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 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)
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.
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?