Alaska Airlines has an interesting award program, largely because they’re not a part of any alliance and instead have one-off partnerships with a number of carriers. Two of those partners include Delta and American, so Alaska is often cited as a good program to credit to if you’re not particularly loyal to one carrier as you can credit Delta, American, and Alaska flights to Alaska. As I’ve argued before, the marginal value of a mile can vary wildly depending on how many miles you currently have in your accounts, so it often makes sense to concentrate your mileage earning if you don’t fly a lot.
I currently have about 85,000 Alaska miles. I originally started collecting Alaska miles to redeem for Qantas first class, since Alaska used to be able to book Qantas awards at the same time as Qantas’s own members, which means it was slightly less of a crapshoot to find first class award seats, but that functionality has since been discontinued. This is still a possibility, but you can’t really plan around finding Qantas first class award seats, and now there’s not much of a reason to use Alaska miles for this over American miles (although Alaska charges 70k miles for a one-way first class seat while American charges 72.5k and the stopover rules are slightly different).
Then there’s the oft-talked-about-but-rarely-booked (at least as far as I can tell) Alaska award of Cathay Pacific first class from North America to Africa for 70k miles one way. This is two lengthy flights in Cathay Pacific first class–from North America to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Johannesburg (Cathay’s only destination in Africa)–for the price of one. South Africa is one of my favorite places to visit, so this is definitely a possibility, and 70k miles is much cheaper and a more viable alternative than 100k miles on American for first class to Africa where you’re probably paying through the nose for first class flights on British Airways or 75k miles on United for first class where the best option is waiting 15 days in advance for Lufthansa to open up award availability.
But the real reason why I applied for another Alaska Airlines credit card was to get enough miles to cross the 100k mile mark on Alaska, which gives you the opportunity to book Emirates first class to anywhere in the world. Alaska is the only US-based frequent flyer program to allow you to redeem for Emirates, and even though 100k miles is pricey for a one-way trip, this is probably the best way to experience Emirates first class (your alternative being JAL’s mileage program, which has a distance-based award chart and could thus be cheaper, but the most practical way of accumulating JAL miles is to transfer from SPG, which isn’t that practical for those of us who don’t spend much money).
Which of these redemptions do you think is most worth it? I’ve had the fortune of already flying Emirates first class on the A380 (and experiencing the Emirates first class lounge/terminal in Dubai), and I’ve got a trip planned on Cathay Pacific first class for February, so Qantas is the only one of these I haven’t done. Should I hold out to see if I can snag Qantas space at some point?