To compete with ultra-low-cost carriers such as Spirit and Frontier, the country’s largest airlines have over the last few years begun selling dirt-cheap fares that come with a long list of restrictions.
Now, Alaska Airlines, the nation’s fifth-biggest carrier, plans to join its much bigger rivals, Delta, United and American. The three giant airlines all launched “basic economy” fares that don’t allow passengers to change reservations, pick seats or upgrade to roomier seats. Some of the “basic economy” fares limit the loyalty reward points travelers earn by purchasing the ticket.
Airline industry leaders have told analysts that the basic economy fares have been very successful at drawing the attention of fliers who ultimately book a higher-priced fare once they notice all of the restrictions on the cheaper ticket.
Alaska Airlines says its “saver fare” is a better deal for budget-conscious travelers than the basic economy fares offered by other airlines. The saver fare let fliers pick their seat, bring a carry-on bag at no charge and collect loyalty reward points.
The fares will go on sale by the end of the year.
But there is some bad news for travelers buying the cheaper tickets: Such fliers will board last, their seating will be in the back of the plane – most likely a middle seat – and the reservations cannot be changed or canceled. Also, upgrades won’t be allowed for elites on Alaska’s Mileage Plan.
“Every choice and option will be clearly communicated to guests at the time of purchase, and fliers will have the option to pay more for a better seat, if they choose,” Alaska Airlines said in a statement. “We think it’s going to be a great overall value for the flier who wants this option.”
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