Why I am giving up my loyalty to Alaska Airlines
Part 1 of a series where I debate the pros and cons of staying loyal to Alaska Airlines.
This past year has seen a number of negative changes to Alaska Airlines. It is no secret that I have been an extremely loyal customer to Alaska Airlines and write extensively about the airline. However, these changes are positioning Alaska in line with the major three US Airlines (Delta, United, American). It is a shame that they are no longer the last great airline that is north of expected.
Reason 1: Saver Fares
Alaska Airlines will introduce Saver Fares this fall. Saver Fares, which I wrote about here, are Alaska’s version of Basic Economy. While details are still to be announced, a Saver Fare ticket will likely get you a middle seat in the back of the plane, board last, and not get the standard elite benefits. Alaska confirmed with me that you will still be able to bring a carry on and earn miles; though I am confident it will be at a less than 100% earn rate (meaning instead of earning one mile for each mile flown, it might be more like earning one mile for every four miles flown; which is similar to all of their partner airline earn rates except Qantas which is still always at least 1:1 earning rate).
While Alaska will surely market the Saver Fare as a great option for those looking for a cheaper ticket; the reality is that Saver Fares will likely match historical price points of the current Coach tickets — just with less benefits. The price for a standard Economy ticket will likely go up. At least this is likely Alaska’s plan; otherwise there wouldn’t be much point in introducing this new fare class.
Reason 2: No More Price Guarantee
Prior to September 1, 2018, Alaska had one of the best Price Guarantees of any airline. If the price of your ticket dropped, you could apply for a credit of the difference. I have saved literally hundreds of dollars over the past few years with this.
Those with elite status (MVP Gold and above) can still cancel their reservation and re-book it at the lower fee, but that is a bit of a pain and just makes Alaska a less consumer friendly company.
Reason 3: No More Free Ticket Change
Again, prior to September 1, Alaska allowed free changes to your ticket as long as you were 60+ days out from the flight. Now it will cost $125 per ticket. In addition, Alaska has raised the same day change fee from $25 to $50, meaning if you want to hop on an earlier flight home, it will cost you double. MVP Gold elites and higher will still be able to make changes for free.
Reason 4: Devalued Award Tickets
One of my favorite perks of using Alaska Mileage Plan miles was the ability to double dip the awards. If I wanted to fly SFO to SEA, I could add on a second leg, say SEA to SLC for no extra miles. Alaska considered this all one ticket, even if the two legs were separated by months in between. Now Alaska’s award tickets are based on distance. So instead of paying for one ticket, you are being charged the full mileage distance of the ticket (SFO-SEA-SLC). There are still some great deals to be had especially on short flights (SFO-SEA can be found for 5,000 miles one way), but I miss the “free” flights that came with booking award tickets on Alaska.
Reason 5: Lost Domestic Airline Partners
It used to be that you could earn both elite qualifying and redeemable Alaska Airlines miles on both Delta and American Airlines. I earned miles on cheap flights with Delta and American. Now Alaska earning is dead on Delta (and on it Delta siblings KLM and Air France). Earning on American Airlines is still possible but greatly reduced. Domestic flights on American earn zero miles and elite benefits no longer transfer.
Or will I stay loyal?
Now that I’ve laid out the reasons why I am giving up my loyalty to Alaska Airlines, read why I am continuing my loyalty to Alaska Airlines.