Condor Airlines offers seasonal non-stop service from Halifax to Frankfurt and Munich. One avenue to book these flights is to redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles. The lowest redemption level for a one-way flight is 25,000 miles. There is availability at this amount from May 30th till mid-July and the remaining summer and autumn dates will likely appear later. Interestingly, for us here in the Maritimes, there are ways to earn Alaska miles.
I’ll preface this by acknowledging all the points and miles aficionados out there who believe Alaska miles are best used for premium cabin flights to Asia or elsewhere. There is certainly much value to be derived from such redemptions but there is also a lot of value in simply making a trip happen, and that’s my primary focus.
How Do I Get Alaska Miles?
Fortunately, it’s not terribly difficult as there are two credit cards available in Canada that offer good sign-up bonuses. In addition, there are other credit cards that earn points that may be converted to Alaska miles.
MBNA Alaska Airlines Platinum Plus Mastercard
MBNA Alaska Airlines World Elite Mastercard
The World Elite version of the card comes with a sign-up bonus of 30,000 miles upon spending $1000 in the 90 days after approval with an annual fee of $99. The Platinum Plus has no published minimum income requirement and comes with a sign-up bonus of 20,000. It has the same $1000 minimum spend threshold and an annual fee of $75.
To defray the cost of the annual fee, apply for the card through Great Canadian Rebates and get a $50 rebate.
Both cards include a companion fare ($121 USD) for a return flight on Alaska Airlines. It’s not valid on partner airlines which poses a predicament. You’d have to get yourself to Boston or another airport serviced by Alaska Airlines to use it. Also, unlike the WestJet companion voucher, the holder of the card doesn’t have to fly. The booking just needs to be paid for with the Alaska mastercard.
Note that it’s not possible to hold both cards concurrently.
Additionally, there are other credit cards that can be used to earn Alaska miles indirectly. Just be sure to evaluate all your redemption options carefully before converting any points to Alaska miles.
Marriott Bonvoy Amex
Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex
Amex Business Edge
Marriott Bonvoy points may be transferred to a variety of frequent flyer programs including Alaska Mileage Plan. They convert at a rate of 3:1 and if you transfer 60,000 points you get a 5000 mile bonus.
The Marriott Bonvoy Amex comes with a sign-up bonus of 50,000 Marriott Bonvoy points after spending $1500 in the first 90 days from approval. The annual fee is $120 and you will receive a 35,000 point free night certificate after the card’s anniversary date.
The business version of the Marriott card has the same sign-up bonus but with a $150 annual fee and the free night certificate.
The Great Canadian Rebates offer on these cards is only $20 at the moment.
The Amex Cobalt card awards the sign-up bonus on a monthly basis when you spend $500 per month during the first year.
The Amex Cobalt and Business Edge cards earn Membership Rewards points that can be converted to Marriott points, and as mentioned, those can be converted to Alaska miles.
The Cobalt currently has a temporary increased rebate of $90 on Great Canadian Rebates while the Business Edge is at $75.
Hotel Loyalty Points
As with Marriott, if you collect points in other hotel loyalty programs, you may set your account to earn Alaska miles or convert existing points to miles. Again, weigh the benefit of using them for hotel stays before making the transfer. A quick check reveals that programs including IHG Rewards, Best Western, Choice Privileges and Hilton Honors all allow for transfers to Alaska Mileage Plan.
I have only changed the setting on a hotel loyalty program once, when there was a promo to get 2000 Aeroplan miles for each Best Western stay. I generally find promotions for earning hotel points are more beneficial for my purposes.
Another way to accumulate Alaska miles is through a hotel booking site like Rocketmiles. Just be careful that you’re getting a competitive nightly rate and that you’re using a good bonus promotion, especially if you’re a first time user.
If you’re already enrolled in E-Rewards, check to see if Alaska is one of your reward options. If you haven’t signed up, you must wait to receive an email invitation link from a loyalty program. I signed up through IHG Rewards many years ago but I noticed that Accor Hotels sends out invitation links occasionally as well. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect you will only have the full choice of airline programs if you sign up through a hotel chain’s invitation link or a link from Alaska Mileage Plan itself. For example, if you sign up through an Aeroplan link you might only be able to redeem e-rewards for Aeroplan miles.
You can earn Alaska miles on paid Condor flights so if you’re flying Condor this year consider crediting the miles to Alaska Mileage Plan.
Travelling Beyond Frankfurt or Munich
If using miles you’ll be limited to onward flights operated by Condor since you cannot combine more than one Alaska partner in a booking. Condor flies to a number of popular European summer vacation destinations but you won’t be able to connect to any major cities like Budapest or Rome using miles. Still, if you have your eye on some time in the Greek Islands or the Dalmatian coast then you’ll be in luck. Filter the options on Condor’s world map to see the possibilities.
Rail & Fly
If your final destination upon arrival is within Germany you can take advantage of the Rail & Fly option with Condor. This is a discount ticket valid on any Deutsche Bahn train. If you’re heading farther, say to Amsterdam or Paris, you’ll have to decide whether to book a non-refundable advance purchase discount train ticket that can only be used on a specific train. If you do, make sure to build in a reasonable amount of time in case of a flight delay. Frankfurt conveniently has a long distance train station right at the airport.
The Alaska program offers a great perk on one-way redemptions: the option to include a free stopover. So, you could stay in Germany for a few days and then continue on to your destination. I’m going to spend some time looking for interesting combinations and do a separate post on a few sample trip ideas.
Only Have Enough Miles For One-Way?
If you have enough miles for a one-way flight, you can of course buy the other one-way with money. This is especially useful if you want to arrive or depart from a city other than those served by Condor, but is served be a Condor partner airline such as Lufthansa, Austrian, LOT etc.
WestJet now offers reasonable one-way fares to a bunch of different cities. And if you’re not interested in flying to London, Glasgow, Dublin, Paris or Barcelona, consider booking a one-way through Worldwide By Easyjet where you can use the GatwickConnects feature to ensure your connection is protected.
In the past, one-way flights to Europe on Air Canada were prohibitively expensive. On the rare occasion, you’d see a good fare Halifax to London but a one-way flight home would be out of sight. Oddly, when I checked Google Flights at the time of writing this, there were reasonably priced one-ways on Air Canada this spring to various cities like Paris, Brussels, Nice and Madrid, connecting in Montreal or Toronto. As before though, coming home on a one-way flight on Air Canada is a non-starter.
An annoyance when using Aeroplan miles is having to connect once or twice to get to or from Europe in order to avoid Air Canada and its high carrier surcharges. Therefore, this ability to get to the continent on a non-stop flight using Alaska miles with low taxes and fees is a nice alternative if it works for your travel plans.