Alaska Airlines Cuts First Class Lounge Access

Alaska Airlines Cuts First Class Lounge Access

44

Alaska Airlines has just announced a major change to its lounge access policy for first class passengers…

Alaska cuts lounge access on flights under 2,100 miles

Alaska Airlines has long been unique among US airlines when it comes to its Alaska Lounge access policy. Specifically, the Seattle-based airline has granted all paid first class passengers lounge access, regardless of the route.

As long as you paid cash or redeemed miles for your first class ticket (as opposed to upgrading), you got access to the Alaska Lounge. This is vastly different than the policies of American, Delta, and United, and has been a major competitive advantage.

Unfortunately that will soon be a thing of the past. Alaska will no longer offer Alaska Lounge access to first class passengers on flights under 2,100 miles:

  • This policy applies for tickets booked as of November 18, 2022, and for travel as of February 15, 2023
  • For those that do have segments of 2,100+ miles, lounge access will be granted to all lounges in that day’s itinerary, including for connecting flights that are under 2,100 miles
  • Paid first class passengers on itineraries with segments under 2,100 miles will be able to purchase a discounted day pass for $30 to the Alaska Lounge

A significant majority of Alaska Airlines flights are under 2,100 miles, so this will majorly decrease the number of first class passengers with lounge access. Flights that are 2,100+ miles include transcons, flights to Hawaii, and some of Alaska’s international flights.

Alaska was unique with its lounge access policy for first class

Alaska Lounge membership fee increasing by $50

Not only is Alaska Airlines cutting lounge access for most first class passengers, but the airline is also increasing the price of Alaska Lounge memberships. Specifically, as of January 1, 2023, the cost of Alaska Lounge memberships will increase by $50 annually across the board.

This is Alaska’s second price hike in a short period. In October 2021, the airline also significantly increased the cost of lounge memberships. Alaska Airlines justifies this by claiming that it has doubled its lounge footprint since 2018, and has invested nearly $30 million in lounge expansions and improvements.

For context on the pricing, Alaska Airlines has two different lounge membership plans, at different price points and with different lounge access inclusions. An Alaska Lounge membership gets you access to just Alaska Lounges, and costs:

  • $450 annually for Mileage Plan non-elite members ($500 as of 2023)
  • $350 annually for Mileage Plan MVP, MVP Gold, MVP Gold 75K, and MVP Gold 100K members ($400 as of 2023)

An Alaska Lounge+ membership gets you access to Alaska Lounges, American Admirals Clubs (when flying Alaska or American), select Qantas Clubs (when flying Qantas) and select United Clubs (when flying Alaska), and costs:

  • $600 annually for Mileage Plan non-elite members ($650 as of 2023)
  • $500 annually for Mileage Plan MVP, MVP Gold, MVP Gold 75K, and MVP Gold 100K members ($550 as of 2023)
The cost of an Alaska Lounge membership is increasing considerably

My take on these Alaska Lounge changes

What are my thoughts on these changes? It’s sad to see Alaska Airlines lose its edge with its first class lounge access policy, as this has long set Alaska apart from the competition.

At the same time, airport lounge crowding has become an increasingly big problem, and there’s no easy solution to that. Airlines are greatly limited in terms of their growth potential at airports, so their only choices are to either do nothing about crowding, or to try to limit the number of people who have access to lounges.

So while I’m sad to see this change, I’m also not surprised. In the case of Alaska Lounges, I think the nail in the coffin was Alaska Airlines joining the oneworld alliance and partnering so closely with American. Not only is there full lounge access reciprocity between the two airlines, but plenty of oneworld passengers also have access to Alaska Lounges.

Cutting lounge access for first class passengers seemed like the low hanging fruit here, and what would better align the carrier with the competition.

It’s sad to see Alaska lose its edge

Bottom line

Major changes are being made to Alaska Lounge access policies as of 2023.

As of February 2023, paid first class passengers will no longer get lounge access with their tickets, unless they’re on flights of 2,100+ miles. This has been a major competitive advantage for Alaska, so the company’s policy will now be more in line with the competition. On top of that, as of January 2023, the cost of an Alaska Lounge membership is increasing by $50 across the board.

What do you make of Alaska Airlines tightening Alaska Lounge access policies?

Conversations (44)
The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.
Type your response here.

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Anyone can comment, and your email address will not be published. Register to save your unique username and earn special OMAAT reputation perks!

  1. William Guest

    Well this news sucks for sure as it definitely has been a differentiator for me. Yet another way AS is shedding the unique features that drive its brand loyalty.

    BEN, Can you clarify... You note the new policy allows FC passengers to buy a discounted $30 day pass, but will that policy apply to the lounges (SEA, PDX, etc.) that don't otherwise sell day passes? Or only JFK/LAX/SFO which are the only lounges still selling...

    Well this news sucks for sure as it definitely has been a differentiator for me. Yet another way AS is shedding the unique features that drive its brand loyalty.

    BEN, Can you clarify... You note the new policy allows FC passengers to buy a discounted $30 day pass, but will that policy apply to the lounges (SEA, PDX, etc.) that don't otherwise sell day passes? Or only JFK/LAX/SFO which are the only lounges still selling day passes? I'm guessing the former--which makes this change even worse for NW residents/travelers of AS--but wondered if you knew for sure.

  2. SBS Guest

    So is there any lounge access on a mixed cabin partner business award, NAN-LAX-SEA-BOS, with NAN-LAX in Fiji business, but both AS segments in coach?

  3. Aviator Guest

    Recently flew FC to/from PDX from JFK. Lounges on both ends were dirty, poorly staffed and the food choices were terrible. The attitude of the staff was most telling. They do not care, and it made me think they must be union and bullet-proof, so to speak. Alaska FC is a joke.

  4. Terry F Guest

    It was almost impossible to get into the Alaska lounge in PDX. Lounge is kind of small and will 60 flights leaving per day, plus sapphire level access, the lounge was way to crowded. They had to all a little satellite for overflow. My only beef with this was they could have limited the mileage to let say 1000 or 1200 miles and that would have eliminated most of the SEA/PDX-SFO/LAX/SJO/PHX/LAS that consume many of the FC seats on the west coat.

  5. Schar Gold

    I personally think its insane how flying first class in the US doesnt automatically come with lounge access, to me that should be the most basic right of a FC passenger. The fact that it prioritizes elite status, what credit card you have, etc, is just greedy to me. Seems like a very US centric problem though, and no wonder all lounges there are crowded.

    1. Grey Gold

      But not even elite status. In the US, lounge access is essentially based on whether you have paid for membership or the credit card which includes membership. So of course they are full, because there are no limits on capacity. In most places, they are limited to the amount of business class seats available as well as the amount of elite members. Not that that makes the lounges oases of calm, but at least outside...

      But not even elite status. In the US, lounge access is essentially based on whether you have paid for membership or the credit card which includes membership. So of course they are full, because there are no limits on capacity. In most places, they are limited to the amount of business class seats available as well as the amount of elite members. Not that that makes the lounges oases of calm, but at least outside of the peak periods for the particular airports, they tend to be quite pleasant.
      Also, considering that most are paying to be there, the food and drink offerings in US lounges (not including the longhaul business lounges like AA Flagship or UA Polaris) still leaves a bit to be desired...

  6. Mel Guest

    Well, this bites.

    A couple weeks ago, I purchased first class tickets on Alaska, specifically for lounge access on the last leg of a very long trip with my family.

    So, boo-hiss, Alaska Airlines.

  7. Christina Guest

    Sad, very SAD! Alaska Air has always stood out and now they are going to be just as messed up as other airlines. This is very disappointing to Alaskans who only use Alaska Air! Why even bother to use them anymore. Every other airline is just as competitive and cheaper!?!?!?

    1. Allyson Guest

      I just researched this, and Alaska residents can join Club 49 for free, and this restriction won’t apply to us.

  8. Bob Guest

    If they were to say do this but up their lounge in terms of food and amenities at least there is some value. The sfo lounge is just marginally better than the AA lounge it used to be but the food and drink options are about on par with the nearby hudson news stand. Given Alaska 1st class is very meh economy+ ish they're not offering a whole lot of reason to book with them.

  9. Anthony Joseph Guest

    It's stupid that they are looking at solving "overcrowding" than looking at the bigger picture of NOT planning better for capacity. There aren't any lounges in 95% of their long haul destinations including Hawaii. Wait until the next economic downturn for airlines which is going to happen in 2023 and let's see what happens on how airlines do without loyalty factor.

  10. Widerightv New Member

    Reducing the number of direct flights from my airport to where they travel (ie, Hawaii et.al.) reduction of services on their flights and now the Lounges. I'm assuming that this story is going to continue.
    I went all in with Alaska about 5 years ago. Maybe time to sell (ie, find another carrier). This is not your father's Alaska any more.

  11. crosscourt Guest

    And how does that affect (if it does) OneWorld emerald members?

  12. Josh Guest

    I have a Lounge+ pass which was just renewed in October, so while I'm sad that it will be $50 more expensive, the fact that there should be many less people going forward is something I'm quite happy about.

    1. Allyson Guest

      I’ve noticed a HIGE difference in how crowded the lounges are since Alaska Airlines stopped selling day passes in Anchorage and Seattle. It had gotten pretty ridiculous how full the lounges were. I come to the lounge to avoid the crowded gates and restaurants throughout the airport. I’m here now in the N gates lounge on the Monday before Thanksgiving, and it’s nice and peaceful in here.

  13. Darren C Diamond

    Dumping Priority pass access was a good step. Dropping free F access is another good step. AS should offer a BoA card with lounge access.

    I used to pay the annual AS lounge/boardroom fee of $300. Last year I got the AA Citi lounge card for $450. I would pay $450 for an AS BoA lounge card. I am Gold 75.

    1. Steve Guest

      I'd actually be ok with that...but it needs to be proactively worked...not this short-notice announcement they just pulled.

  14. Desperado Guest

    Super necessary. The crowding and free loaders dilutes the experience. I’m happy to pay an extra $50 per year for a better lounge experience.

    Lounges have turned to gen pop over the last 18 months - it’s awful. Time to weed out people by limiting access and increasing entry fee.

    1. Andrew Diamond

      Freeloaders who pay for first class? We have very different definitions of what a freeloader is.

  15. Steve Guest

    This 2x 100K will no be renewing his AS lounge + pass as a result next year...ever since they joined OW, it's been nothing but negative regarding AS and their products...from upgrades to mileage devaluations to lounges to them not being able to run anything resembling a normal schedule out of Dallas (my origin city).

    Alaska USED to be the greatest value for a full-service airline in the US...not anymore.

    1. Desperado Guest

      If Dallas is your hub, it’s pretty dumb to make Alaska your primary airline unless you’re only flying to Seattle and Portland.

      Glad to see the fee increase is weeding people out. Bye bye. You won’t be missed.

    2. Steve Guest

      Maybe some of us in the Metroplex like being rewarded with actual miles rather than SkyPesos or random points that are calculated based upon the sign of the zodiac and how much you spend on a credit card or portal (WN and AA).

      Besides, other than their lounge in N at SEA, the other lounges aren't anything to write home about...especially the closet spaces in LAX and PDX.

  16. Watson Gold

    Okay. Why is it 2100 and not 2000? What route do they fly in the 2000-2100 range that they really wanted to screw over?

    1. Michael SEA Member

      And MSY a leisure destination at 2,086.

  17. Ted Guest

    Well that is crappy and shortish notice too. Boo

    I have two Alaska shorter flights booked already for April and July 2023. So…would I not have lounge access? Or would still because was booked before Nov 18?

    1. sacrxy New Member

      "This policy applies for tickets booked as of November 18, 2022, and for travel as of February 15, 2023"

    2. Ted Guest

      Sorry but this is still not clear to me. If the flight is after 2/15, am I still good if I booked before 11/18 or not?

  18. Lune Gold

    What's the point of "aligning" your standards with a mediocre airline that itself is falling behind its competitors?
    Aligning schedules, codeshares, etc. has some benefit. "Aligning" aka cutting the services that made you stand out vs. the competition, doesn't seem like much of a benefit of having a new partner airline...

  19. Sel, D. Guest

    I’d probably make the same move - I don’t see any first class passengers picking a different airline because they don’t have access. I’m flying AS SFO-CUN in December (over 2,100) miles and may pop in for a coffee, but will likely hit the nearby PP restaurant instead.

    Outside of SEA flagship, these lounges aren’t anything to write home about IMO. That being said, I could see infrequent travelers enjoying the allure of a lounge.

    1. Jimmy’s Travel Report Diamond

      Completely agree with you. The interior, architecture and design of the lounges are fine, so they provide a comfortable atmosphere to work or relax in before a flight. But good grief the food is so mediocre. Alaska could really improve in this area.

    2. Andrew Diamond

      Totally agreed with Jimmy. The food is the reason I got an AA Exec card and Priority Pass with restaurant access, so I wouldn't be stuck with awful carrot bits, mid pancakes and hummus that time forgot.

  20. EK_engineer Guest

    Great little airlines like Alaska don't become mediocre overnight. They only end up that way one 'small' step at a time; until the cumulative effect is glaringly noticeable by customers...And by that stage, it's too late, and you're just one of the (mediocre) crowd, like what AA and UA are now.

  21. Ghostrider5408 Guest

    As "DA" posted another nail in the coffin "Ben" seems too enamored with AA is there a merger in the future? As a long time AS FF mm'er etc this is not the Alaska Air I once knew.

    SAD

    1. thurstontravel Guest

      The financial resources to pull off a merger aren't there right now but with some Wall Street and Private Equity structuring, it could happen, and it would not surprise at all, if further down the road it will. The industry rebounded strongly in 2022 thanks to heavy demand that was heavily skewed toward leisure travel, driven by pent up demand. The business of corporate travel has improved, but not to levels that kept it as...

      The financial resources to pull off a merger aren't there right now but with some Wall Street and Private Equity structuring, it could happen, and it would not surprise at all, if further down the road it will. The industry rebounded strongly in 2022 thanks to heavy demand that was heavily skewed toward leisure travel, driven by pent up demand. The business of corporate travel has improved, but not to levels that kept it as the bread and butter of the industry's profits between the recovery from the 2008 Great Recession and the COVID19 pandemic's arrival in 2020. With the strong likelihood of recessions in Europe, parts of Asia, and the US in 2023, the industry can't rely on business demand to sustain the excess premium capacity that is undeniably there. Climate change moves will also put even more financial pressure on the industry. Scott Kirby said it himself that bailouts will happen again and again. AS is fundamentally, a regional airline with a significant West-East network. The oneworld membership was the first in a series of steps toward an eventual merger with AA.

    2. FlyerDon Guest

      So demand is going to go down creating excess capacity and American’s response will be to merge with Alaska giving American even more capacity? As the head of United I can see how Scott Kirby might like that.

  22. D.A. Guest

    Just another "death by a thousand" cuts in the what was great with Alaska. Just watch for more cuts as they align (e.g. lower their standards to) with their OneWorld partner AA. Their FF program will likely go to "loyalty points" ala AA at some time (IMO).

  23. Anna Guest

    Do they still charge $25 for day passes to credit card holders? That is (was?) a differentiator with the other airlines.

    1. Thomas Guest

      Not anymore in SEA. Stopped doing it due to capacity issues.

  24. GUWonder Guest

    I assume the airline is facing increased costs from its lounge operations in this environment, and this is a way to try to cut its costs and also boost revenue.

    Maybe the airline wants to also grow its Priority Pass revenue.

    American Airlines is probably happy to see AlaskaAir increase it’s lounge membership prices.

    1. Steve Guest

      AS dumped PP off all its lounges except JFK last year...and I'm sure they won't reconsider.

  25. Samuel Guest

    Everything good dies.

    1. GUWonder Guest

      Maybe one upside of this is that AS will be more eager to provide space to and collect revenue from Priority Pass guest users?

    2. Brianair Guest

      Like Virgin America.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

EK_engineer Guest

Great little airlines like Alaska don't become mediocre overnight. They only end up that way one 'small' step at a time; until the cumulative effect is glaringly noticeable by customers...And by that stage, it's too late, and you're just one of the (mediocre) crowd, like what AA and UA are now.

3
Schar Gold

I personally think its insane how flying first class in the US doesnt automatically come with lounge access, to me that should be the most basic right of a FC passenger. The fact that it prioritizes elite status, what credit card you have, etc, is just greedy to me. Seems like a very US centric problem though, and no wonder all lounges there are crowded.

2
Lune Gold

What's the point of "aligning" your standards with a mediocre airline that itself is falling behind its competitors? Aligning schedules, codeshares, etc. has some benefit. "Aligning" aka cutting the services that made you stand out vs. the competition, doesn't seem like much of a benefit of having a new partner airline...

2
Meet Ben Schlappig, OMAAT Founder
4,788,713 Miles Traveled

27,627,500 Words Written

32,315 Posts Published