Alaska Airlines Introduces New Award Chart And It’s Horrible For Transparency

Back in the early fall Alaska Airlines committed to introducing a new, simplified award chart by the end of the year. They’ve done that and it’s… not helpful. Alaska gives us less information, not more, and hides some devaluations in the mix.

  • So far awards are pricing the same as before. Even though the new award chart appears to include some devaluations.

  • The new award charts largely just reduce transparency.

Alaska Airlines has had a separate award chart for each partner. Not every flight on every partner has been available for redemption. And the same route might have a different cost depending on partner. The airline’s longest-standing partners have had cheaper awards than their more recent adds. So a separate chart for each partner has made sense. And it hasn’t been possible to combine more than one partner on an award.

Now we get a single award chart showing ‘prices from’ for travel between any given set of regions. They don’t show us which airlines are cheaper to fly and which more expensive. And they don’t disclose which airlines are not available for travel on certain routes, generally those which do not touch North America.

Furthermore there’s only an award chart for travel which touches North America. For travel between other regions of the world you are told just to search the routes you’re interested in. That’s horrible for transparency.

One imagines that the unified award chart will allow them to,

  • Offer flights on more than one partner airline in the same itinerary
  • Devalue their miles (raise award prices) with less transparency
  • We don’t actually know what these charts mean because so far award pricing hasn’t changed when you actually search and book awards. However there are a few awards in the chart which are listed as having more expensive starting prices than the lowest prices being charged.

    For instance,

    • U.S. – India in business class currently costs 60,000 miles one way on Japan Airlines in business class, and 70,000 miles one way on Japan Airlines in first class

    • However the award chart shows a starting price of 65,000 miles one way for business and 80,000 miles one way for first.

    Similarly U.S. to South Africa on Cathay Pacific (via Hong Kong) goes from 62,500 miles one way in business class to 70,000 miles, and from 70,000 miles one way in first class to 85,000 miles.

    Moreover the new chart says that no stopovers are permitted within an international award region. So, for instance, no stopovers would be permitted in Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific when flying between Singapore and Tokyo. Similarly no stopover would be permitted in London (on BA) or Madrid (on Iberia) when booking an award within Europe.

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