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February 20, 2006

What to do with Onepass Miles - Alaska Airlines

About a month ago, Gary Leff wrote on View From The Wing, And if you're not going to earn status and you're going to fly on Continental for goodness sakes accumulate your miles in a real program like Alaska Mileage Plan.

It’s good advice. My beef with Continental has always been simple: Award availability sucks unless you’re willing to pay double the amount of miles that a standard award would cost – and even then other airlines are better. Flights on Continental can earn miles in any of their Skyteam partners as well as Amtrak Guest Rewards, which used to be a better option than it is now. Amtrak Guest Reward points used to be convertible 1:1 to Continental, Midway and most usefully, United, but the ability to exchange for United miles was terminated abruptly at the beginning of last year. Converting to Midway means you can use points.com – usually not the best deal, but I’m exchanging into Goldpoints for my hotel in Russia this year because the conversion rate is still worth more than trying to use the 25,000 Onepass miles I have for a painfully scarce domestic award or to upgrade at an exorbitant cost.

Continental flights can also earn miles on Alaska Airlines. If you’re someone who flies several airlines, Alaska’s program may also be a good way to consolidate miles.

Alaska has an uncommon network of partnerships that span two major alliances. The majors include


Air France


British Airways
Cathay Pacific

With exceptions that should be checked before booking, you can earn Alaska miles on any of these airlines, so a BA flight here and a KLM flight there that might otherwise sit unused as orphan miles can add up to an award.

In many cases I would rather accumulate miles in the original plan or an alliance partner, but there are exceptions. Asiamiles are very valuable to me, but they expire in approximately three years without any extension. If I didn’t think I could earn enough for an award, I might opt for putting them into Alaska's program where miles only expire after three years of complete inactivity.

Alaska also offers one Continental reward at a discount – BusinessFirst from North America to South America via CO is 75,000 miles. Onepass charges 70,000 miles for the northern countries, but 90,000 for Argentina, et al, so that is a savings. Caveat – award availability on CO probably won’t be any better for Alaska Airlines than it will for Onepass.

Posted by Leigh Witchel at February 20, 2006 9:46 PM

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