In this step-by-step guide to flying Alaska Airlines, I’ll go over how to book and what to expect onboard America’s 5th largest airline.
What to Know Before You Book with Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines primarily serves West Coast cities with major hubs in Seattle (SEA), Portland (PDX), San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), and Anchorage (ANC). After acquiring Virgin America, it has expanded its network to many major cities along the East Coast and the Midwestern U.S. The airline also has a few flights to Canada, Mexico, and Costa Rica.
Alaska Airlines isn’t a part of any major airline alliance, but it does have plenty of codeshare partnerships across the world, which allow it to sell tickets to more locations throughout the world. Some of Alaska’s codeshare partners include British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Icelandair, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and even domestic rival American Airlines. If you are flying on a shorter regional route, it’s likely your flight will be operated by Alaska’s sister carrier Horizon Air.
Alaska Airlines competes on service and price with the other major carriers like American, Delta, United, and Southwest. As such, all of its economy fares include a normal carry-on bag plus a personal item. Checked bag fees on Alaska Airlines start at $30 each way for the first checked bag and $40 for the second. This is the same as all other major U.S. airlines except Southwest, which includes two free checked bags in all fares.
What are Saver fares? Saver fares are Alaska’s equivalent to basic economy. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
Alaska Airlines’ Saver fares are the carrier’s lowest-priced main cabin fares, akin to basic economy on other carriers.
These fares come with restrictions on baggage, seating, boarding order, and your eligibility to change or cancel your flight. The following sections will answer common questions about these restrictions.
Alaska Airlines waives some Saver-fare restrictions for elite members and holders of eligible cards like the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card and Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card. The final sections of this guide will speak to how Mileage Plan elite status and cobranded credit cards come in handy to take advantage of Saver fares.
Yes, you can check a bag, but not for free.
Saver fares adhere to the same policy as Main Cabin fares for checked bags: The first checked bag costs $30, the second $40 and any additional bags are $100 each.
For more information on Alaska Airlines’ checked bag policy, check out this page.
Yes, you can; the same policies for carry-ons with Main Cabin fares apply to Saver fares. Your carry-on cannot be larger than 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches, and those dimensions include wheels and handles.
To determine if your luggage is small enough to be a carry-on, you can always use the bag sizers near the Alaska Airlines ticketing counter.
Because Saver-fare passengers board last, overhead space might not be available for carry-ons, and you may have to gate-check your bag. This should be at no cost.
Like Main Cabin passengers, Saver-fare passengers can also bring on board one personal item like a purse or backpack.
Saver vs Main Fares on Alaska Airlines
Alaska Airlines recently introduced its version of Basic Economy, which it calls a “Saver” fare, to better align its fares with the competition. These fares tend to have many of the same restrictions as the major airlines, but have their slight differences. The lowest fare you see on Alaska Airlines will most often be its new “Saver” fare. These fares have the same baggage policy as its “Main” fares, but there are differences when it comes to seat selection, boarding priority, and flight changes.
One advantage Alaska offers over its competitors in this fare category is that Saver fares do include limited seat selection in the back of the plane. However, since there are only a very limited number of seats to choose from when booking a Saver fare, you may find it hard to actually pre-book seats next to your traveling partner unless you book a Main fare. If you choose not to select seats on a Saver fare, they will be randomly assigned for free during check-in.
The major drawback to booking a Saver fare is that changes or cancellations are not permitted more than 24-hours after booking. This means your ticket will have no value if your plans change and are no longer able to take the flight you originally booked. You’ll simply have to eat the cost and purchase a new ticket. Main fares allow ticket changes and cancellations, but any changes are subject to additional fees.
The only other difference that applies to all travelers is that passengers on Saver fares will be the last to board the aircraft, hence, have last dibs on overhead bin space and may be required to gate check (for free) any bags that do not fit in the overheads. And while miles are earned on all fares, there are a few limitations to elite members when traveling on Saver tickets. Elite Mileage Plan members still receive waived bag fees, bonus miles, and priority boarding, but any ticket changes, including upgrades or same-day confirmed changes, are not allowed on Saver tickets.
The upgrade from a Saver fare to a Main fare on Alaska Airlines is usually less than an upgrade from Basic Economy to standard Economy on other airlines. If you are trying to avoid Basic Economy entirely, you may find that flying on Alaska Airlines on a competitive route to be cheaper than flying on other major carriers.
Can I check a bag with Alaska Saver fare?
Does Alaska Airlines have comfortable seats?