Earlier this week, I discussed the costs of purchasing frequent flyer miles generally, and in particular whether the financial picture changed when airlines discounted the price of miles, as several are currently doing. It turned out to be a case of a bad deal made only marginally better.
In contrast to those limited-time discounts, Alaska Airlines has introduced a new feature to its Mileage Plan program that amounts to a permanent discount on the price of miles, provided they're bought in conjunction with the purchase of an Alaska ticket on alaskaair.com.
With Alaska's so-called Fly & Buy Miles feature, Mileage Plan members who book paid tickets are given the opportunity to buy miles at the following rates: $25 for 1,000; $62 for 2,500 miles; or $109 for 5,000 miles.
Normally, the price is $27.50 for every 1,000 miles purchased. So the Fly & Buy prices represent a 9 percent discount when purchasing 1,000 miles, and a 21 percent discount when buying 5,000 miles.
If this all sounds vaguely familiar, it's because United introduced a similar feature, Award Accelerator, last August.
In both cases, the unstated proposition seems to be that consumers deserve a better deal on miles when they also buy tickets. The deal the airlines have chosen to offer, however, just isn't that much better.