Correction: I missed a crucial piece of information while dissecting the latest airfare/mileage deals from Alaska Airlines in this column.
The fares from Anchorage, Fairbanks and other Alaska communities to Africa and the Maldives are still pretty good. But my calculations on the elite qualifying miles you can earn are way off.
For example, the miles between Anchorage and Johannesburg really do add up to 25,838 roundtrip. However, only about half of the miles you fly on Emirates (11,390 roundtrip) will count toward your MVP status on Alaska Airlines.
That's still a gob of miles -- but it is not the "double mileage" as promoted by Alaska Airlines. Rather, it's "double-the-miles-you-normally-would-accrue".
Back to the Anchorage-Johannesburg example, you still would earn double miles on the Anchorage-Seattle segment with Alaska Airlines, or 5,760 miles. Then, with the promotional bonus on Emirates, you would earn 22,780 miles. That's a total of 28,540. Of those miles, 14,270 miles are "elite qualifying miles" toward your MVP status on Alaska.
Accordingly, these fares do not yield the "instant MVP status" that I claim below. A big "thank you" goes out to several readers who alerted me to these terms and conditions after shopping for their own tickets. I apologize for the oversight.
ORIGINAL STORY: It's a big world out there -- and planes fly to-and-fro all day. While many of the price-cutting airfare battles are fought close to home, occasionally the war spills into international markets.
This is one of those times.
As Delta Air Lines spools up its international hub in Seattle, Alaska Airlines is focusing on some of its partnerships with other carriers including American Airlines, British Airways and Emirates. Emirates, by the way, flies a daily nonstop between Seattle and Dubai on a Boeing 777-300ER (extended range). The 7,410-mile flight takes 14 hours and 15 minutes.
Emirates is one of Alaska's mileage partners. And through Nov. 30, Alaska Mileage Plan members can earn double miles on all Emirates flights from Seattle, through Dubai and on to their final destination. You must sign up in advance with your mileage plan number.
If you're watching your pennies and counting your miles, this promotion can come in handy. For example, you can fly from either Fairbanks or Anchorage to Johannesburg for $1,440 roundtrip starting on Nov. 2. From Anchorage, that is 25,670 miles roundtrip -- enough to put you over the "MVP" threshold in just one trip. Don't forget the double miles promotion: You'll earn more than 50,000 miles. That's enough for two domestic tickets on Alaska Air-- or its partners Delta and American.
Be advised: The schedule is murderous. There's a nine-hour layover in Dubai on the outbound itinerary, for example. Bill Beck over at Alaska Travel Source offers a good solution: "Take advantage of the free stopover," he advised. After my 14-hour flight, I would be ready to get out and stretch my legs -- maybe even for a day or two.
You can opt to spend an extra $200 and fly on Delta all the way, with much better connections. You still would get your Alaska miles, but not the double miles.
Have you ever wanted to visit the Maldives? I have. The nation is a long string of low-lying islands about 200 miles off the southern tip of India. They call it a "protected paradise." It's a classic "exotic tropical destination" in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Right now, you can fly from Anchorage, Juneau or Fairbanks to Male, the capital city, for $1,505 with Alaska and Emirates. It's a 22,480-mile trip, which means you'll net around 45,000 miles if you travel between now and Nov. 30. The fare is available starting Aug. 26.
Speaking of India -- have you ever wanted to go? Alaska and Emirates are cooperating to offer good fares from Fairbanks and Anchorage to either Bombay or Delhi for as little as $1,405 roundtrip. It's a 20,416-mile roundtrip journey between Anchorage and Delhi.
Of course, Alaska and Emirates are not the only airlines offering special international rates as fall approaches.
Between Anchorage and Jakarta, United Airlines is offering an awesome fare of $953 roundtrip. The routing is a little weird: Anchorage-Denver-Narita (Tokyo)-Jakarta. But between Denver and Tokyo, you'll fly aboard a new Boeing 787. This fare is available starting on Sept. 7.
United also offers a good fare to Nairobi, Kenya for $1,362 roundtrip. That's 22,812 MileagePlus miles roundtrip. Before you get excited about those miles, consider the recent changes United made to MileagePlus. It's not pretty. Read a synopsis here.
Still, some of the fares on United are pretty good, including Anchorage-Istanbul, starting Sept. 7. The rate is $1,078 roundtrip. If you fly from Fairbanks, the cost is $1,121 on Delta -- where you still can earn your Alaska Airlines miles (15,684 of them).
The nonstop service between Anchorage, Fairbanks and Europe is a real time-saving option on Icelandair (to Reykjavik) or Condor (to Frankfurt). But prices have crept up from last year to between $950 and $1,500 roundtrip. All of a sudden, that ticket to the Maldives looks like a bargain!
Anytime you travel outside of the country, be sure to check the Centers for Disease Control website for a list of recommended vaccinations before visiting, find out if you need a visa and check with your travel agent regarding travel insurance.
Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based travel marketing consultant who has lived in Alaska for three decades, spending much of that time traveling the far-flung corners of the state. Visit his website at www.alaskatravelgram.com or follow him on Twitter for breaking travel news.