The only thing worst in the points and miles world than unannounced devaluations are devaluations that absolutely destroy the value of a specific rewards currency. That is exactly what happened this morning with Alaska Airlines for award bookings on partner Emirates. Sure, there are still great redemption options available with other Alaska partners but after what happened today, can you really trust that Alaska will not do the same for awards on Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, Fiji Airways or any of their other great partners?
And that brings me to the main reason I am writing this article. When it comes to their rewards programs, airlines can never be trusted. This is far from the first time we have seen a significant unannounced devaluation. Over the last few years, we have seen AA do it when they decided to eliminate distance-based awards (I am still hurting from that move) and Delta do it when they decided to increase business class award rates to Israel, among many others.
Therefore, unless there is a specific award you will book immediately after the purchase, you should never buy miles, regardless of how good a deal you think you are getting. I have to imagine there are at least hundreds of people that purchased Alaska miles over the last month or so specifically with the intention of redeeming those miles for awards on Emirates. I feel horrible for those people. They might still be able to get something out of the miles they purchased, but probably nothing close to what they had in mind.
Although I never purchase miles, over the last year I have applied for three Alaska Airlines credit cards with the intention of eventually using the miles earned from those cards for an Emirates award. Ironically, this is the only card I have ever churned, so I guess the same advice should apply to those speculatively churning credit cards.
And to be clear, airlines have all the right in the world to devalue their rewards programs. All we are asking is for them to give people a heads up. American Airlines did this perfectly. As much as I hated the fact that they were going to significantly devalue their rewards program, I will always appreciate the fact that they notified the devaluation six months in advance.
Airlines cannot be trusted when it comes to their rewards program. Therefore, you should never make speculative miles purchases.
Were you the victim of a recent Alaska Airlines miles purchase? If so, what do you plan to do now with your purchased miles?