Alaska airlines has an excellent reputation. A seven metric ranking by the Wall Street Journal show Alaska consistently leading the pack of major U.S. carriers in nearly every category. Their frequent flyer program can be very rewarding, as they are one of the few U.S. carriers that still accrues points based on miles flown and not on dollars spent. They have generally good redemptions, although better flights often seem to come at a premium number of miles (although maybe this has been mainly due to the routes I have been looking into). In any case, a savvy rewards travel enthusiast can easily extract over 2 cents per mile in redemption value.

Having both recently taken my first flight with Alaska and become a whole lot more acquainted with their frequent flyer program, I would like to offer four things I really like about the top-ranked U.S. airline:

  1. They serve Santa Rosa Sonoma County Airport. Yes, this is a completely personal reason why I like them. Getting out of Humboldt County is difficult. Either you drive….or…you drive. Honestly. The closest airline option for me is United out of Arcata-Eureka (ACV), but even that is an hour drive from my home, and prices are typically steep (>$500 round trip anywhere in the U.S.!). Alaska provides the next most convenient option, a decent 3 hour 45 minute drive south to the northern end of Santa Rosa, but pricing is much more within the realm of reason. The drive really isn’t bad if you’re used to it, and stopping at Santa Rosa sure beats going all the way into the Bay Area.
  2. They have both a unique and sizeable set of transfer partners. I love the array of airlines that partner with Alaska. They have some good options in both the Oneworld and SkyTeam alliances, including Delta, American, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, and Qantas. If you are looking for luxury, they also partner with Emirates. A first-class one way from North America to Asia can be had for a mere 100,000 Alaska miles. That sounds like a lot, but it is a whole lot better than some other options.
  3. (Fairly) easy churning of their co-branded BofA card. While the Alaska Airlines Signature Visa issued through Bank of America doesn’t offer a huge sign-up bonus, you can literally get it more than once within a matter of weeks (although lately I have been hearing that they are cracking down on this a bit more). There is no official 12, 18, or 24 month ineligibility period. Yes, you pay the $75 fee, but it’s like buying 25,000 MileagePlan miles for $75. Fantastic deal. In theory, you could grab the card 4 times in a year, and “buy” a first-class redemption on Emirates for $300.
  4. Their image is just cool. Who doesn’t like that iconic Eskimo face on the tail of every plane?

I hope to fit Alaska airlines into future travel plans. Southwest is still my favorite U.S. carrier, but Alaska has impressed me. The use of their co-branded Visa card also opens up significant reward travel opportunities. Check them out. I’ll soon be applying for another of their Visa cards (or two).