The Best Airline Miles For Visiting Alaska
The Last Frontier of America is near the top of my travel bucket list. Alaska’s exquisite natural beauty and abundance of wildlife makes it an absolutely amazing place to visit. The issue for us has been needing a substantial time to visit. Visiting Alaska is not something I want to do over a long weekend. If we go, we’re going to go!
But I have looked many times at the miles and points options for booking award flights to Alaska. There are a decent number, depending on where you want to visit and which carrier(s) you want to fly. Here are all the best airline miles for visiting Alaska:
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan
It would make sense that some of the best miles for visiting Alaska are…drumroll…Alaska miles! While Alaska Airlines is confusingly headquartered in Seattle, Washington, they still operate the bulk of flights to their namesake state. If you’re looking to fly beyond the major cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks, you’ll almost certainly need to fly with them. And their miles are one of the best options for booking their own flights.
Alaska modified their award charge to make awards on their own flights pseudo distance-based. I say pseudo, since pricing is also slightly variable as well. Even with these changes, many awards (even economy) are excellent value.
Here is Alaska’s award pricing for domestic tickets:
- Hop: Trips less than 700 flown miles – Prices start at 5,000 miles
- Skip: Trips between 701 and 1,400 flown miles – Prices start at 7,500 miles
- Jump: Trips between 1,401 and 2,100 flown miles – Prices start at 10,000 miles
- Leap: Trips over 2,101 flown miles – Prices start at 12,500 miles
For most departure points in the Lower 48, flights to Alaska will cost 12,500 miles at their cheapest. If you’re departing Seattle or Portland, you may be able to get away with spending only 10,000 miles one way. The PNW to airports in the Alaskan panhandle can be even cheaper.
The beauty of Alaska miles lies in the ability to plan in free stopovers. This is their real power, and why I rank them so highly. Interested in visiting Seward before moving on to Fairbanks and Denali National Park? Easily done by stopping over in Anchorage. You could then plan a stop in Juneau on the way back. Alaska miles also make short hops within the state very affordable. These can include flights on their regional partners, such as Ravn Alaska and PenAir. If you need to get to remote Alaska, you’re basically stuck using MileagePlan.
Alaska Airlines can also be used to book American Airlines flights for just 12,500 miles per person each way. This is slightly better than using American’s own miles. The country’s worst airline will charge you 15,000 one-way. American itself only serves Alaska on one route: Dallas to Anchorage.
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles
I’ve been obsessed with Turkish Airlines Miles and Smiles lately, and for good reason. They have one of the most attractive award charts, which I used to book United premium service across the country. I’ve even been able to price out awards online.
Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles will charge you just 7,500 miles each way in economy and 12,500 miles each way in first/business. You’ll be flying United Airlines, as they are a Star Alliance partner. These rates are amazing, especially since you can depart anywhere United flies.
United also has some of the best award availability to Alaska, which makes Miles & Smiles all that more fantastic of an option. Here is the availability from Tulsa, a frequent pick as a “random example airport”, to Anchorage:
About half the days have at least two saver award seats available, which is excellent. In off-season, I’ve found airports with entire months where this is the case.
For the bulk of the country, and especially United flyers, Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles will be the best airline miles for visiting Alaska. Get out those Citi ThankYou point cards and start accruing!
Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer
Another great option for booking flights to Alaska is the Singapore KrisFlyer program. As a Star Alliance member, you can use their miles to book United flights. The rates are attractive at 12,500 miles one-way. I actually thought United charged the same award rate, but all I see are flights for 17,500 miles, which I have to assume is the base price now.
What you may not know is that you can use Singapore KrisFlyer to also book Alaska flights. Their Alaska award chart is unique, but you’ll generally pay ~12,000 miles one-way for an award flight. You’ll need to find Alaska saver award space at the lowest pricing to book these flights.
One confusing aspect of Singapore’s Alaska award chart is the verbiage that states “Transfers and stopovers are not permitted”. If a layover equals a transfer, I don’t know why they even publish an award chart for some of the zones since a connection will be required. I’m interested to know if this is actually the case.
One major upside of Singapore Airlines miles is that they are so very easy to accrue. They are a transfer partner of all the major bank programs (Chase, Citi, American Express). This, plus the ability to book two of the best operating carriers who serve Alaska, makes them some of the best miles for visiting Alaska.
If you can’t fly United or use Alaska miles for whatever reason, American Airlines AAdvantage is your next best bet. Their award rates to Alaska aren’t particularly good, but they are better than most other Oneworld options. You’re looking at 15,000 miles in each direction for saver flights.
But who knows. With the slow death of award charts and the introduction of variable pricing, we may see prices lower or higher than this.
British Airways Avios
I only want to touch on British Airways Avios lightly, as they are only an excellent option when two conditions are met:
- You are booking a nonstop award on Alaska or American metal
- There is an ongoing transfer bonus for Avios
Getting a 40% bonus on Membership Rewards transferred to Avios means that you need just over 9,000 Membership Rewards points each way if flying Alaska Airlines’ nonstop ORD-ANC service, for example. If you’re a Dallas-based flyer, you’re looking at ~15,000 Membership Rewards for the nonstop American flight to Anchorage. For West Coast airports located less than 2,000 miles (SEA and PDX), you’re looking at just 8,000 Avios for a nonstop flight.
If you need to make a connection, the prices inflate significantly, and Avios will no longer be a great option. But if you can fly nonstop, they could be amazing.
Delta gets placed dead last because they generally don’t offer good award prices for the majority of routes. But I cannot find any SkyTeam option that fares any better, so I figured I’d include them. Even after conducting searches for the lowest-priced space I could find at delta.com and inputting that into the FlyingBlue and Virgin Atlantic search engines, I came up dry. Awards from many places in the country will set you back 30,000 miles or more.
But there is one bright side for Seattleites: you can score a round-trip in basic economy for just 9,000 miles. For a flight that costs $236 cash, this is extremely good value for SkyMiles. But the program is a total mixed bag.
Any Other Best Airline Miles for Visiting Alaska?
These are the top options, but you can certainly use other programs to get to Alaska. Korean Airlines can nab you an award for just 25,000 SkyMiles round-trip, but this assumes you can find “saver” Delta space. Asiana offers flights for 25,000 miles round-trip as well. However, miles in both of these programs are hard to accrue, and there are better options.
I would generally consider Star Alliance and Alaska partners to be the best, as the award space is the most consistent and they offer far more routing options that other carriers. My top two choices among the best airline miles for visiting Alaska: definitely Alaska MileagePlan miles and Turkish Airlines Miles & Smiles.
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I live in Anchorage and really enjoy it up here. If you’re in to seeing the bears catching salmon in the river at Katmai, perhaps consider flying to King Salmon with a stopover in Anchorage (if using AK miles). You’d need to look in to making additional transportation arrangements from King Salmon to Katmai .It can be variable as to exactly when the salmon will be running, though– no salmon, no bears. It would also require making reservations to camp inside the electrified fence enclosure, unless you choose to stay at a lodge. You would probably prefer not to have to camp outside the electrified fence area. Happy travels wherever you decide to visit.