Like it or not, basic economy fares are here to stay. Fortunately, Alaska Airlines basic economy isn't as painful as what you'll find on many other carriers.
Long after Delta became the first major airline to sell these no-frills fares way back in 2013, Alaska Airline was among the last to adopt them. It's the airlines' way of trying to compete with budget carriers like Spirit, Frontier, and Sun Country by unbundling for fares, charging separately for bags, seat selection, and ruling out fare changes or cancellations.
But just as with everything in the airline world, Alaska does things a little bit differently – and it starts with the name. Here's a look at everything you need to know about flying Alaska Airlines basic economy … or what the airline calls “Saver Fares.”
What You Get with Alaska Airlines Basic Economy
First things first: The Seattle-based airline calls its basic economy “Saver Fares.” While different in name, it's clearly a carbon copy of almost every other airlines' basic economy offering.
Take a look.
- Baggage: Get a personal item and carry-on bag for free; pay $30 each way for a checked bag. Read up on Alaska Airlines baggage fees
- Seat Selection: Available only at the back of the plane; upgrade to a different seat for a fee.
- Boarding: Final boarding group.
- Earning Alaska Mileage Plan Miles: Yes.
- Earning Status: Yes.
- Upgrades: Not eligible for complimentary upgrades.
- Ticket Changes and Cancellation: Not allowed, except for within 24 hours of booking.
Buying basic economy rather than a main cabin fare will typically save you $15 to $30 each way. And naturally, Alaska Airlines does its best to convince travelers to opt up for the main cabin economy fare. Airlines measure the success of basic economy based on how many passengers pay to avoid it.
For many years, Alaska was more generous with basic economy than any other airlines when it came to seat selection. While most airlines don't allow basic economy flyers to pick a seat at all, travelers with an Alaska saver fare could freely pick the best seats remaining at the back of the plane – or pay a bit more for a seat closer to the front.
Those days are over. Alaska quietly ended that perk in July 2022. Now, travelers on an Alaska basic economy fare can no longer pick a seat – or even pay extra for one in advance.
What Routes Include Basic Economy?
Airlines like Delta and American Airlines carve out exceptions in their massive international networks where basic economy isn't sold. That includes flights to destinations like Asia, Australia, and Africa.
But Alaska Airlines is much smaller and doesn't fly to those places. So you'll typically find Saver Fares on sale on every Alaska Airlines flight, including flights to:
- Continental U.S. and Canada
- Hawaii and Alaska
- Mexico and Costa Rica
How to Beat Alaska Airlines Basic Economy
Grab an Alaska Credit Card
Like with many airlines, the easiest way to beat basic economy is by holding the right co-branded credit cards.
In this case, you'll want the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature Card. This card gets you and up to six others traveling on your reservation a free checked bag. What's more, you don't actually have to pay for your fare with the card to get that perk.
The card comes with a $75 annual fee, which isn't waived in the first year. You'll also earn 40,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles after spending $2,000 within the first three months with the card, and get a companion fare – bring a pal with you on a flight for just $99 plus another $22 in fees.
Click Here to learn more about the Alaska Airlines Visa Credit Card.
How Does Alaska Airlines Basic Economy Compare?
No matter how you slice it, basic economy stinks. But at least Alaska Airlines basic economy stinks a little bit less than the competition … but a little bit more than it used to.
The ability to pick free seats at the back of the plane from the time you book made it easy to avoid the dreaded middle seat assignment on an Alaska basic economy fare. What's more, you could potentially move up to an even better seat as your flight draws near – depending on how full the flight was, of course.
But unfortunately, that's no longer the case. These days, you'll be automatically assigned a seat with a Saver fare – with no option (at least currently) to pay a bit extra for a seat assignment.
On the plus side, Alaska hasn't gone as far as United or JetBlue in banning basic economy passengers from bringing a carry-on bag onboard.
Basic economy is here to stay. Knowing what you get and what you don't is the key to staying ahead. And with Alaska Airlines, you get more than most.
Lead photo courtesy of InSapphoWeTrust via Flickr