The Alaska Companion Fare: Everything You Need To Know

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There are various airline credit cards that offer some sort of a companion ticket for spending a certain amount.

To me the single most valuable companion ticket is the one offered by Alaska Airlines, so in this post I wanted to look at that in more detail, especially as I recently applied for the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card (meaning I will be getting another one soon).

How do you earn an Alaska companion fare?

There are two credit cards that offer Alaska companion fares.

Both the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card and Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card offer a companion fare as part of the welcome bonus (and for that you just have to pay taxes and fees), while in subsequent years you get a companion fare on your account anniversary, though you have to pay $99 plus the taxes and fees when redeeming it.

This is a fantastic anniversary bonus on the card, as there’s no spend requirement to earn the companion fare on your account anniversary. It just automatically posts.

The basics of the Alaska companion fare

The companion fare will automatically be deposited into your Mileage Plan account shortly after you complete the minimum spend on the card, and otherwise shortly after your account anniversary in subsequent years. The terms state that it could take up to two billing cycles, but in my experience it’s much faster than that.

When it comes to redeeming the Alaska companion fare:

  • The companion fare is only valid for tickets booked in economy, though all economy fare classes are included; you can travel throughout Alaska’s route network, including on international flights
  • Tickets booked with the Alaska companion fare are upgradeable, both for the primary passenger and companion (this includes using complimentary elite upgrades, Gold Guest upgrades, instant upgrade fares, etc.)
  • Both passengers booked with the Alaska companion fare earn miles for their tickets
  • The companion fare is valid for a year from when it’s issued, though that’s only the book-by date, while you can travel on a subsequent date
  • You’re allowed to use your companion fare code for two other people, but if you do, you need to use a credit card in your name to pay for the ticket
  • Both passengers need to be booked in the same itinerary, travel on the same flights, and be ticketed at the same time
  • The companion fare is valid for roundtrip, one-way, and multi-city travel
  • The Alaska companion fare isn’t valid for award travel, or for travel that includes segments on any airlines other than Alaska or their regional subsidiaries

How to book a ticket with the Alaska companion fare

The process of booking a ticket with the Alaska companion fare is really easy. Just log into your Mileage Plan account, and then on the left side scroll down to the area that says “Discount and companion fare codes,” and click “Valid.”

There you’ll see a section that should list all of your valid codes along with their expiration dates, so if you see one there, just click the “SHOP” button.

That will bring you to the booking page, where there will be an automatically generated code placed in the “Discount or companion fare code” box.

Like I said above, you can use this for a one-way ticket, like from Tampa to Seattle…

Or you can use it for a roundtrip ticket, like from Los Angeles to Liberia, Costa Rica, which is Alaska’s furthest international destination.

You can even use this to book a multi-city trip, like flying from Boston to Maui via San Diego, with a stopover there.

How to upgrade Alaska companion fare ticket

The Alaska companion fare is limited to economy tickets, though the good news is that these tickets are upgradeable to first class. There are a few ways to go about this:

  • Alaska MVP, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K members are eligible for complimentary space available upgrades for themselves and a companion, and those upgrades start clearing at 48, 72, and 120 hours, respectively; note that Saver fares, booked in the “X” fare class, are excluded
  • MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members receive four Gold Guest Upgrades per year, each of which can be used to confirm a one-way upgrade at the time of booking, subject to upgrade availability; note that tickets booked in G, T, R, or X, fare classes aren’t eligible
  • Elite members receive complimentary upgrades at the time of booking when booking certain fare classes and when there is confirmable upgrade availability; MVP members get complimentary upgrades on Y, S, and Z fares, MVP Gold members get complimentary upgrades on Y, S, B, M, and Z fares, and MVP Gold 75K members get complimentary upgrades on Y, S, B, M, H, and Z fares
  • All Mileage Plan members can upgrade on a space available basis for 15,000 miles one-way, though need to book a ticket in the Y, S, B, M, or H, fare classes

Bottom line

A lot of airline credit cards offer companion tickets that come with all kinds of restrictions that make them virtually useless. That’s why I find Alaska’s companion tickets to be the most valuable out there, given that the companion is basically treated like any other paying passenger.

This is also a reason that I find Alaska credit cards to be worth holding onto long term, and why I’m excited to have recently picked up the Alaska Airlines Visa® Business Credit Card.

What has your experience been with Alaska’s companion tickets?

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Comments

  1. I miss the good old days when you could use the Alaska companion pass for first class to Hawaii. Now THAT was valuable.

  2. “Both passengers need to be booked in the same itinerary, travel on the same flights, and be ticketed at the same time”

    Let me expend on that a bit based on my personal experienced.

    If two of you are booked on this same itinerary with one on companion ticket and let’s say one of you had to miss the flight for what ever reason if that person is the primary passenger, companion ticket is also automatically canceled and even the return ticket. Even if companion holds the boarding pass and at the gate, if primary passenger doesn’t make it on the flight, companion doesn’t get to fly. but… that’s the rule at least. how it’s enforced, not sure… especially companion has already boarded the flight and primary passenger misses it. but I wouldn’t risk it… your return flight might be canceled automatically.

    if it’s the companion that misses the flight, no impact to the primary passenger.

    also, you can book one way tickets using companion if you must… but you want to maximize it by booking an expensive round trip tickets such as Hawaii or Mexico.

  3. Question: does anyone know how to extend the use of the companion pass past the expiration date? Mine expires in 6 days but I need more time than that figure out where/what to use it for

  4. @Lucky: slightly off topic, but do you have any further info about Alaska’s new(ish) policy of requiring a seat for a lap infant when traveling on a redemption reward with an international partner?

    It’s been changed from the standard 10% of cash fare, paid to the carrier (not to Alaska).

    While it may not be an issue for many, it represents a huge devaluation for anyone traveling as a family.

  5. For a one way connecting flight, is the 15,000 miles upgrade fee per segment or for the entire itinerary? For example, for a one way ticket from SFO to Anchorage via Seattle, is the upgrade charge 15,000 or 30,000 miles?

  6. @CJK One way to extend the validity of the companion pass is to book a ticket for somewhere at some time in the future. You can then change things about the ticket (dates, locations) once you actually know where you want to go. (You’ll have to pay the difference in fare, but small price to pay.) As long as you make change more than 60 days in advance, there should be no change fees.

    I’ve not done this, only read about it, so you might want to verify that this is still possible, but I’d start there. And just make sure to change the ticket and not cancel it, because you lose the pass if you do that. (Might be safer to do it over the phone.)

    Good luck! Hope it works out. 🙂

  7. “Or you can use it for a roundtrip ticket, like from Los Angeles to Liberia, Costa Rica, which is Alaska’s furthest international destination.”

    SJO is 95 miles further.

  8. @Grant – How recent was this change made? I’m not aware of this policy change. I just flew back from HKG on CX using Alaska miles and had an infant on lap with me.

  9. @Luis, the policy change appears in a yellow warning box on the AS award redemption pages. Doing a search it looks like it went into effect at the end of November. Did you book your CX flight before or after then?

    We flew CX back in May through mileage plan, and it was 10% of cash fare, payable to CX. Quite steep, but nothing like an additional 50k points!

    I’m curious if there are datapoints among mileage plan’s int’l partners. Will calling up the carrier and paying 10% still work in some cases?

  10. @Grant: If you’re flying with a partner, I recommend to check directly with that airline.
    Most of them will only charge 10% for the INF.

  11. Our family has been using these since the mid 2000s and have successfully redeemed just under ~50 flights. One of the best credit deals out there. Use both the personal and business versions of the card.

    Also miss the good old days of first class redemptions.

  12. Not sure it’s the most valuable 2-4-1 deal out there

    BA has a 2-4-1 deal that you can use in J or F. The Avios program has an even better one. I’ve used the former 3 times, and the latter once.

  13. I had the Alaska card but gave it up. The problem was that the booking system for flights using the companion offer out of, for example, YYJ (Victoria, BC), to LAX/SAN/ PSP etc. was more expensive than if I had been travelling on my own.
    The flight often required several stops and sometimes an overnight stay.
    The only direct flight from YYJ on Alaska-Horizon was to SEA and that may have been a contributing factor.
    It was so disappointing that I gave up the card and now use the Westjet Mastercard with really good success travelling with the companion ticket and/or using Westjet dollars.

  14. So with $99 companion fare and taxes, it comes out to roughly $121. Include the $75 AF, then one needs to get an airfare above $196 to come out ahead. Is this correct?

  15. @Rob you are correct. However, r/t tickets from Seattle to San Diego at xmas were $600pp so $400 savings.

  16. @Mike, I think the changing the companion ticket for free until 60 days out is no longer possible. It was a good benefit while it lasted.

  17. @Rob, since taxes are inevitable, I like to look at the base fare to determine value. If the base fare – the $0 (first year) or $99 (subsequent years) companion fare is more than the annual fee, you are in the money. My partner and I flew a mileage run over 16,000 miles in December on a Companion Certificate. The base fare was $1200. The companion fare was $99, a $1101 savings making the $75 AF seem pretty insignificant. I can easily save 10x-15x AF.

    We also flew to Hawaii twice last year on companion certificates and with our status, confirmed First Class upgrades at time of booking.

    James

  18. One thing to be stressed is that the companion pass is good for multi city travel. For example, this year we used the companion pass to go from Anchorage to Seattle, had a month stop-over in Seattle (our home), Seattle to Philadelphia, Boston to Seattle 3 month stop-over in Seattle and from there to Kona. (We used part of another companion pass to get back from Kona).

    That’s 4 flight segments for one ticket plus $99 and taxes. A real value.

  19. MVPs cannot upgrade companions to F based solely on status. That is available only to Gold and Gold 75k.

    “MVP Gold and Gold 75K members may upgrade one companion traveling with them on the same flight, in the same reservation and in the same class of service. If a reservation includes more than one companion, it will not be eligible for complimentary upgrades.”

  20. @Steve,

    Ineed, you are correct. I missed that erroneous point Lucky made. Although, I have seen an MVP and a non Elite on a companion pass both be First Class waitlisted and show on the waitlist during OLCI. Others have reported it too with one successfully getting the upgrades. Anomalies yes, policy no!

    When I read the title, “Everything you need to know,” I was intrigued. Disappointed having read it though. It certainly doesn’t cover everything. My last companion certificate covered 9 flights and I have done one four-country itinerary with 10 flights with instant upgrades on 7 of 8 mainline. I don’t mind paying on average $85 per segment to mostly sit up front especially on 2500+ mile legs.

  21. Can you use the companion fare to purchase 2 economy tickets, and then pay the cash difference to upgrade both seats to first class?

    I know when I’ve previously bought tickets on United, I’ve always been able to pay the fare differential to upgrade to first class even a month later.

    Can something similar be on on Alaska with the companion fare?

  22. @Lee,

    No, that is not possible. AS Elites MVPG & MVPG75K can upgrade one companion on the same PNR with either an upgrade instrument called a GGU “gold guest upgrade” or by purchasing an eligible fare Y, S, B & M for Gold or Y, S, M, B & H for 75K. There must be U or upgrade space available for the instant upgrade in both scenarios.

    GGUs are a benefit of status and a Mileage Plan member earns 4 when reaching Gold and another 4 when reaching 75K. They can be used by the member or they can be gifted to anyone.

    You need 1 GGU per passenger for each flight in the itinerary. However, if you are connecting on two or more flights and the connection time between each flight is < 4 hours, a single GGU each will upgrade all of the flights. Again, U space has to be available.

  23. I have had two companion passes in recent years. We fly from PHX. When I search on the Alaska website for tickets on Alaska from PHX it generally has ridiculous routing — PHX to SEA to get to somewhere east for example. Also the Alaska cash prices are often double American and other carriers. So, I have found very little value in these tickets unless I want to go to SEA or Portland. There is a small window in Feb to go PHX to SFO for a good price and direct. We have used that to visit relatives, but don’t save much as it is not an expensive flight anyway.

    Is there some way to get better routing on the Alaska flights as going through SEA from PHX to get to most destinations makes them unusable (as well as the very high cash prices). We will have 2 more companion passes this year due to obtaining two new Alaska cards so this is a current issue.

  24. @ Frequent Flyer — Alaska’s hubs are Seattle and Portland, hence why flights all route through there from Phoenix (which isn’t a hub). They do have seasonal service to SFO as you’ve noted, and to Anchorage. I wouldn’t think they’re a great option for going back east from Phoenix, but could be a good choice for the northwest (including Canada) or Hawaii.

  25. @James,

    You’ll see MVPs on the upgrade list when both passengers are MVP.

    Golds and above can upgrade themselves and one other person on the same reservation. MVPs can only upgrade themselves. It doesn’t matter whether the tickets were purchased with a companion certificate or not.

    Think of a companion ticket as the same as any other ticket (only cheaper). The passengers have to travel together but are entitled to each of their their respective elite privileges.

    One downside to the companion certificate is that when only one seat is available for upgrading the system will skip over the reservation with two passengers and upgrade the next solo traveler. This is because AS won’t permit a reservation made using the companion certificate to be split into two records.

    I’ve seen them split reservations where two passenger were booked on a single record but not using a companion after asking if they were Ok that only one of then would be upgraded but I couldn’t tell if the process was automatic or if upgrading in this order was something the agent decided to do and had to take care of it manually. I suspect the latter.

  26. @James,

    I’ll have to keep an eye out for the situation you mentioned. I’ve never looked that closely to tell if an MVP and a passenger without status were on the upgrade list. Since there is no rule that I’m aware of that an MVP conveys their status when using a companion certificate that would likely either be a bug. Either that or perhaps a situation were Y was overbooked and they were expecting to upgrade a number of passengers so they add them to the upgrade list either automatically or manually so they hold off from getting on board to make the process go smoother.

  27. Hi all,
    If i used the companion fare for my wife, and we also bring our 1 yr old son, do i have to pay any extra for our son? He can just sit on our laps. thanks!

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