The Guide to Alaska Airlines Basic Economy: Saver Fares

Booking a Saver fare means boarding last while also forgoing seat selection and full elite benefits.
Carissa Rawson
By Carissa Rawson 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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Just looking to get from point A to point B? Basic economy tickets feature rock-bottom pricing and the ability to travel wherever you want. Other than that? They don’t offer much else. But there’s a place for basic economy tickets, which is one reason why many airlines offer them, including Alaska Airlines. 

Let’s look at Alaska Airlines’ basic economy offering, what to expect on your flights and ways to get good value when flying with Alaska. 

What to expect flying basic economy with Alaska

Alaska Airlines offers “Saver Fares” that are generally cheaper than Main Cabin, but the ticket comes with restrictions:

  • Baggage allowance: Unlike some stricter airlines, Alaska allows you to bring a full-size carry-on bag for free. You can also pay for a checked bag or check one for free if you have a co-branded credit card or elite status. 

  • Boarding: Basic economy customers board the plane last in the E boarding group. 

  • Check-in: There is no separate line for Saver fares during check-in. You’ll use the economy class line unless you have elite status.

  • Seats: Economy class seats are approximately 17 inches wide with 31 to 32 inches of pitch. This is the case for all economy passengers, including basic economy. 

  • Baggage delivery: Basic customers will receive their bags simultaneously as other passengers. 

  • Food: Available for purchase, though Alaska also provides complimentary snacks and nonalcoholic drinks. 

  • Changes and cancellations: Saver fares are nonrefundable after 24 hours, but you can cancel up to 14 days before departure and receive 50% back in travel credit (plus full taxes and fees).

  • Mileage earning: Saver Fares earn just 30% of the miles flown, while Main Cabin earns 100% of the miles flown.

How to book an Alaska Saver fare

Basic economy tickets on Alaska are easy to find. They’ll show up on your search results whenever they’re offered. First, you’ll want to navigate to Alaska’s website.

From here, you’ll be able to input your search parameters. For example, let’s say you’d like a flight from Los Angeles to Seattle. Once you’ve input your information and hit the “Find Flights” button, you’ll be presented with results. The tab marked Saver shows basic economy flights.

After selecting your Saver ticket, Alaska will prompt you with a pop-up urging you to upgrade to the main cabin. 

You’ll need to hit “Continue With Saver” to proceed. You can then add the flight to your cart. You’ll then be taken through the checkout process, where you’ll enter your personal information. 

It’s important to note that although you can’t choose a standard economy class seat when booking a basic economy ticket, you can purchase a premium class seat. These seats feature more legroom and complimentary alcohol. 

Once you’ve gone through the process, you’ll be able to review your selection and pay for your flight.

Saver vs. Main on Alaska

There are a few differences between Main (economy) and Saver (basic economy) fare tickets on Alaska Airlines. However, the biggest is that you cannot change or refund Saver flights more than 24 hours after purchase. You can, however, get a 50% travel credit on canceled Saver fares up to 14 days before your flight.

Other differences include:

  • Earlier boarding. 

  • Advanced seat selection.

  • Earlier access to overhead bins.

  • Full benefits for elite members. 

Similarities across both fares include:

  • Both ticket types allow a full-size carry-on bag.

  • The seats are the same.

  • The check-in line is the same. 

Ways to get a good value on Alaska flights

Alaska already offers some pretty good value on its flights, even when you’re flying a Saver fare. There are ways to extract even more value with your tickets. 

Redeem miles

Although Alaska Airlines will sell you basic economy tickets in cash, it doesn’t do the same for miles. That means if you redeem your miles for an economy class ticket, it’ll be in the Main fare class, not Saver. 

Since main cabin fares enjoy additional benefits such as advanced seat selection and earlier boarding, using your miles to redeem for a flight can make more sense than booking a Saver fare. 

Book with partners

Alaska has just debuted its new award chart, which simplifies the complicated version it used to use. While the jury is still out on whether it’s an improvement, extracting great value with your Alaska miles on partner airlines is still possible. 

Flights on Cathay Pacific from the U.S. to Asia are an excellent example. For example, a one-way business-class flight from Los Angeles to Hong Kong will run you just 50,000 miles:

This same flight costs more than $4,000 when booked with cash, which means you’ll be making great use of those Alaska miles. 

Earn elite status

Alaska is well-known for its generous elite status benefits, and nowhere is that more visible than when booking a basic economy flight. Elites are eligible to receive complimentary upgrades to first or premium class when flying on Saver fares within two hours of departure.

Other perks include access to the priority check-in line, early boarding, free checked bags and complimentary snack and drinks in economy. 

🤓Nerdy Tip

Alaska is a member of Oneworld, which means you’ll be able to earn miles and elite status when flying with its partners. 

Fly fewer than 700 miles

One of Alaska’s best sweet spots has to do with its short-haul flights. This is thanks to its award chart, which drops the redemption rate for these flights as low as 5,000 miles one-way.

You’ll find the most value from this when searching for expensive short-haul cash flights. 

Basic economy across U.S. airlines

In NerdWallet's annual analysis of the best airlines, we compared the basic economy experience across the major U.S. airlines currently offering a basic economy fare.

We looked at restrictions and allowances, including baggage, miles earning and trip modification policies. Here's how they stacked up:

Basic economy on Alaska recapped

Saver Fares aren’t for everyone. There’s not much to love when flying basic economy, except how cheaply it’ll get you to your destination. Still, Alaska is one of the better airlines to offer this ticket, especially since you can still bring a carry-on bag for free.

Even better, those with elite status will still maintain most of their benefits even when flying on a Saver ticket. Just remember you can’t choose your seats ahead of time. 

(Featured photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines)

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