Alaska Airlines to Roll Out No-Frills ‘Saver’ Fares

Oct 30, 2018

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If you like saving money by getting a last-minute, middle-seat assignment and being separated from your travel companions, yet another airline is competing for your business.

In early November 2018, Alaska Airlines will start selling Saver seats for flights departing in January 2019. But, Saver fares could be offered in limited markets for travel this December.

» Learn more: JetBlue announces basic economy option

The pros

The new fare category aims to offer more than travelers get with basic economy fares on other airlines. For example, Alaska’s new Saver fare has a pretty good policy for carry-on bags: You can bring both a personal item that fits under the seat and a bag to put in the overhead compartment at no extra charge.

That’s on par with American Airlines’ and Delta Air Lines’ basic economy fares. But it’s better than United, which charges Basic Economy passengers for a carry-on bag. Checked bags for an Alaska Saver seat will cost the same as a Main Cabin seat: $25 for each of the first two bags. (But not for long.)

If you’re working toward earning elite status with the airline, you’re in luck. All the miles you fly on an Alaska Saver fare will apply toward qualifying for elite status.

Additionally, if you want to book a Saver fare and then pay more to move to a Premium Class seat with extra legroom, Alaska will be testing options to allow it starting in early 2019. But if you’re already an Alaska Mileage Plan elite member and you want to use that status to upgrade your seat, you won’t be able to do so on a Saver fare. Instead, you’ll have to purchase a Main fare and then use your elite status to upgrade.

The cons

The biggest downside is that you won’t be able to select your seat. It will be assigned to you at the airport, and there’s no guarantee that members of your party will sit together. That can make Saver fares a no-go for families or parties of two or more.

Another con: If you buy a Saver fare ticket, you won’t have the option to fly standby. In other words, if you arrive at the airport in time to catch an earlier departure, you won’t be allowed to hop on that flight. In fact, no same-day changes to your ticket will be allowed. Not even Alaska Elite flyers will have that option.

Also, Saver fare ticket holders will likely be among the last passengers to board the plane, meaning overhead compartment space for your bag could be tight or gone by the time you board.

So are Alaska Saver fares worth it?

The answer won’t be clear until the fares go live in November and you can see side-by-side pricing of Saver seats and Main Cabin seats. Even then, the prices are sure to vary by route and schedule.

If possibly sitting apart from your travel companions and giving up the other perks you get with the Main Cabin fare are not a big concern, Alaska’s Saver seats might work for you. No matter what, always review the differently priced options for your itinerary and make the best decision for you.

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