Alaska Airlines Ending Price Match Guarantee

It’s sad to see the direction Alaska Airlines is taking, though I guess it’s not surprising.

Alaska Airlines used to be truly differentiated in terms of the passenger experience they offered. While other airlines focused on basic economy and generating as much revenue through fees as possible, Alaska focused on customer service, including customer-friendly policies.

That’s slowly changing. I guess it was inevitable, though I imagine Alaska’s takeover of Virgin America, and their general struggling stock price, is contributing to this.

For example, recently Alaska Airlines increased their change and cancelation fees, and announced that they plan to introduce new “saver fares” sometime in the not too distant future, which sounds a whole lot like basic economy.

In the meantime it looks like Alaska is chipping away at their customer friendly policies one-by-one.

For tickets issued as of September 1, 2018, Alaska Airlines will be discontinuing their guaranteed airfare credit. Essentially Alaska Airlines has had a policy of issuing a credit in the event that you book a flight and your fare drops.

When you think about it, it’s a smart business practice. It puts people at ease booking their ticket in advance, knowing that they’ll get a credit if the price drops. On top of that, Alaska is only issuing a credit, and that credit will encourage someone to book their next ticket on Alaska as well.

But that policy will be discontinued as of September 1. Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold members continue to be entitled to free ticket changes, so those customers would be able to cancel and rebook, though that’s still an extra step compared to just being given a credit for the fare difference.

JetBlue used to have a similar policy of price matching when ticket prices drop, but they discontinued that feature in late 2017.

Now Southwest Airlines is the only remaining US carrier to offer a price guarantee for their flights.

(Tip of the hat to Michael)

Comments

  1. Alaska appears to be giving up on trying to be different. Soon there will be no reason to fly them over anyone else. And this is coming from someone who’s flow them close to 250,000 miles in the last 3.5 years.

  2. I’m guessing they really regret buying out Virgin America.

    I still don’t get their business case for that to buy a truly unique popular company that exclusively operates an aircraft from a different manufacturer. And then just get rid of it? To spend billions of dollars for that just seem silly even with the slots they’d gain from airports.

  3. NOOOOO! This is horrible. The only reason I am comfortable booking 9 months in advance with AS’s exorbitant rates on monopoly routes to Hawaii and Mexico is because of the price match guarantee — which is a real brand differentiator.

    I don’t mind the increase in change fees as much.

  4. @Marcus, yeah I can see why they felt they had to buy Virgin because otherwise if Jet Blue acquired them then Alaska would be at a great disadvantage. But like you say, if you are going to go ahead with the Virgin acquisition, at least use it to leverage the cool factor and live up to the Virgin bar instead of just lowering that brand to your level. Missed opportunity out of fear.

  5. The death of their change and cancellation policy is what really hurt me. This is the final nail in the coffin of going out of my way to be loyal to this airline.

  6. @ David — First of all, the website makes it pretty clear based on the “issued before September 1” wording. I also called Alaska, and a reservations agent confirmed this change. I have an email out to Alaska PR, but haven’t heard back yet.

  7. @ Marcus — Largely agree. I think it came down to Alaska buying Virgin America so that JetBlue wouldn’t, rather than them actually wanting to buy Virgin America.

  8. How come you never ever ever ever talk about alaska credit cards when you like the alaska miles so much?

    Some mysteries in the universe.

  9. Brad Tilden is killing a once really great airline. He cares only about shareholders, talks only about appeasing Wall Street. It’s pathetic. Alaska has amazing employees, and if they are being taken care of well, then I at least credit the airline for doing that. But today really marks the day that Delta won in Seattle. No more ability for non elites to cancel prior to 60 days, no more price match guaranty. Horrible gouging by Alaska during peak family travel dates (even months out with empty planes). And odd price inflation generally b/c BA companion passes are so easy to get. Still penciled to pay a premium when buying tickets because you could get a credit if the flight later went on sale. Without that, no reason not to take the cheaper Delta non-stops. Oh, and Tilden was recently whining about too many people using miles… so I suspect unfriendly changes to miles redemption policies will follow soon. Really sad.

  10. Weird… it would be easier to just say now it is only for MVP Golds since they already have a process to credit and would not have to make people cancel and rebook.
    United used to have this process many years ago.

  11. Alaska is an airline that’s too hard to love and too easy to hate. I think the biggest issue is I can’t figure out what exactly they want to be since the Virgin acquisition, and every two steps forward they do are countered by two steps back.

    Sure, they beefed up their route network, but losing the AA and DL partnerships mean they’re a non option on the east coast outside of transcons, and jetBlue has been clobbering them in the transcon game. They upped their catering but then cut back their already meager quantity. They opened a JFK lounge but their terminal is a cluster. They introduced free upgrades for VX metal but we lost free food and BoB. They have a hub in SFO but now have no lounge access in their terminal for their members.

    They don’t offer the flexibility of Southwest, the premium experience of jetBlue, or the route network of the legacies. That leaves friendly service and an occasionally awesome mileage program.

  12. Stuck flying out of PDX, these hits to Alaska are really starting to hurt. Flying United and even Frontier more and more. Time to cash in the Alaska miles and move on.

  13. Well Brad Tilden better start reading this blog if he wants to keep AK Air from eventually being taken over by one of the big three. I live in AK and have flown more than 400k with them over the years. I am a former Gold MVP. They are slowly losing their once very loyal base. I now have other choices in Anchorage and Juneau to include Delta, Sun Country, American and United.

  14. I literally just did this yesterday (and have done so on 3 different itineraries prior). Sad to see this benefit disappear. Still love AS for their service but chipping away at things that made it different is not a step in a good direction.

  15. I’m an MVP Gold. Flew Sunday night PDX-BOS. Got the bump to 1st. Flight departs a few minutes before 11pm. Capers was supposed be be open until 10:30pm according to Amex app. Closed at 10pm. I was counting on having a PP meal there. Oh well, figured I’ll eating on the plane after all.

    AS “meal” was a hummus plate. Consisted of tiny bites and a (delicious) small bowl of hummus. Thought it was very cheap.

    I don’t remember my last red eye in 1st with them, so I don’t know if this meal service is par for the course or if it’s gotten el cheapo all the sudden.

  16. Lucky, the bigger story is the latest route changes at Alaska. For years Alaska and Virgin have run red eyes from SEA, LAX, and SFO to BOS, not winter 2019, what’s up with this withdrawal? Are other east coast cities affected too? I have been flying SEA and/or LAX to BOS monthly for more than ten years. Something is up and we need to know! Please find out.

  17. Nearly every day, some bit of news reinforces my reason *not* to fly on the US L3. Now AS is fast becoming the most compelling reason *to* do so…

    Very sad indeed.

  18. Southwest does not provide a “fare guarantee.” However it does permit travelers to cancel and rebook flights without assessing a fee. If the fare drops then you get a fare credit to use on a future flight (similar to AS). Even better, if the fare drops on an award ticket you can just redeposit the miles. In practice Southwest fares (unlike AS) tend to increase over time, except for a few predictable sales like the anniversary sale. Contrast to AS (and many other legacy carriers) where fares are often sky high when schedule opens, but sometimes drop very low at a certain point (2 months out, or sometimes even a week out). So this is a huge takeaway for those of us who need the certainly that advance bookings provide.

  19. Alaska has been my “go to”airline for 10 yrs. I continue to “try” to book on it this year, but no longer is it making sense for most flights. I just looked for flights sea to bos with my annual companion fare, and it was $200 more expensive WITh my companion fare than booking without. Also, by the time I upgraded seats for a hefty $109 each /each way, it was cheaper to book a Delta first class seat. And I just ended up on an American first class seat for my daughter vs our tried/true Alaska for the first time coming home from college. I also always loved the fare guarantee, and it made me comfortable to book early. No more. Also, not being able to reserve miles seats w/o penalty has taken all that joy away. Gosh darn it Alaska….. you were my love in the air. I am so sorry to see you go to the dark side of charging these crazy add on fees. You’re losing me, chip by chip by chip…

  20. AS seems to be dropping like a rock, but I don’t have a “readily available” alternative. (Nor do I want to lose my 300k points!) For where I travel, WN domestically makes the most sense — less expensive, free bags, etc. — but I can’t use RR points to go to Europe or Asia…and as I usually fly foreign carriers, the US L3 aren’t very appealing.

  21. Alaska Airlines is claiming that less than 10 people have complained about them not honoring the Guaranteed Airfaire Reduction (GAR). They denied a second price reduction to me because the first price reduction was after September 1st. I highly doubt the 10 person quote.

  22. As a counter to my last post (Sept. 8th), let me say that — in all fairness — Alaska is NOT dropping like a stone…rather, it seems to me that AS finds themselves in the same position that nearly every corporation finds itself in following the takeover/purchase/merger of another company — the so-called “synergy” that’s predicted always runs into problems due to the former paying too much for the latter; the timetable is always delayed, as it takes longer than the overly optimistic promises that were made; etc., etc., etc. It’s not “dropping like a stone,” so much as it’s flying through what the pilot describes as a “light chop” when turning on the Fasten Seat Belt sign at 38,000 feet. It may be a little bumpy from time to time, but you’re still flying towards your ultimate destination…

    So (for example) the price match guarantee falls by the wayside on the one hand. On the other, 9x out of my last 10 flights on AS, dating back to May of this year, I’ve been upgraded to F — either at the gate or, more typically, via an email 12-24+ hours before my flight. (And I keep forgetting to use my upgrade certificates!) The same holds true for my wife when we’re flying together.

    Also, the food has gotten significantly better on AS metal, coming much closer to what VX was serving than pre-merger AS.

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