Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan is one of my favorite frequent flyer programs. Sure, a little while back they decided to push down an instant and crushing devaluation (without any prior warning) to one of their most popular and attractive partner redemptions… but what loyalty program hasn’t pulled one over on us in the past!?
What still makes Mileage Plan so special in my book is a little something called a “stopover!”
So, what is a stopover?
Essentially a stopover is a long layover… think days, weeks, months kind of long! A stopover on an award flight makes it possible to experience a completely different location on the way to your destination, without redeeming additional points/miles!
What’s the catch?
While the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan stopover policy is arguably the most generous in the game, there are a few limitations to keep in mind when planning your award:
You are only allowed to fly on one of Alaska’s airline partners (plus any connecting Alaska flights).
For example, while my Alaska Airlines award on LAN departs out of Miami, Alaska will not allow me to take a short connecting fight on fellow partner American Airlines from my home airport in Tampa.
You have to stick to the award chart routings.
For example, the award chart for AS partner Qantas limits award travel between North America and Australia/New Zealand, as well as Intra-Australia. Qantas has other routes to various other cities across the globe, like London, Dubai, and Hong Kong, but Alaska does not allow partner award bookings for those routes as they are not within the chart!
You are limited to stopovers in “hub” cities.
For example, even though Alaska partner Emirates flies a 5th Freedom route from New York to Milan onward to Dubai, a stopover in Milan is not permitted. Emirates “hub” airport is Dubai International Airport, and therefore is the only city in which an Emirates stopover can occur.
Don’t fret, there are some pretty amazing hub city stopovers to be had across other Alaska Award Partners:
- Air France – Paris (CDG)
- British Airways – London (LHR)
- Fiji Airways – Nadi, Fiji (NAN)
- KLM – Amsterdam (AMS)
- Korean Air – Seoul (ICN)
- Qantas – Sydney (SYN), or Melbourne (MEL)
- Icelandair – Reykjavik (KEF)
- JAL – Tokyo (NRT)
- Cathay Pacific – Hong Kong (HKG)
- LAN – Lima (LIM), Quito (UIO), or Santiago (SAN) – which presents me to…
A Stopover in Action
For the longest time now I have had my eyes on a trip to Peru! A top notch dining scene in Lima combined with the awe and wonder that is Machu Picchu – sign me up!
I began my search process with a simple MIA-LIM search (considering most South American flights originate in Miami) using the award building tool – Award Ace. Prior to planning this trip I had never heard of this tool, but I can guarantee I will be back, as it was the first to provide me following bright idea:
Quick Geography Check:
Initially this routing through Santiago (SCL) seemed odd, considering LAN features a direct flight from Miami to Lima, but then realized this was a perfect opportunity to showcase Alaska’s stopover feature! Two trips for the price of one and all in Business Class for 45,000 Mileage Plan miles + tax and fees. As long as this routing met the criteria mentioned above!
Was I flying solely on one airline partner? Check – all travel is on LAN. Though I would need to make my way from TPA to MIA in order to catch my flight!
Was the routing permitted per the award chart? Check – all travel is within South America!
Was the stopover in a “hub” city? Check – Santiago is in fact a LAN hub city!
For just 45,000 miles one-way, it seemed possible to bypass the easy and straightforward option of MIA-LIM and instead fly MIA – SCL (stopover) – LIM! To add to the excitement, I did a bit of research on this route with came to find out that LAN operates the MIA-LIM route with their Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner!
And now all I had to do was book it!
Plan Mileage Plan LAN Partner Awards Early:
And by early, I mean as soon as the schedule opens up, about 11 months in advance! Typically, LAN opens up partner availability for booking between 329-331 days out, and you better be on it! Not because these award seats get scooped up and taken by other travelers, but because LAN will pull back that available inventory after just a few days!
If you are dead set on flying a LAN award but miss the partner award availability window, you can try your luck with LANpass KMs – LAN’s own frequent flyer program. That said, you would be forgoing the fancy stopover feature offered by Alaska Mileage Plan!
Search Mileage Plan LAN Partner Awards:
It is not possible to search Alaska’s LAN award availability online, so you will need to utilize another OneWorld airline search tool – like British Airways (BA)!
Note: To search the BA website you must sign-up for a free Executive Club account.)
After following the planning timeline above, I input my route and dates and I was excited to see that there were 7 Business Class award seats available on the long-haul MIA-SCL!
Booking LAN Awards
I dialed up Alaska Airlines and was quickly connected to a friendly representative.
I provided the agent the specific flights and dates of my travel (beginning with the MIA-LIM flight) and was happy to hold while he completed his search. After a minute or two, the agent returned… flights booked and instantly confirmed by LAN!
I called back 2 days later once availability opened up on the intra-South America SCL-LIM and was able to add in the stopover for a nominal increase in taxes & fees!
Stopovers on Alaska Award flights are your ticket (pun intended) to experiencing two unique destinations for the mileage of one!
There are a variety of great value stopover options out there are you really are limited only by your creativity… and the criteria mentioned up above of course!
But, even following the rules can permit some interesting and exciting routing! Exhibit A – my current booking to visit Santiago, Chile and Lima, Peru flying in LAN’s 787 business class for just 45,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles!
Happy Stopover Travels!