Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is raising the price of first class awards on their own flights. They haven’t told members they’re doing it – but they posted a notice on their award charts that it’s happening in less than a month, even though they’ve previously said they would give 90 days notice of changes (which is hardly generous).
One Mile at a Time comes to their defense,
- “Alaska is providing nearly a month of advance notice about this change”
- “I don’t view this as being a huge deal”
- “This isn’t the same as a partner award devaluation”
- “View from the Wing is frustrated that Alaska didn’t provide 90 days notice of the change…I think that frustration is more on principle than practical”
I take issue with this. Respectfully, 90 days is what Alaska committed to, there may be times when contractually they cannot do this on a partner award but that’s clearly not the case with own-metal awards. So in a sense it’s worse when they do it with their own flights than when they fail to give their promised notice with partners. There’s no external coordination required, they can make the changes whenever they wish – if they’d forgotten to notify members, just delay the change 60 more days.
Ben suggests that anyone booking more than a month in advance shouldn’t be paying the highest prices that are going up anyway, but that misses the point. A month isn’t enough not because members have to redeem now rather than waiting in order to get the best price – members look to the award chart to know how many miles they’ll need to redeem in other words to set a goal and earn towards that goal.
While members are on a quest towards that goal they get the rug pulled out from under them. They no longer have as much time to earn the points they were targeting. (And the lower prices are available for a shorter window, Alaska only publishes schedules about 11 months out.)
He congratulates Alaska for actually still having an award chart. But an award chart is a promise of value. Any devaluation means miles are worth less, but doing it suddenly, and contrary to a commitment, is worse. To be sure Delta doesn’t actually promise their miles have any value. I agree that Alaska miles are worth more than Delta miles, even with this incident. But that faint praise aside, it takes a certain kind of Stockholm Syndrome to be excusing a program encouraging business with miles that are promised to have a certain value and then not honoring that value.
Ultimately, like Ben, I care less about these awards than partner redemptions. But when Alaska won’t honor their advance notice commitment EVEN FOR own-metal redemptions my concern isn’t principle it’s TRUST.
The value of a currency is based on trust – how well it will hold value. Alaska has announced it is holding value well with this change, and telegraphed it will hold value less well in the future by how this change is being made.
This makes me downgrade how much I value an Alaska mile. Although seeing the direction of award pricing with new partners I’ve begun to do that anyway, since they clearly appear to be on a downward trajectory (as I predicted would be the case as part of joining oneworld), and I tend to expect that as bilateral contracts for award redemption get renegotiated we’ll see more increases even for legacy partners