Alaska Airlines has announced major changes to its Saver fares, which are the carrier’s version of basic economy. We knew some changes were coming, because yesterday we learned that mileage earning on Saver fares would decrease by 70%. Now we have the full story, and it’s not all bad news.
Alaska Airlines hugely changing Saver fares
Alaska Airlines is changing the value proposition of its Saver fares, and the changes are both good and bad news. Alaska describes these changes as giving guests what they want most, which is low fares and additional flexibility.
First of all, here’s what’s not changing about Alaska Saver fares:
- Those on Alaska Saver fares can continue to bring a free carry-on bag and a free personal item with them; some airlines add carry-on restrictions on these kinds of fares
- Those on Alaska Saver fares traveling with children 13 or younger will still be assigned seats together, in line with Alaska’s family seating policy
That brings us to the changes. The following new policies kick in for tickets booked as of May 22, 2023, and for travel as of July 19, 2023:
- Alaska Mileage Plan elite members (MVP, MVP Gold, MVP Gold 75K, and MVP Gold 100K members) booked on Saver fares will be eligible for complimentary, same-day upgrades to first class and Premium Class, and they’ll be notified within two hours of departure if their upgrade has cleared; as a point of comparison, previously Saver fares weren’t eligible for these upgrades
- Alaska Mileage Plan members booked on Saver fares will go from earning 100% elite qualifying and redeemable miles to earning 30% elite qualifying and redeemable miles, so that’s a reduction of 70%
Meanwhile the following change applies for tickets booked as of July 19, 2023:
- Alaska Saver fares will no longer have no flexibility; if a guest cancels a Saver fare 14 or more days before departure, they’ll receive a 50% travel credit for their fare, plus 100% of applicable taxes and fees refunded
As before, Alaska Saver fares will remain ineligible for other changes, and seat selection in advance is not possible.
For those wondering about the logistics of being added to the upgrade list when booked on a Saver fare, here’s how that will work:
- Elite members will be added to the upgrade waitlist within two hours of departure
- At that point, they will fall within their tier at the bottom of the fare class order in terms of priority
- Since those on Saver fares aren’t added to the list until within two hours of departure, elite members on Saver fares will not see their name on the waitlist at all when check-in starts 24 hours before departure
My take on Alaska Saver fare changes
I have to give Alaska Airlines credit for making thoughtful changes to Saver fares, as it’s not all bad news. Whether these changes are good or bad depends on who you ask.
For those who don’t care about earning miles (or who aren’t miles & points junkies), I’d say these changes are objectively positive, as you can receive a travel credit worth 50% of your fare when canceling in advance. That’s worth more than a reduction in mileage earning for most people, in my opinion.
For elite members, it also depends what you value more. Yes, mileage earning is being reduced considerably, though at the same time you’ll now be eligible for upgrades on the day of departure. Personally if I were an Alaska Airlines elite member, I think I’d prefer the new system. That’s because I’d pay a significant premium to avoid having a seat assigned for me last minute, and to not be eligible for any sort of upgrades.
The major US airlines all have basic economy fares, and they all have punitive policies that are intended to encourage people to buy up to a higher fare band. While US airlines follow one another in so many ways, oddly each airline is unique with basic economy restrictions.
United doesn’t offer free carry-ons with basic economy. Delta doesn’t offer mileage earning with basic economy. Meanwhile American and Alaska take a middle of the road approach, and let you take a carry-on and let you earn miles at a reduced rate.
Alaska Airlines is significantly altering its Saver fares, which are the carrier’s version of basic economy. With these changes, we’ll see Saver fares only accrue 30% elite qualifying and redeemable miles. At the same time, elite members booked on these fares will be eligible for day of departure upgrades, and Saver fares will also offer a travel credit if you cancel at least 14 days in advance.
What do you make of these Alaska Saver fare changes?
Having flown Alaska to and from Mexico direct here on the west coast, I am doing less so now and just flying United. Alaska's fares are much higher. It used to be possible to choose a seat with Saver fares. Maybe because I have the Alaska Visa card but I think I will be canceling that.
Alaska usually processes upgrades around T-24 (which is awesome compared to other airlines that sell last minute upgrades over elites), so getting added at the end won't be super useful but might be nice for those rare flights when there's nobody on the list. The mileage earning change hurts though. As an elite I don't book saver fares on Alaska and I still won't, so I guess that's good business for them.
If you buy a saver seat, you are not assigned an actual seat until check-in. It is usually a middle seat.
Time to start looking for another airline to fly on. 20 years of loyalty to Alaska and this is what we get.
This seems to me like an improvement fir basically everyone booking a saver ticket except those doing it purely for mileage running. What exactly is the dealbreaker for you?
Genuinely curious where you think you'll take your business that you think is "better"? I don't see any options that are better.
Saver fares are treated the same across all airlines at this point. You are either paying to select a seat, paying a higher fare to select a seat, or paying to be at the front of a line to have your pick of seats. All of them give you less RDM/EQM on basic econ/saver fares that AS.
The chances of getting an upgrade on a saver fare are essentially zero so for practical purposes that's not a meaningful change.
But it's within your tier, so excellent chance. You may be the last at the 100k level, but you are still ahead of all the other levels.
Overall that's pretty good. I have 3 saver flights booked this summer and since I booked in Jan and Feb it sounds like I will get the full mileage. I probably will no longer book saver fares... I do value the miles... but It looks like with the savings of getting my 5000 mile RT Pdx-Bos I could purchase more miles then I would get buying the full fare. (when miles come with a bonus)...
Overall that's pretty good. I have 3 saver flights booked this summer and since I booked in Jan and Feb it sounds like I will get the full mileage. I probably will no longer book saver fares... I do value the miles... but It looks like with the savings of getting my 5000 mile RT Pdx-Bos I could purchase more miles then I would get buying the full fare. (when miles come with a bonus) Speaking of which, since the current sale ends soon, is there a minimum amount of miles that need to be purchased to be eligible for the Oct 70% bonus. Thanks Lucky!
Yes. Terms state that you must buy 30K this time around to be eligible for the bigger bonus later.
AS Million Milers now get 20k EQMs to start every year.
“Status Accelerator: Each calendar year you'll start with 20,000 elite qualifying miles in your account. This industry-leading benefit will help you reach higher tier status even faster. Good news: Your 2023 EQMs have already been deposited into your account.”