Alaska Airlines has announced they will be severing ties with partner Icelandair effective June 1, 2013. The two will have a "phased" winding down of relations following that date per an email sent to Mileage Plan members this week:
Alaska Airlines is announcing a change in its Mileage Plan airline partnership with Icelandair, which is scheduled to conclude June 1, 2013. In an effort to minimize impact on our customers, we will phase the relationship out over eleven months. To learn the details of this phased approach, please visit alaskaair.com. We know many customers have found value in our partnership with Icelandair and apologize for any inconvenience that this change may cause.
The phased approach is actually reasonably generous, based on the purchase date of the ticket as defining the earning rules. Here’s what their website shows:
Effective June 1, 2013, Icelandair will no longer be a Mileage Plan™ partner.Tickets purchased on or after June 1, 2013, will not earn Mileage Plan™ Miles. Tickets purchased on or before May 31, 2013, will continue to earn miles for travel through February 28, 2014.
Existing award travel, and award travel booked by May 31, 2013, will be honored for travel through February 28, 2014. Award travel on Icelandair cannot be booked or changed after May 31, 2013.
That said, the inability to change an award after the cutoff date isn’t so great.
It is not entirely clear why this change came about, though the launch of service by Icelandair from Anchorage to Iceland is one possible reason. Ditto the rather crazed flood of award bookings a few months back when Icelandair was selling miles cheap and they could be used to book first class awards to Hawaii at bargain rates. Whatever the reasons, the relationship is ending and that’s a shame. Fewer partners is rarely a good thing.
As a general rule I hate the idea of buying points directly for cash. Even with the occasional US Airways 100% bonus I’m not completely convinced that it is the right move, at least for me. I’m not entirely sure why (or even if) I’m broken that way, but it just doesn’t seem the same. Still, every now and then a deal comes along which screams out to be at least tried. It seems like today is one of those days.
I see this whole obsession as a game of arbitrage, acquiring the points at a discount and redeeming at a higher value. Sometimes that’s not entirely possible. At least not directly. So when an opportunity to play the game in multiple steps comes along I get even more interested, particularly as the associated challenges make it more fun to me. In today’s example it seems that a two step process can yield rather impressive results.
The Icelandic economy collapsed a couple years ago thanks to unfortunate arbitrage plays so maybe their airline is just trying to catch up on the fun. It seems that they’ve got quite the deal available for redemptions on Alaska Airlines flights. Reading OnlineTravelReview this afternoon I came across the details of this deal. Very interesting, indeed. Not only is the current exchange rate from Icelandic Krona to USD or EUR rather favorable right now to folks not in Iceland (arbitrage #1), but the redemption rates of Saga Club points on their partner Alaska Airlines is also quite favorable (arbitrage #2). A glorious deal in the making.
The gist of it is that 30,000 Saga Club points is enough for a first class return ticket on Alaska Airlines metal. Anywhere they fly. And from now until September 28th you can purchase points in the Saga Club program and get a 20% bonus. The cost to purchase 25,000 points – netting 30,000 with the 20% bonus – is only about USD $328. That’s a tremendous bargain. Assuming availability (I’m a bit less inclined to book from the East coast because of that) a trip to Hawaii in first class is going to run you roughly $370. That’s not bad at all.
More details and the original math can be found here.
JetBlue announced today two new partnerships, furthering the growth of their route map and TrueBlue loyalty program. On the flying side Icelandair and JetBlue will now provide interline service with connections between the two available at Boston, New York’s JFK and Washington’s Dulles airports. And on the hotel side Marriott is now an earning partner with TrueBlue.
The Icelandair partnership is similar to eight of the nine other interline partnerships JetBlue offers. It adds the option for a single ticket and through-checking of bags but the fares are additive and there is no frequent flyer reciprocity in terms of earning or redemption.
The Marriott relationship is a nice improvement on the TrueBlue side, adding the option for TrueBlue points earning across the entire Marriott product portfolio. The full-service brands (The Ritz-Carlton®, EDITIONSM, JW Marriott®, Autograph Collection®, Renaissance® Hotels, Marriott® Hotels & Resorts, Marriott Vacation Club®) will earn at a $1=1 point ratio while the other brands earn at a $2=1 point ratio. This is an improvement versus the earning rates on the carrier’s other hotel partner, Hilton, where all properties are at a 2:1 earning rate. Earning on hotel points still does not extend the expiration date of TrueBlue points; only flight or American Express points do.
Overall, two big improvements that see JetBlue continuing to improve their product portfolio.