Scoop: American AAdvantage Expands Access To Alaska Airlines Award Space, But At What Cost?

American AAdvantage now has more access to Alaska Airlines award space. You’re going to have success finding seats with your American Airlines miles when looking for Alaska’s flights in and out of California, going forward. In fact, more often than not you’ll be able to secure awards – if you’re willing to part with more of your miles.

However adding variable pricing for partner award tickets brings with it risk of undermining the great value in today’s program, which is inexpensive awards on airlines like Qantas, Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways. A shift away from that fixed pricing model may not be good for members.

More Alaska Airlines Booking Classes Available To AAdvantage Members

Traditionally American had access only to T (coach saver award) and E (first class saver award). The price of those is based on American’s partner award chart, when space is available. That’s unchanged.

However, effective Tuesday February 6th, American now has access to significantly more inventory on Alaska Airlines flights in and out of California – at a higher mileage price.

  • Economy: T plus now O, N, S, M, H
  • First: E, plus now I, C

Rules For Booking This New Alaska Airlines Award Space

This increased availability is available only for travel to and from California, with Alaska as the operating carrier in or out of the California city.

This inventory can be combined only with American Airlines flights, and not with other partner airlines (so you cannot book an Alaska Airlines flight to San Francisco to catch onward award travel on Japan Airlines or Cathay Pacific, for instance).

Like other ‘partner awards’ it is still possible to make changes to Alaska Airlines awards – but only in the traditional (T, E) booking classes. Awards booked in other classes, taking advantage of this new inventory, have to be cancelled and reinstated (just like American Airlines awards, you cannot merely change a date or flight segment without potentially changing the price).

Agents searching for the space will see it in the award shop tool, but not in American’s legacy reservations agent application AACoRN (American Airlines Customer Relationship Network) program.

What Is Pricing Like?

Let’s look first at domestic coach:

  • The awards you used to be able to book cost 12,500 miles each way
  • That doesn’t change at all. Those same awards are still available
  • Now you also have access to award space at 5 higher pricing levels corresponding to the additional fare classes that are being made available
  • Those prices appear to be 17,500 miles / 25,000 miles / 30,000 miles / 40,000 miles / 50,000 miles / 60,000 miles each way

You’ll find similar pricing increments for Alaska Airlines flights in and out of California on itineraries that touch other regions besides the continental United States.

Now looking at awards in Alaska Airlines first class (including in combination with American Airlines ‘saver’ award space) one-way in the continental United States.

  • Traditionally AAdvantage one-way first class awards have cost 25,000 miles on Alaska Airlines

  • There are now 40,000 and 75,000 mile price levels as well.

Is This The Future Of AAdvantage?

American’s Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja told employees they were working on changes to partner award pricing when he went on the airline’s podcast, and then followed up in an employee meeting after the carrier’s fourth quarter earnings call. It will be interesting to see whether this follows on other partners besides Alaska.

Is it a good thing?

  • For now, this is all just an additional option. You can redeem the same award space as before at the same pricing. New higher prices are only for options you didn’t have before. So that’s pretty good.

  • Some might want to fly Alaska Airlines first class to Hawaii, for instance, for 70,000 miles when 55,000 mile awards aren’t available – especially when itineraries on American Airlines cost even more.

  • However if this spreads that is dangerous for the program. This is being done outside of the published partner award chart. And the partner award chart is where most of the value in the AAdvantage program derives, for those who know what they’re doing in the program.

  • I’m not going to be a fan of anything that undermines the centrality of the partner award chart in the AAdvantage program.

It’s not clear how additional availability on American Airlines may work with the upcoming Alaska Airlines award chart which will apply to all partners going forward.

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. Thanks for the scoop!

    On another note, You’ve been holding on to your AA valuation way too long. As a finance guy, I expected you to be more forward viewing.

    Do you really doubt what will happen on other partner awards?

    To be fair, Alaska awards on AS miles rarely available at saver levels on desirable flights.

  2. Turkish just almost doubled its award prices. You might want to write about that as well, and its impact on the overall value of Capital One points.

  3. Kind of the opposite direction Alaska is taking with partner awards – where it’s putting short haul on sale for below current ‘saver’ prices

    Was hoping this article was about short haul Alaska awards being avail close to the prices of short haul AA awards (the 7k and below level)

    Paying 12.5k for a short hop in California or the PNW on Alaska that costs less than $150 cash isn’t very useful.

  4. Very interesting.

    They may be trying to limit this to routes where AA likely operates and there is some ambivalence as to whether the metal is AA or AS. But if this is the beginning of marketing international partner flights at point values which resemble the corresponding cash fare buckets, this could be troubling.

    As you have noted, AAdvantage makes more money than American. They sould use some discipline in how they treat the goose that lays the golden egg (not the “golden goose” as some malapropists say).

  5. How long before AA replicates what AS has already done for their partner awards. Yes, there is more availability on AS than AA for Oneworld partner awards, but the pricing is horrendous. Time to burn down your airline mileage bank and switch to a card that offers flexibility or just gives you 2-3% cash back.

  6. “A shift away from that fixed pricing model may not be good for members.”

    Kind of an understatement there. Destroying the value proposition for your product is generally kinda bad but seemingly AA didn’t get the memo.

  7. There is a sucker born every minute
    It’s a dumpster fire @ Alaska and American
    I looked at a roundtrip ticket in business class dfw to brisbane AU
    Only 900,000 miles roundtrip
    60 k for sfo to las with aa miles on Alaska ?
    One world has become crap
    Run from all of it buy on price
    I’m taking my cash back cards and all these criminal crooks can go ##### ###

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