short flight to gateway city in F, long over-water segment in economy, but charge a J redemption rate for the whole thing.

    And domestic AA availability has dried up dramatically. This week I searched ORD-DFW into the spring and summer, the kind of AS-AA redemption that used to be a snap, and found only itineraries on AS metal via SEA that took 12+ hours.

    Of course CC bonuses mean there are too many miles on account chasing too few seats, but this is absurd. The BA EC and Southwest RR have many drawbacks but one point in their favor is broad redemption availability.

  3. And add to that ridiculously stupid geo-restricted award routing rules, inability to do more than a single partner in any trip, and you have a program that frankly I am happy to be almost done with

  4. I just got a “Buy Miles” email from Alaska with a 50% bonus. What a joke!
    Alaska Airlines has come down with a bad case of Deltaitis. A once great program has been Destroyed by a bunch of Greedy Clowns in Seattle.

  5. AC- Probably a lot of us agree with your comments that with inflation, award prices will go up.

    My complaint is really lack of transparency when award charts are eliminated. I want to know how many points to save. If a program like DL thinks points should be treated like cash, fully dynamic, then how about giving us all the same booking tools and options as a cash flight? They don’t do that at all.

  6. Scummy approach toward customers.

    In some ways it is really unfortunate that AlaskaAir was allowed to become a member of Oneworld (or any of the big three global airline alliances).

  7. Hey Gary please blast them and hold them accountable. Especially if they say they will give 90 day notice and they dont. Enough with these crazy devaluations and we not doing anything.

  8. @ Nun Vanished award charts = opaque value of miles = zero incentive to trade tangible dollars for miles of unknown, floating value.

  9. I have been tracking seats for a particular date to Japan. Yesterday before noon they were 60K and at 3PM yesterday they went to 80K. I thought it was mistake. Well f*** me! It would have been nice to know of this in advance. Also, these award costs are higher than American, which is 70K for J, to Japan.

    @AC Everyone knows that this is business. But loyalty goes both ways and I’m done with Alaska Air.

    @Tom You are totally correct in award seat availability has dried up. Partner awards have tracked at near zero for J and F, for almost a year. Alaska only seems to make J and F available in the 2 weeks prior to your desired departure date.

    Alaska Air, you lost me! I really held you in high regard, because I thought you were different. How foolish am I for thinking that?

  10. As Tom so correctly states the devaluation doesn’t begin to tell the whole story
    Alaska is changing way beyond the surface of devaluation
    The once friendly hometown Seattle airline with a once wonderful fair business culture has been drinking the Delta Kool Aid
    Airfares have shot up to 500 dollars one way in coach for a short 1 hour flight previously 79 to 149. I fell 2000 miles short of 75 k and they told me to fly 20k or go I walked having already done another 15 k in January
    All my systemwide upgrades expired during the pandemic when they wouldn’t let us use them that we earned.They said sorry to hear you don’t like us.
    Paid first class revenue flights with inedible gop served surviving on popcorn till our arrivals
    The agents can rarely add Alaska segments in coach let alone first to premium cabin awards despite having plenty of inventory at low mileage redemptions blaming it on unavailable letter class
    Alaska has become inferior as everyone else.While I like their flight crews and some of the airport agents I’m done with my loyalty to them.They joined one world but they get crumbs as as an alliance program with worse rules.And American steps on them like the ugly stepchild and cockroach they are about to get crushed .That’s the short story
    Hard to share as I once deeply admired them

  11. This is sad.

    I have been collecting points and I have used Alaska exclusively for all paid and non paid travel.

    Yes, devaluation sucks and as someone stated, take trips when you have a chance.

    The 60k to Japan in C from west coast stays but 85k for first is too much to save. I bet it increases as time gets closer.

    Really disappointed with Alaska

  12. The Alaska / JAL devaluation is far worse than the headline suggests
    Yes, pricing has increased without notice. That sucks.
    But what is far worse, Japan Airlines business class availability on points on Alaska Airlines from LAX to Tokyo (either airport) has evaporated. I checked June through January and found one business class seat on JAL for points. One for the entire schedule. Last week, the pickings were slim (I’ve been checking), but boom, they’re (almost) all gone. What’s happened with Alaska and JAL?
    Have you seen JAL flights via Alaska Airlines disappear from your market?

  13. Their currency, and they have the right to control it. It is bad business practice to spring major devaluations without notice. It shows contempt for your clients

    Now to fly Alaska only when it is unavoidable and credit the miles to AA. They’ve changed and so must I. Time to burn the remaining miles, it was good while it lasted. The writing was on the walls, but they could’ve been nicer and they were at one time.

  14. This news and abrupt changes to the MP program very sad – an insult to the loyal folks flying. I’m a lifelong Alaskan who started flying AS at the age of 10 years old. I drank the KoolAid and was loyal to the outfit for over 50 years – and now celebrate (?) being a million miler. I have 1.5 mm miles in my account – and jeez – impossible to actually use any of these! I hoped that i would be able to take that dream trip for two in F class to Europe or somewhere – but IMPOSSIBLE to find any availability on ANY “partner” airline. To add insult to injury for multi stop itineraries AS will give you F award for US short hop in F class and then throw you to Y class for the long haul flight. This is consistent behavior and should have warned me all of this mileage accrual and dreams or F class travel was an illusion. AS as the underdog trying to join the big outfits but most of their supposed mileage partners have no direct affiliation or interline agreements – they are just marketing that illusion that you’ll see the world at any class you choose. Now that I’ve been through separation anxiety and therapy, I’ve let all this go, and now happily fly the top four carriers at best price/class combo I can find. (Delta still does best and better that the lot of them). So folks like the bank failure this week – dump these points asap and use them before that whole program goes down the tube in some surprise merger of AS with AA.

  15. I would just be angry if Alaska did this without having specifically promised not to do this. Instead, this is Bonvoyed bad.

    For various reasons such as Covid, lack of availability when needed, a credit card signup bonus every year or two, saving for a family trip, etc., I’ve built up over 500K Alaska miles. Now that they’ve shown such phenomenally bad faith, I need to figure how to use them fairly quickly while still trying to get value from them. It’s really sad how quickly a great loyalty program has turned to a mediocre-and-getting-worse program in less time even than Skymiles took.

  16. Ì am glad to see I’m not mad, having seen all the negative groundswell about how MileagePlan has changed for the worse in such a relatively short time.
    OneWorld should kick them out ( not that they seem fully in), as they are not team players and add nothing to the alliance.
    I wonder where their usual cheerleaders and boosters are today?

  17. Lol, thanks, I thought it was just me. Well rip. I was looking to take my grandparents in BC next year.

  18. @ CL You still can, but at a price. This week I happened to be searching ORD-YVR awards for later this year. The ask for an F roundtrip on Alaska metal, via SEA or PDX, goes up to 190,000 miles.per seat.

    That redemption rate is science fiction — well more than a RT in business class from ORD to Japan, when you can find it — and a gross insult to those who long supported this little airline.

  19. Every JPL Bizz and 1st class seat is pretty much gone now till next year on Alaska. Nothing for LA, some scattered for SFO 🙁

  20. Count me as another of the now-former Alaska cheerleaders.

    For 20 years I’ve preached to all who would listen about the value of the Alaska FF program, using their BOA credit card to earn miles and free trips…. and now find I’m stuck with a vault full of worthless points that I cannot use for any of the Business or First Class awards I used to enjoy (SEA-TYO on JAL, SEA-BKK on Cathay Pacific, etc.)

    Now I feel bad for talking so many friends and family members into joining the cult.

    Shame on you Alaska. Guess you’ll have to learn the hard way that customers are smarter than you seem to wish we are.

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