Alaska Airlines Launches Saver Fares (AKA Basic Economy)

Filed Under: Alaska

Alaska Airlines has been in a tough spot lately. The airline used to be a favorite on Wall Street, but since their takeover of Virgin America, Alaska’s stock hasn’t been doing great. The issue isn’t just the questionable/expensive takeover, but the fact that Alaska Airlines tries to have a backbone, and unfortunately that often doesn’t pay in the airline industry.

While American, Delta, and United have been generating significant revenue through fees, Alaska Airlines has avoided introducing basic economy, and has even had significantly more reasonable change fees.

We’ve known that the airline sees no choice but to change this, though. For example, recently Alaska Airlines recently raised checked bag fees and also raised change fees.

Earlier this year the airline also hinted at introducing “saver fares,” which would essentially be their version of basic economy.

Well, this has finally happened. Alaska Airlines has now introduced saver fares, which come with the following restrictions:

  • Only being able to select from a limited number of seat assignments
  • Having to board last
  • No flight changes, including same-day flight changes
  • No elite Mileage Plan benefits, including upgrades
  • All passengers will continue to be entitled to one carry-on and one personal item

Elite Mileage Plan members who book saver fares will continue to receive elite boarding benefits, but won’t be eligible for other elite benefits, including upgrades, seat assignments in advance, etc.

It’s not surprising to see this development from Alaska, and ultimately their new “basic economy” isn’t as punitive as some other airlines. All passengers continue to get the typical carry-on allowance, and mileage earning is the same on saver fares as on regular fares.

Instead passengers just won’t be allowed to make any changes to their tickets (even for a fee), will only be able to select from fewer seats in advance, and will board last (with the exception of elite members, who maintain priority boarding).

What do you make of Alaska’s new saver fares? 

  1. Lucky, You can select seat assignments with these fares… But there are only 15-20 total seats for saver (so many who buy won’t get to pick). Buy early!

  2. Hassling passengers, splitting up families, mean-spirited business practices, this just isn’t how the Pacific Northwest works. A fundamentally wrong move by Alaska.

  3. I hope this is all not true. I’m mvp golf with ak. They have the best benefits for status flyers. It’s the main reason I exclusively fly with them.

  4. Why would anyone “hope this isn’t true?” All they are doing is offering more options to passengers.

    The horror!

  5. @Greg — I’m confused, just how to you think these AS “Saver Fares” impact your stats and/or benefits as an MVP Gold? My wife and I are both MVP Gold, and I have found zero impact upon my benefits/status as a result of these “SF” fares on AS…

    —> UNLESS you buy an SF fare rather than a “Main/Economy” ticket.

  6. So, my take is Alaska is suffering from typical American business greed.
    Buying Virgin was a big step in moving away from a wonderful working model.
    Bigger is not always better. They have lost a lot of the personal friendship
    that they used to demonstrate. If they want loyal customers, they need
    drop back to the Alaska of 5 years ago.

  7. As a millionmiler, I have just been stripped of my benefits with saver fares. Now that i’ve Retired. I look for ticket sales. Now, in order to keep my MVP Gold “for life” benefits, I will now have to pay an extra $50-150 Per Ticket in order to use them. I thought I had these benefits for life, but I guess not – not without paying a higher ticket price every time I book. No way to treat your loyal customers of 30+ years

  8. Funneled all travele thru Alaska last year and was happy to make 75k status. Booked multiple flights thru company booking portal and found out afterward some were saver fares. So here I am in a middle seat at the back of the plane even though “premium” seats remained available.

    It’s a great feeling knowing 75k status is only a sometimes thing!

    One of the booked fares was $400+. Decent fare, not an amazing fare. Selecting “premium” seats would cost another $200. Is that good?

    Alaska has set a high bar in the past. The airline is now deciding that bar was too high. The best airline becomes not as bad as some others.

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