Have you ever heard the old adage, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater?” That’s what Alaska Airlines just did in its latest Mileage Plan devaluation.

Alaska Airlines now blocks partner redemptions on Cathay Pacific and JAL within 72 hours of travel. Citing rampant fraud, Alaska reasons it had no other choice…just like it claims it had no choice before its massive devaluation of Emirates awards in 2016.

Award Expert clients often ask me about buying miles on the grey market. If you think this is a small issue, think again. It’s a multi-million dollar industry around the world. And while there is potential value in purchasing miles, it is not something I encourage…especially because loyalty programs have shown a penchant for fiercely cracking down on those who engage in these practices.

But talk about a bizarre overreaction. That makes me think something else is at play here…partner redemption costs.

Cathay Pacific and JAL open up their best award seats at the last-minute. Both are dependable at releasing space in first and business class just days, sometimes hours before departure.

With the elimination of booking within 72-hours, Alaska miles are suddenly worth a lot less…even if the award chart remains unchanged.

If fraud was the issue, Alaska could have easily imposed a less draconian solution:

  1. Redemptions only for the member within 72 hours of travel
  2. Redemption only for the member or those with the same surname within 72 hours of travel
  3. Telephone-only redemption within 72 hours of travel.

There are other solutions: two-factor authentication or other security protocols that Alaska could invest in…if it wanted to.

Instead, I believe Alaska wanted a DPRK solution: oh you’ll be safe from fraud, but lose all your freedom in the process. I also believe that Alaska Airlines wanted to save money: less premium cabin partner redemptions mean less money out of their pockets.


I’m turning very cynical toward Alaska and its MileagePlan program. While there are still some gems on the award chart, the program has shown a willingness to blindside members with harsh, no-notice devaluation. That is not how any loyalty program should operate.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.