Basic economy fares are frustrating, but they’re here to stay.
Delta was the first major U.S. airline to start selling these no-frills fares back in 2013, and they’ve caught on like wildfire. 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.
And though Alaska Airlines was one of the last major U.S. airlines to adopt these restrictive fares, there’s good news: Its spin on basic economy is the most generous you’ll find. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about flying Alaska Airlines basic economy.
What You Get with Alaska Airlines Basic Economy
First things first: The West Coast-based airline calls its basic economy “Saver Fares”
But while most airlines don’t allow you to pick a seat in advance and United even bans carry-on bags for basic economy flyers, Alaska is far more generous. Take a look.
- Baggage: Get a personal item and carry-on bag for free; pay $30 each way for a checked bag.
- 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 $10 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.
But Alaska’s seat selection policy is a big improvement. While most airlines charge basic economy passengers a hefty fee to pick a seat – or simply assign it randomly at the gate – Alaska allows basic economy travelers to pick the best of what’s left at the back of the plane.
Here’s a look at what’s available on a flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP) to Seattle (SEA) in a few weeks.
You could also pay up to sit farther up front when flying Alaska Airlines basic economy. If there are no more seats in the Saver Fare rows available, your seat will be assigned at check-in.
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 South America, 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.
- Continental U.S. and Canada
- Hawaii and Alaska
- Mexico and Costa Rica
How to Beat Alaska Airlines Basic Economy
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.
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Basic economy stinks, but at least Alaska Airlines stinks a little bit less than the competition.
You’ll be at the back of the plane unless you pay a fee for a better seat. But the ability to pick a seat in advance makes Alaska Airlines basic economy unique.
Add in the free carry-on, and it’s easy to see why Alaska Airlines has the most generous basic economy fare out there.
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 courtes of InSapphoWeTrust via Flickr
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