Uh Oh: Alaska Airlines Will Introduce “Simplified Award Chart” Before End Of Year

As Alaska Airlines has added new partners, they’ve been introducing new, more expensive award pricing. There’s a lot of misunderstanding, suggesting that Alaska Airlines miles have become less valuable but that isn’t really the case. Pre-existing partners have largely kept their low award pricing. It’s only been new options that have been more expensive. And where they’ve introduced multiple tiers of partner pricing, they’ve generally kept pre-existing low pricing for saver awards on their partners while charging more for extra availability.

However all of this has presaged future devaluation. Each new partner contract has come with higher prices, and that’s been highly suggestive that as existing contracts come up for renewal those will entail higher prices to members as well. We’ve been waiting for the shoe to drop on Mileage Plan devaluation.

So news out of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan that they will be revamping their award charts before the end of the year is certainly not welcome – especially because the airline is providing little detail despite explicitly committing to 90 days’ notice before any changes.

Alaska says,

Starting late December, the way you view award charts online is changing. We’ll have a simplified award chart to show you where award levels start based on which regions you’re traveling from and to. With this change, similar to awards on Alaska, partner award levels may vary depending on multiple factors including route, distance, or demand. You’ll continue to be able to enjoy great value for your miles.

The ambiguous nature of this announcement is what is concerning. Alaska already offers a ‘simple’ chart “based on which regions you’re traveling from and to.” When programs ‘simplify’ that’s more often than not code for ‘devalue.’

There is a small bit of good news in the Alaska announcement that:

  • Cathay Pacific awards in October
  • LATAM awards will become bookable online before end of year

Cathay Pacific is bringing planes back out of storage. Hopefully the tremendous value Alaska offers on Cathay will remain. What’s exceptional – beyond just basic pricing between the U.S. and Asia – is that the increment to connect onward to other regions is quite small. For instance business class to Australia via Hong Kong is currently just 60,000 miles each way, and Africa just 62,500 miles.

(HT: Mainly Miles)

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. Never underestimate the GREED at Alaska management.
    The Alaska award chart is NOT broken. It does not need to be fixed.
    Nevertheless, the clowns at Alaska will find a way to screw things up.

  2. “Hopefully the tremendous value Alaska offers on Cathay will remain. “– Not a chance. Those prices will be “simplified” away for sure. That redemption was the one and only reason I collect and redeem AS miles and once it’s gone so am I.

  3. MileagePlan and AAdvantage will begin to match redemption rates and variable pricing.

    AAdvantage will be spun out similar to Aeroplan in the coming years. AAdvantage will merge with MileagePlan shortly thereafter.

    Check back on this post in 3-5 years.

  4. Jon, interesting proposition. Just like BA and Qatar. What would be intriguing is to unify all One World loyalty programs under one umbrella. One (truly) standardized system for earning tier status. One (truly) standardized system of benefits. One point currency. One award chart. All credit card points flow into a person’s One World bucket.

  5. Alaska’s FF program is its primary competitive advantage. I don’t see much of a future for Alaska If they lose that advantage.

  6. They will absolutely devalue the program as they should. You people don’t seem to understand that this type of “inflation” is normal for all currencies (even points and miles). You thought all the huge sign up and referral bonuses (plus other promotions) the past couple of years wouldn’t have consequences? SERIOUSLY are you that ignorant of simple economics and finance? Also, when the price of a ticket in cash goes up airlines require more miles (or go to dynamic pricing) so keep the relative value about the same.

    You can long for the “good old days” but they have long passed. And for those saying they won’t fly Alaska please pick another one that hasn’t done (or isn’t in the process of doing) the exact same thing. Also, people on these blogs are a very, very small percentage of flyers and I’m sure Alaska has modeled the impact of whatever changes they plan to make and are comfortable it will have a net positive impact.

    These programs don’t exist for you people – they are a marketing effort on the part of the airline/hotel. Sure you don’t like negative changes but you won’t change their load factor and that is all that really matters.

  7. @Lee – Alaska’s FF program is still distance-based for elite qualification. There is no revenue requirement like other airlines.

    So your idea of a standardized FF framework is not ideal. Alaska’s distance-based qualifying is one of the few things that sets itself apart.

  8. I will laugh if everyone on this forum is wrong. Your so negative already when you don’t have the facts. Cool off & wait for the information.

  9. Lee, that fantistical idea would be akin to herding cats!
    Too many big egos there to accomodate uniformity.

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