Alaska Airlines devalues award chart–No more 90,000 mile Emirates First Class
It wasn’t a great week for the points and miles community. On March 31, Alaska Airlines conducted a no-notice devaluation of their miles when redeeming for Emirates flights. I wrote about how you could fly Emirates First Class, in my article here, for only 90,000 Alaska miles one way to Dubai. Now, that same flight is 150,000 miles. Ouch!
What do the new redemptions look like?
All classes of Emirates service increased significantly in mileage cost, but the First Class redemption is really the one that is bothering people the most, since it was such a great aspirational award!
- Up until Thursday you could redeem 90,000 Alaska miles for a one-way First Class Emirates ticket to the Middle East or India. Now that same award is 150,000 Alaska miles!
- Up until Thursday you could redeem 100,000 Alaska miles for a one-way First Class Emirates ticket to Asia, Africa, or Europe. Now that award is 180,000 miles to Europe or Asia and a whopping 200,000 miles to Africa!
Here are the full new award charts:
You should note that Alaska has different award charts for each of their partners, and this devaluation has only effected the Emirates awards–so far!
After receiving complaints this week from its customers, Alaska issued the following statement:
Later, Alaska added that this no-notice devaluation does “not represent a new normal” and that Alaska’s policy is to “communicate significant program changes with at least 30 days’ notice when at all possible.”
My take on this devaluation
Points and miles are a terrible long-term investment, because as a rule, they lose value over time due to company devaluations, mergers and inflation. However, when there is a no-notice devaluation it really hurts customers since there is absolutely no way to plan for it. There are likely many customers that were saving up their miles or had recently purchased miles in order to redeem for Emirates flights—with absolutely no warning at all, those customers will now need up to double the Alaska miles just to fly the same flights. This is not customer friendly at all.
On March 22, American Airlines devalued most of their mileage redemptions, but in fairness, they gave customers months of warning. Many people planned ahead and booked flights well in advance to take advantage of the cheaper mileage rates prior to the devaluation. In this case, Alaska probably felt that if they gave their customer’s notice, there would be a “run” on high value redemptions causing them to lose money. But at the same time, Alaska was running a sale to purchase miles. Trying to push the sale of miles while also conducting a no-notice devaluation is disingenuous. It appears that Alaska has tried to put a band-aid on this poor customer service decision by offering to refund your purchase (and take back the miles) if you purchased any miles after March 1st.
Can you protect yourself from no-notice devaluations?
I know several friends who like to accumulate miles and rarely, if ever, redeem them. This is a mistake. Long-term investing in points and miles is like investing in the latest iPhone—you know what they are worth now, but there is really no way of telling how much they will be worth in a few months or a few years after new products come out and technology moves forward.
My recommendation is to set your travel goals, accumulate points/miles to meet them, then quickly redeem your miles for your dream travel. This is the best way to protect yourself from devaluations, mergers, inflation, etc. Hoarding miles for some vague travel plans in the long-term future is not really a good strategy.
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