Alaska Airlines (Kinda) Removes Award Ban on Close-in Bookings

by Enoch

Yesterday I wrote about Alaska Airlines’ new policy, which blocks close-in award for travel on Cathay Pacific, Hainan Airlines, and JAL. The policy essentially bans all new bookings within 72 hours of departure, but also prohibits any changes to those tickets from being made in the same timeframe.

There was a good amount of negative reactions to these changes, mostly for a few reasons:

  • Alaska made no notice (or even official announcements) about this policy being implemented
  • Many premium cabin awards on these airlines aren’t opened up until 72 hours before departure, so this policy renders a lot of folks unable to use their miles for First and Business Class

Fortunately, it would appear that Alaska Airlines is somewhat walking back on the “award ban,” less than 24 hours after it was made official and public on Twitter. This is a positive move on Alaska’s part (though I don’t generally perceive a reversal on something that’s stupid to begin with as good news).

However, there is one important caveatAll intra-Asia flights on Cathay Pacific, JAL, and Hainan Airlines will still have to be booked at least 72 hours out. This is presumably to target the fraudulent activities, which may be coming from those regions.

Now, since Alaska allows a stopover on one-way tickets, many folks booking tickets will presumably include one on their ticket. For example, you can fly New York – Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific Business for 50,000 miles. However, you can also fly New York – Hong Kong (stop for a few days) – Bangkok (destination) for the same exact number of miles. It’s a no brainer, really.

But with this lingering policy, intra-Asia segment will remain “unchangeable” 72 hours before departure. This essentially places some limitations on ticketing, since:

  • You won’t be able to take advantage of the stopover that’s shorter than 3 days if you book a new reservation within 72 hours
  • You won’t be able to book a last-minute ticket to fly back from a city that doesn’t have a direct flight to the US (e.g. if you are in Bangkok and want a ticket home, you’d have to book 72 hours in advance)
  • If you are trying to “upgrade” a ticket that was previously booked in Coach or Premium Economy, the intra-Asia portion will remain in that class of service, unless it’s more than 72 hours out

For what it’s worth, if this is what we have to settle for with Alaska, I think it’s not totally unreasonable. Though as I have mentioned, it might just be because mentally I’ve already come to terms with the fact that award tickets with Alaska are now going to come with major pain points. Of course, whether they bother you or not will depend on your travel pattern. But I’d argue that these considerations should cause quite a bit of a headache in terms of planning for most people trying to maximize their miles, and would definitely factor into my valuation of Alaska Airlines miles.

Perhaps a positive light though: it would appear Alaska is blocking these awards manually, rather than hard coding it in the system. This means that hopefully the agent on the phone can decide whether the booking or change violate the policy, and maybe (just maybe) we can have some leeway.

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Hal February 14, 2018 - 8:39 pm

Always the Asians ruining a good thing…even though my parents are of Chinese heritage, being American I don’t try to screw the programs by buying non transferrable miles.

Benji February 14, 2018 - 11:58 pm

Seems like an ok compromise to me


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