Alaska Airlines consistently ranks among the nation's top air carriers for everything from customer service and pricing to timely flights. If that's not enough reason to accumulate frequent flyer miles toward tickets on Alaska Airlines, consider that they have 18 partner airlines domestically and around the world, so you can redeem those Alaska Airline miles for tickets to more than 900 destinations in all.

Earning Alaska Airlines Miles

Before you start earning those miles, you'd better pile some up. The most straightforward way to earn Alaska Airlines miles is, of course, to fly with Alaska Airlines; make sure you're a member of their Mileage Plan frequent flyer program and input your frequent flyer number when you make your reservation. You can also earn air miles by flying with one of Alaska Airlines's 18 partner airlines. Either way, there's usually a short delay between when you take a flight and when the miles are credited to your account, so don't be shy about banking your miles in other ways.

Other Ways to Earn Alaska Airlines Miles

Even when you're not flying, you can earn Alaska Airlines miles by using an Alaska Airlines-branded credit card, which usually offers a hefty sign-on bonus and then a yearly miles bonus to help retain your loyalty. You can also earn miles by shopping online through Alaska Airlines's retail partners, and booking hotels or rental cars with Alaska Airlines's partner agencies.

Free Tickets With Alaska Airlines Miles

If you want to buy a free ticket using your Alaska Airlines miles, prices start at 5,000 miles for a one-way, non-refundable economy ticket on a short hop flight within the United States. Longer flights start at up to 12,500 miles for a one-way ticket within the continental United States; 17,500 miles for a ticket to Hawaii; and 25,000 miles for a ticket to Europe, depending on which partner airline you fly. Just like cash fares, the prices for miles tickets go up as availability decreases; the longer you wait, the more you'll pay, if you can get a miles ticket at all. First-class tickets start at 25,000 within the United States, with higher rates for first- or business-class travel on international partners. Either way, keep in mind that the "free ticket" label is a slight misnomer; you'll still need to pay taxes and fees.

Redeeming Miles for Discounted Tickets

If you don't have enough frequent flyer miles for a free ticket, you can redeem lesser amounts to get a discounted rate on paid tickets for domestic flights. You can redeem 10,000 miles for a 50 percent discount capped at $100 in value, or redeem 20,000 miles for a 50 percent discount capped at $200 in value. Note that this means your miles are capped at a value of one penny per mile. If you're able to wait and save enough miles for a free ticket, it usually works out to a better value.

Redeeming Miles for a First-Class Upgrade

Your final option for spending Alaska Airlines miles is "buying" a first-class upgrade. This costs 15,000 per one-way flight operated by Alaska Airlines. As with all miles-based seats, first class upgrades may be subject to limited availability.