I’ve talked briefly about alliances, but as we begin a new year and new travel is being booked, I think a little more needs to be said about funneling all your miles into one program. There are two main reasons why you would want to consolidate all your miles into one place:
- To gain elite status (typically the first level of elite status is earned after you fly 25,000 miles or 30 segments, with additional tiers of status in multiples of this: 50K flown miles, 75K, etc.)
- To earn rewards faster
Based on my travel expectations for 2012, low-level elite status is unattainable even if I fly only on one airline, so that is a moot point for me…but I do think that earning rewards quickly is something we should consider very important. By keeping one or two accounts really active, you can accumulate miles more quickly – letting you redeem miles for grander or more frequent awards. You also take on less risk of having your miles be devalued before you get a chance to use them or having your miles accidentally expire.
Crediting all your miles into one program within an alliance offers a lot of options – for example, if you have an American Airlines account, you can credit your British Airways, LAN Airlines, and Cathay Pacific flights into your AA frequent flyer account (not to mention other flights from more than a dozen other airlines). This is a nice benefit, but what if the majority of your flying is on United States based airlines? I know that 95% of all my flights are on either Delta, United, or American Airlines. It’s a rare event that I fly on a different carrier, and if I do, it’s usually on a free award ticket that doesn’t earn miles anyway, so the fact that I can credit a British Airways flight to AA doesn’t actually interest me that much. I’d much rather be able to combine my miles from American & Delta, for example.
Well, lo and behold – you can do that! In addition to crediting within an alliance, you can also credit most fares to a partner airline, so it pays to check what partners an airline may have even outside of their alliance. Among others, American Airlines is partners with Alaska Airlines, so you have the option of earning Alaska Airlines miles with every American Airlines flight you take. That’s cool, but not earth-shattering until you realize that Delta is also a partner with Alaska. So in any given year, you can credit your miles from both American & Delta flights into one bucket through Alaska’s Mileage Plan. There are a few other partners, too, which you may want to check out if you fly on other international carriers.
I really think the biggest perk is the ability to combine American & Delta miles, but there are a few other positives as well:
- You’ll earn a 500-mile minimum on every flight, which can actually be higher than what you would receive if you credited directly to AA or DL. My flight to Atlanta next week is only 481 flown miles – so if I credited to Delta, I’d get 481 miles in my account instead of earning 500 miles with Alaska.
- Their miles are pretty valuable, since they have a wide variety of partners you can redeem with: Cathay Pacific and Korean Air to get to Asia, LAN to get to South America, KLM, Air France or British Airways for Europe and Africa, and Qantas to get to Oceania (plus a few others).
- Their award prices are really reasonable. Most redemptions cost the same as if you booked through Delta/American (such as 25,000 miles for a domestic economy-class ticket), and there are some that are bargains. A business-class award flight on Qantas to Australia would cost 125,000 AA miles, but the very same flights booked through Alaska would require only 110,000 miles. Cheaper awards = more free travel.
Of course, there are a few downsides that you’ll want to heavily consider if you are seriously contemplating using Alaska Air as your program of choice:
- Their award chart is more complicated. A reward to Asia on Cathay Pacific costs a different amount of miles than a reward to Asia on Korean Air, even if you have the exact same starting and ending points.
- You cannot mix partners on award flights. If I book through American, I can fly on both British Airways and Iberia on a single itinerary. Not the case with Alaska.
- There are no one-way awards. Delta doesn’t offer one-way awards either, making that a scratch, but if you are used to the flexibility of AA one-way awards, this could be a dealbreaker for you.
Even someone who hops around from airline to airline (like I do!) could probably keep things simple by holding only two frequent flyer accounts: one with Alaska and one with a Star Alliance member (such as United or US Airways). In all cases, if you’re flying a partner airline but want to credit to your main airline program (whether it’s “only” a partner or a full-fledged alliance member), check and make sure that your particular fare class and route will count for credit: there can be a few exceptions!
If you don’t already have an Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, sign up here and complete your profile to earn 500 miles. **If you already have an account but haven’t yet filled out your profile, you can use your exisiting number and still be eligible for the bonus miles**