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I don’t “travel-hack” – Alaska Airlines! Do you? And expect more unannounced devaluations in the future!

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Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

alaska airlines sorta sorry for no notice brutal devaluation but not really
Rant much Alaska?

I have been thinking over this post all day long. Ever since Alaska Air (AS) put up the scathing “rant” on their company blog about why they did the shameful acts they did I have been thinking about what to say. I mean I really think I said it all yesterday and stand by each word. Heck even online papers have started to run with my quotes from the post. What I don’t want to do is put up a rant myself today (nor was yesterday’s post a rant).

But what I do and must talk about is the utter ridiculousness of the statement put out by AS. Overnight the AS twitter folks, at some point, gave up the battle and the company had most of the day to formulate a well written response and they instead come out with the above! Amazing.

I make no bones about the fact that I, and most of us who read travel blogs, are points enthusiast. We sign up from promotions. We get travel cards. We do silly things even like mailing in dozens of post cards (all hand written) to earn points. Heck years ago one enthusiast collected pudding tops for points and got a ton of them. What I don’t do is “hack” anything. Notice what “hacking” means in computer terms from the Merriam dictionary:

“a person who secretly gets access to a computer system in order to get information, cause damage, etc. : a person who hacks into a computer system”

Now did any of us “hack” into AS computers to gain information? Did we cause any damage to AS or their computers? Did we do anything secretly? I think most of us logged in and used the PROVIDED company web site and perhaps called and spoke to AS agents who used their computers to book flights for us using the company rules in place.

The last bit is really important. Did “we”, that is, the AS customers make the rules? No, we ask and read what the rules are and then follow them. Since when did it become a crime to follow the rules an airline told us we can use?

Now as to the rest, if AS has routes priced too low then raise them. United used to have a 135,000 point round trip point price to fly Lufthansa 1st class from the USA to Sweden (and it was truly amazing). I saved and used my points for that trip twice until they just about doubled the price in points and now I no longer collect United points. AS has every right to do what they want with their program but they should tell us in advance they are changing things. They even later admit they “want” to do that i.e. give us 30 days. But they didn’t.

So Alaska, don’t blame your customers for using the tools YOU gave them to book flights. It is shameful and embarrassing and frankly you just look stupid for even suggesting the above. You are better than this!

But on to the next point that simply validates again what I said yesterday. AS says they will not do unannounced changes “when at all possible”. Nice. If someone you really trusted did something utterly shameful, disgraceful & loathsome and then they told you I will try not to do that again “”when at all possible” would you forgive them and move on and trust them again? Yeah me neither.

You know the saddest part of all of this is the realization this has had on us. We Delta fliers expect Delta to act secretly and make nasty changes to SkyMiles and hide them from us. We know they don’t care one bit what we think or feel. They leave it up to us to find what they have changed (also why I have tools to scan to find such changes each day). But that is Delta. I think most of us thought AS was better than that. At least we know better now! – René 🙁



Rene’s Points For Better Travel, a division of Chatterbox Entertainment, Inc. has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. Rene’s Points For Better Travel and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

René de Lambert is a contributing writer and the founder of RenesPoints. He is an avid Delta and SkyTeam flyer who has held Delta’s top Diamond Medallion status for many years and flown millions of miles.


  1. BCBG from Lakeside California Reply

    This attitude of entitlement from the bloggers bother me.

  2. I guess what gets me in this whole scheme of things is that none of us created the credit card point thing and yet we get blamed for just going by the rules that were out there. Over my career I have gotten a couple million miles the old fashioned butt in the seat way, so what AS is doing, is really punishing their loyal flyers and blaming a hacker. AS needs to accept responsibility that they created the credit card program and the rules along with BOA. Calling people travel hackers when they just followed the rules AS established is hypocritical. I would AS is the hacker.

    • @Johnny B – Agree. BOA can change how many cards they offer, how many points they offer etc. I have gotten a few AS CCs over they years but I use no “browser tricks” or such. I do tend to apply for a personal and business card each time I do but that is also in the rules.

  3. Solid post brother! Good point. I called myself a travel hacker on Twitter in response to this move but in reality you’re right. I’m no hacker. I’m someone who gets credit cards for the signup bonus, makes the minimum spend PLUS more to boot and then uses the points for cheap travel. No shame and no bad things done.

    So go fly a kite Alaska. Next time I head to Alaska it will be I another Airline.

  4. Rene, personally, I hate the term Travel Hacking as to me it connotes something illegal. However, there are a large number of bloggers that say they are doing travel hacking, we even had a blog with that name on BoardingArea. It sounds cool for a bunch of nerds (you are and you know it) to call themselves hackers. This should stop and we should start calling them tips or tricks or something. Don’t blame AS for saying we were espousing travel hacking when so many bloggers say they are doing exactly that.

    • @Glenn – As always thank you SIR for your comment on the blog. I respect you more than you know. But you make my point that is Hacking does to me connote something illegal. If AS site has been “hacked” should not the authorizes be included or called? If some blog is foolishly promoting something illegal they should be held to account. But why call out AS users, who follow the written rules, as criminals?

  5. I totally agree with the criticism of the behavior of AS in handling this devaluation, but I’m not sure that it’s worth getting worked up about “travel-hacking.” It’s been pretty common slang lately to describe a cool or often unexploited (but legal) trick or technique as a “hack.” Sites like lifehacker describe tips for everyday life, and Google searches for “travel hacks” mostly yield travel and packing advice. The New Yorker wrote a pretty good article on the etymology of “hacker” a couple years ago.

    Again, I’m on board with your criticism of AS, but I’m not so sure they are trying to add insult to injury by name-calling here.

  6. @ Renee. , Lakeside is southern California, that is the correct. But definitely not from Lakeside

  7. Riot Nrrrd™ Reply

    Rene, sorry but as an IT guy since 1981 and a ‘hacker’ at times, quoting the M-W “hacker” definition and claiming it is about “hacking” does you no favors.

    First of all the correct term is ‘cracking’/’crackers’, plenty of hackers don’t do anything Black Hat or criminal. (Do you think golf “hackers” illegally shave points off their handicap?)

    They are using “hacking” in a different sense of the word than you think they are. A “hack” in computer or Maker parlance can just be a simple improvement to an existing piece of gear or setup. Maker Faires often have “hacks” where people try to improve things that others have made.

    Heck, even your ol’ buddy Gary Leff uses it in the correct form of the term:

    “A Hack to Use Inflight Internet With More than One Device, and Share Hotel Wifi Too”

    Would you call him a “hacker” who was “hacking”? No. And neither is Alaska. “travel-hacking” is a phrase used in much the same vein.

    Sorry for the semantics lesson but you based a lot of this post off of what I consider an incorrect (IMHO) premise.

    • @Riot – Disagree. In the AS post they clearly are suggesting nefarious methods. Just following rules is not hacking by any definition of the word.

      • Riot Nrrrd™ Reply

        “In the AS post they clearly are suggesting nefarious methods.”

        How is their use of a term which is already being used in other quarters (including – *gasp* – bloggers!) “clearly” suggesting it?

        There’s even a site called “Travel Hacking Cartel – Welcome to the Cartel”! In big Google splash print it says

        “Most frequent flyer miles are earned on the ground. When you become a travel hacker, you’ll start padding out your own mileage accounts, then you’ll redeem them for high-value trips. Read the stories from our members.”

        Nothing “nefarious” at all implied in that term.

  8. Ghostrider5408 Reply

    The comments and denials from the blogging community is hilarious to say the least. Give me a break do you really believe that everyones hands are clean and it’s all AS problem?

    What if these bloggers had to earn their miles let alone pay for them? There are many of us that earn these miles, we earn our status the hard way we fly it and we are loyal.

    Do I agree with AS, no not the way they handled it and that upsets me, but as a businessman I also understand economics and why they did it. They just did not handle it very well.

    AND I have written them as such. AS is not the same as it use to be. So you know I average a 100k a year on AS so I earn my keep !

    My simple advice is stop everyone’s whining and earn it

    • @Ghostrider5408 – Clearly you did not look at the money AS eared selling points. Just because you earned points but in seat does not make you points more valuable.

  9. Riot Nrrrd™ Reply

    One last comment about “hacks” and then I’m done.

    Back in the day I went to a little school called Caltech, which you may have heard of.

    The undergrads have a history of mischief. During the 1961 Rose Bowl game they changed the instructions for the people holding cue cards so that when they turned them over, they spelled out “Caltech” instead of their team. Then in 1984 they changed the scoreboard during the Rose Bowl game to read “Caltech” vs. “MIT”.

    Even back then, inside Caltech they were referred to as “hacks”. (I’m sure outsiders called them “pranks” – or worse.)

    But the most relevant to today’s Alaska discussion was back in 1975 when McDonald’s had a competition and it was intended that people write in on a 3×5″ card to submit an entry. Using a mainframe computer, Techers generated over 1,200,000 printed entries and hand-delivered them to McDonald’s. Totally “legal” and “within the rules”, technically. Also called a “hack” by Techers. No illegal breaking and entering involved.

    Point being, the term has a long and storied history of usage that has nothing to do with “illegal” or “nefarious”.

    (That said, I think Alaska Airlines stinks for the no-notice changes. Just wanted to make that clear.)

  10. Riot Nrrrd™ Reply

    “Again please explain how following rules in place is hacking?”

    If you hold to your interpretation of the word rather than theirs, there is no way to convince you 😀

    Maybe a bit of a stretch, but another way to put it is “They call it ‘travel-hacking’ because ‘Using loopholes to game the system’ is too long to fit into a sound bite.”

    • @Riot – My tax accountant told me to evade taxes is illegal but it is every responsible taxpayers obligation to avoid paying extra taxes. So using what you call a loophole I call following the rules that they put in place not me. Do you pay extra taxes not due? If you do, thank you! 😉

  11. Poor Alaska Airlines. First big bad Delta kicks sand in their eyes repeatedly in the “alliance sandbox” destroying a lot of good stuff for travllers. THis was all Emirates. Now Emirates tells them “this stops now” forcing them to remove a bargain that was a popular hack (in the sense of the second more recent usage of the word- a clever trick, hint, insider info, or get around to make life easier or more affordable) used by certain clever and obsessed members of the lumpen mass to travel like a middle eastern pasha. Did all those boastful blogger pictures poke Emirates with a stick? You betcha. Surely the no- notice thing was those nasty snobs at Emirates. Get over it.
    jeff -a grateful follower who has learned so much from you guys

  12. @BCBG, I admit that I have an attitude of entitlement as far as ff benefits are concerned. It comes from the fact that ff programs tell me that I am entitled to them. When the ff programs start telling me that I am entitled to nothing, my attitude of entitlement will cease.

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