Alaska Airlines launches two-pronged award sale

Alaska Airlines has kicked off a two-pronged fall award sale that will benefit members of its Mileage Plan frequent flier program.

The airline is offering what it called “unprecedented values” in terms of bargain rates for members who book travel using accrued frequent flier miles, as well as deep discounts to members who purchase miles.

Through Oct. 31, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK) is offering fares to many of its popular destinations for as low as 5,000 miles one-way, a 60 percent discount off a standard award-level ticket. For example, travelers can book one-way flights between Portland, Oregon (PDX) and Oakland, California (OAK); Salt Lake City (SLC) and Los Angeles (LAX), or Seattle (SEA) and San Francisco (SFO) for 5,000 miles, which represents a 7,500 mile savings over the normal 12,500 mile price.

In addition, Mileage Plan members who purchase miles through Oct. 14 will receive up to 40 percent bonus miles. For example, a customer who purchases 35,000 miles will receive 14,000 bonus miles in their Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account.

The airline says its customers “enjoy generous availability on award redemptions, one-way travel awards, and combination miles-and-money award redemptions.” According to the 2014 Switchfly Reward Seat Availability Survey released May 8, Alaska was the No. 4-ranked U.S. airline with regard to the ability to book a “saver seat” using frequent flier miles, with availability on 58.6 percent of the flights and routes queried. That survey ranked Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) as the No. 1-ranked U.S. airline, with 100 percent availability, followed by JetBlue (NYSE:JBLU) with 92.9 percent availability, and United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) at 71.4 percent availability.

Alaska recently enhanced its Mileage Plan by introducing mix-and-match, one-way partner awards and allowing miles flown on all its international partners to count toward MVP elite status. There is no minimum dollar amount that must be spent to achieve Mileage Plan elite status, as Alaska is one of a shrinking number of airlines with a frequent flier plan based on miles flown rather than dollars spent or a combination of the two.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan also rewards customers with elite status faster than any other frequent flier program, the carrier said. Elite-level status is earned for as little as 20,000 miles a year for travel only on Alaska Airlines. If customers combine travel on multiple airlines, elite-level status begins at 25,000 miles.

The sale of frequent flier miles is one source of what airlines call “ancillary revenue” or revenue from non-ticket sources. According to a recent survey, five U.S. airlines took in more than $13bn in ancillary revenue in 2013. Concerns about ancillary revenue recently prompted the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation to open an inquiry seeking additional details from U.S.-flagged carriers.

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Photo courtesy Alaska Airlines