Is Alaska Airlines Good?

Alaska has a stellar loyalty program, but globetrotting travelers might want to look elsewhere.
Jul 29, 2022

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As travel continues its crawl back to normal, it can be tough to know which of the many U.S.-based airlines might be best for your next trip. If you’re looking at a flight serviced by Alaska Airlines, you may be wondering: Is Alaska Airlines good?

Here’s what NerdWallet found based on a number of factors, including Alaska’s loyalty program, flight experience, customer service and more.

NerdWallet’s airline loyalty program winner

NerdWallet recently analyzed the best airline loyalty program this year, and Alaska Airlines came out on top, with a rating of 4.6 out of five points — significantly higher than the 3.8 point rating of second place finishers, American Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines.

What helped set Alaska apart from all other U.S.-based carriers? It offers a high-value reward rate for its Mileage Plan program, has favorable policies around fees and pets and offers top-tier benefits for its elite members.

Aside from topping NerdWallet’s rankings of best airline loyalty programs, there are additional reasons why Alaska is a great airline to fly.

What is Alaska Airlines like?

Your experience on Alaska may vary with class of service, destination and factors like flight crew and passenger load. With that in mind, we’ve highlighted a few points below that should give you a better idea of what you’ll experience when flying with Alaska.

Making reservations

Booking a flight on Alaska is relatively easy, and you can make your flight reservation either directly with the airline (either on its website or app) or through a third-party site like Kayak or Expedia.

Keep in mind that Alaska charges a $15 service fee when booking through an agent on the phone (this fee is waived for Alaska MVP Gold and 75k members), so you should try to book online when possible.

Check-in process

You’ll be able to check in for Alaska flights up to 24 hours in advance. You can check in either on the Alaska website, on its app or at the airport.

If you use the app, you’ll be able to download a digital version of your boarding pass. Otherwise, you can print your boarding pass at home or get a paper version when checking in at the airport.

Boarding

Alaska Airlines boards its planes using seven different groups, starting with pre-boarding (including guests with children under 2), followed by first class, Mileage Plan elite members, premium class ticket holders, main cabin passengers and those in Saver seats.

In-flight experience

Your in-flight experience can vary widely depending on the cabin you’ve booked and the plane on which you’re flying. Most aircrafts offer $8 Wi-Fi for the duration of your flight, and you can still access free messaging even if you don’t pay for internet access.

Note that Alaska doesn’t offer lie-flat seating — even on its cross-continental flights – so if having a bed is important to your flying experience, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Loyalty program

Alaska’s Mileage Plus loyalty program is top-notch. Award tickets can be redeemed for as few as 5,000 miles, and miles are accumulated based on the distance you fly, not how much you spent on your ticket.

Alaska is also a member of the Oneworld alliance, so you can use your Mileage Plan miles to book travel on partner airlines including Qantas, Cathay Pacific, American Airlines, British Airways, FinnAir and Qatar Airways. You can even use your Alaska miles to book flights on a few select non-Oneworld alliance members like Singapore Airlines, Aer Lingus and Korean Air.

Other factors to consider when flying Alaska Airlines

Safety ratings

If you're concerned about safety when you fly, Alaska Airlines is a great choice — Alaska was named the safest airline in the U.S. and the eighth safest airline in the world, according to a 2021 analysis by airlineratings.com.

Reliability

Compared to nine U.S.-based carriers, Alaska Airlines ranked third for on-time performance in a 2020 analysis conducted by OAG, a provider of air travel data.

Although Alaska wins points for on-time performance, it doesn’t fare quite as well when it comes to luggage. In 2021, Alaska was ranked the fourth worst airline in the U.S. for lost or mishandled luggage by LuggageHero.

Customer satisfaction

Alaska customers are generally happy with the airline. In a 2022 North American airline satisfaction study by J.D. Power, Alaska was ranked second in customer satisfaction by first and business class passengers and received a fifth place ranking by economy cabin travelers.

Who should avoid Alaska Airlines

Although there are many reasons to fly Alaska Airlines, there are some travelers who may want to avoid the airline, including:

  • Travelers who prefer a lie-flat seat. Alaska Airlines doesn't offer lie-flat seats in its premium class cabins, so customers who want a bed when they fly should look elsewhere.

  • Travelers who fly frequently outside of North America. Alaska Airlines currently only flies to the United States, Canada, Mexico, Belize, and Costa Rica. Although you can leverage Alaska’s partners to fly elsewhere, if most of your flights are outside of North America, you may want to use another airline.

  • East Coast-based travelers. The airline's flight network concentrates heavily on the West Coast and Alaska, so it might not make the most sense for all flyers.

If you’re considering flying Alaska Airlines

So is Alaska Airlines a good airline? In most cases, yes. To get the most bang for your buck, we recommend researching the aircraft and in-flight experience offered for your specific flight, as well as verifying the amount of miles you’ll earn through Alaska’s loyalty program.

Once you’ve decided to book an Alaska flight, don’t forget to join its Mileage Plan program to take full advantage of the airline’s top-rate loyalty benefits.

Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines.


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