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How to fly for free to Alaska, in Business, and save money to spend on experiences instead

Alaska is a travel destination that certainly deserves a spot on your bucket list.  But unfortunately it’s not the cheapest place to travel to.

Luckily there’s a way to save at least 1000€ per person by using miles.  Imagine all the things you could do with a 1000€ in Alaska.  To give you some inspiration I can tell you we took a helicopter flight that landed on a glacier, we went glacier kayaking and much more.  See our other blogs for more inspiration.

Enjoying some champagne at the bottom of the Knik Glacier

Enjoying some champagne at the bottom of the Knik Glacier

We used 100,000 Aadvantage miles (American Airlines) and flew back & forward to Alaska in Business.

So, why would you spend your miles on a flight to Alaska and not on a flight to another destination?

Flight to Alaska are typically rather expensive which means you will get more value for your miles.    The number of miles you require for a flight to Alaska is also equal to the number of miles you require for any other destination in Northern America. (this is not the case for all airlines but is the case for American Airlines & United Airlines)

Looking at a July 7, 2018, a randomly picked date, the same amount of miles would either earn you:

DestinationCheapest FlightCompany
New York (East Coast)570€Icelandair
Los Angeles (West Coast)827€Turkish Airlines
Anchorage (Alaska)1340€Condor + Lufthansa

This table just lists the cheapest option for this day out of Brussels.  So this is the minimum value you get from your miles.  You see that by flying to Anchorage, Alaska you maximize the value of your miles.

Why did you fly in Business?

I wouldn’t necessarily advise to do so today.  3 years ago when we redeemed our miles it made much more sense to spend miles on a business ticket as it was another way to maximize the value of your miles.  Since then the Aadvantage program has changed and the number of miles needed for Economy or Business class tickets are more inline with the actual price of the tickets.  Below table gives you an idea:

DestinationPrice EconomyMiles EconomyPrice BusinessMiles Business
Anchorage, Alaska1340€475002508€110000
2,8 cent2,2 cent

I just took the cheapest available ticket for an Economy flight and the cheapest ticket for a Business flight.  The third and fifth column show the number of miles required for either a free economy of business flight.  The bottom line shows the value you get for your miles.

If you use your miles for an economy redemption you will get 2.8 cents for each mile.  For a business redemption you will get slightly less,  a value of 2.2 cents for each mile.

So either you want to spoil yourself and save enough miles until you reach the Business threshold but if you don’t fly that often I wouldn’t waste a few extra years and redeem your miles as soon as you can on an economy flight.  You never know if the airline decides to change the program rules and devalue your hard earned mileage.

And now the best part:

You can do this as well!

We collected these miles by taking cheap holiday flights over several years.  Neither of us collected miles travelling for work.  We just took 2 trips a year typically.  One vacation to a more distant location and one European city trip.  The only thing that we did pay attention to is to pick an airline in the oneworld alliance for our long distance travel so we could collect miles and keep our account active.

Now you just need to get started!

To get started you just need to pick the loyalty program that matches your travel needs.  This is not necessarily the program that belongs to the airline you fly most.  Confusing?  Don’t worry.  Stay tuned for our next blog post where we will continue covering these programs.  You will see it’s not so hard as it seems at first.

Stay tuned and get prepared to fly for free!