Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Redeem Alaska Airlines Miles On Icelandair Now!

Back in September, Alaska Airlines and Icelandair announced a resumption of their codeshare and frequent flyer partnership, including reciprocal miles-earning (redeemable and elite-qualifying) and lounge access for elite members at their respective hubs. In terms of redeeming miles, both Alaska and Icelandair stated that this functionality would be available by "late 2015". Well, it looks like that day is officially here.

Starting today, Mileage Plan members can redeem miles for Icelandair flights directly on the Alaska Airlines website. The Icelandair partner award chart has also been posted (see below). Upon first glance, mileage costs appear to be quite fair, with round-trip flights between North America and Iceland starting at just 45,000 miles. This, compared to most programs which charge the typical 60,000 miles since Iceland is usually lumped in with Europe.

However, on second glance, you'll notice that Alaska is now charging different amounts based on "Low", "Medium", and "High" availability of economy class awards, which appears to be a first among partner airlines. On the other hand, business class awards still only have one level of pricing. Notice that you can also fly Icelandair between North America and Europe, and that would include a stopover in Iceland for no additional charge. At 55,000 miles round-trip at the "Low" level, that's quite a bargain.

On the flip side, Icelandair has also released their award chart for flights on Alaska Airlines. Bottom line is, it doesn't look great:

Note that Icelandair has a fairly extensive network in North America, with flights to JFK, EWR, IAH, BOS, MCO, ORD, MSP, DEN, SEA, PDX, ANC, YYZ, YVR, YEG, amongst others. Some routes may be seasonal, so be sure to check the appropriate dates.

I did some preliminary searches using Alaska's website, and "Low" availability doesn't look great, especially during the peak summer months. I do see more availability after Labor Day weekend in September, however. Another strange thing I noticed was that often times, direct flights to/from Iceland were pricing out at the "Medium" or "High" levels, but pick a flight with inconvenient layovers and additional segments on Alaska, and the price sometimes drops to the "Low" level - even if the same direct flight to/from Iceland is included in the itinerary.

For example, I saw SEA-KEF flights pricing out at 30,000 miles. However, SFO-KEF flight that included the SEA-KEF segment (and also had very inconvenient layovers) were pricing out at 22,500 miles. Play around and you might find some good deals.

Lastly, Alaska appears to be tacking on fuel surcharges both ways. Unlike Delta, which only includes fuel surcharges on flights originating from Europe, Alaska is charging ~$130 outbound to Europe and ~$170 inbound to North America. Total taxes and fees will amount to more than $300! It might be worthwhile to wait and book on WOW air as they continue to expand their North America route network next year.