Alaska Airlines is the seventh largest major carrier in the United States, in terms of passenger traffic. The company offered its service as Alaska Airlines for the first time in 1944, but the airline has its origins in McGee Airways, a company that was formed in 1932. Even though Alaska Airlines suggests that they only service the northernmost destination in the United States, Alaska Airways has over 100 destinations in the 48 contiguous states, Canada, Mexico, and four of the Hawaiian Islands. In fact, they have its largest hub at the Seattle-Tacoma Airport. Alaska Airlines also does well with customer satisfaction. For the seventh year in the row, JD Power and Associates ranked Alaska Airlines as the highest in customer satisfaction in 2014. While Alaska Airlines maintains independence from the major airline alliances, it does have codeshare agreements with some of the major airlines, including Delta and British Airways.
First of all, we really liked Club 49, the incentive program for customers who were flying to and from Alaska. Every year, Club 49 members get a certificate for 30% off a one-way flight to or from Alaska. You also get two free checked bags with Alaska Airlines, as well as exclusive deals. We reviewed other major carriers, such as Hawaiian Airlines, and couldn’t find a similar rewards program.
We found that the Gogo Internet service with Alaska Airlines was affordable. A similar carrier that we reviewed, Hawaiian Airlines, did not have Wi-Fi in the bulk of its planes as of this time.
We found that prices were a little high across the board with a few exceptions. A one-way ticket from Seattle to Las Vegas cost $99. Alaska Air also expedites the baggage claim process. If your luggage is not at the claim within 20 minutes, you can get a $25 voucher to use towards your next ticket.
We also felt like Alaska Airlines did a good job of providing affordable food and beverages to its coach customers. Most of the meals that we saw for coach clients were priced from $6 to $7, which is slightly cheaper than some of the other carriers we reviewed. However, we did find that Hawaiian Airlines offers free meals for flights that are longer than six hours, something that Alaska does not have. Starbucks Coffee is also available on Alaska Airlines as part of their complimentary beverage service.
We had some questions during our phone-in about the in-flight tablet rental. Initially we weren’t sure if movies cost extra, but through our conversation we found out they were included with the rental. We liked how the R-rated movies were edited for the presence of younger customers.
According to Flightstats.com, Alaska Airlines flights are on-time roughly 86%. This is above average when compared to select other top airlines.
We took some offense to the “oversized customers” clause of Alaska Airlines’ seating policy. We felt like some overweight or larger customers may be turned off by the tone of language on the part of their website. It also emphasized that Alaska Airlines has the right to re-seat a client or boot them from a flight if they hadn’t booked a second seat. Delta made it somewhat easier for customers and even suggested that a first class seat might be better for a “larger” customer. We would like to see Alaska Airlines be a little bit more sensitive to the needs of its larger customers and make it easier for them to purchase a second seat while reminding them that they are still valued customers.
We did have some concerns with the two-year activity clause on the mileage reward plan. One customer did have a complaint about the inactivity on their account leading to its deactivation.
We also had some concerns with the lack of wide-body planes. The Boeing 737, while a comfortable plane, lacks the comfort of larger Airbuses and larger Boeing aircraft, such as the 767.
The prices an airline charges for luggage that needs to be checked can vary between different airlines. The more luggage an airline allows for smaller costs, the more likely they are to satisfy their passengers. Unfortunately, Alaska Airlines is one of the airlines that does not allow any bags to be checked for free. With the exception of club members, customers flying with special benefits, military members, or passengers who are confirmed as flying first class at the time of check-in, all luggage that is checked with Alaska Airlines has an attached fee. The first two bags will cost customers twenty-five dollars per bag. Any additional checked baggage will be charged seventy-five dollars per bag. These bags must comply with the standard fifty-pound weight limit and sixty-two inches in height. Any checked bags that exceed these regulations will be charged an additional seventy-five dollars per bag. It should be noted that although no bags can be checked for free with a standard Alaska Airline ticket, car seats and strollers, as well as wheelchairs, assistive devices, and any bags containing only medical equipment for personal use may be checked free of charge. Passengers who are flying with Alaska Airline internationally must have any bags that need to be checked, checked-in sixty minutes before flight departure. Flying domestically only requires bags to be checked-in forty minutes before flight departure. As a benefit to passengers flying with Alaska Airlines, the company does allow each traveler one bag as a carry-on item as well as one personal item which may include a purse, briefcase, or laptop. In addition, even though Alaska Airline does not offer any checked baggage to fly for free, they do guarantee their customers that if their bags are not at baggage claim within twenty minutes of landing, Alaska Airlines will credit the customer a twenty-five-dollar discount for future Alaska Airlines flights or twenty-five hundred bonus miles towards the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan.
A major part of travel insurance that many airline companies focus on providing for their customers is flexibility in making changes to purchased tickets or refunding unused airline fares. While Alaska Airlines does allow this type of insurance to their customers, it is a strict policy and not as flexible as many other competing airline companies. Alaska Airlines allows customers to change a purchased ticket once, within the twenty-four-hour time period from the original purchase date. Any changes or cancelations made after the allotted twenty-four hours will be charged applicable fees. For baggage delay insurance, Alaska Airlines promises to return bags to customers within twenty-four hours from the landing time. If for some reason a bag cannot be located in that amount of time, Alaska Airlines will compensate reasonable expenses that occur during a bag delay as well as reimbursement for any fees that might be charged to transport a lost bag to the rightful destination. If a customer is flying with the need for special assistance, Alaska Airline has both an online request form as well as a twenty-four-seven phone line to provide and help with any special assistance while traveling with their airline. Alaska Airlines does request that all special assistance requests are made before a flight’s departure so that the staff can best assist during regular travel as well as during irregular travel events such as delays. In the event that a flight is delayed, Alaska Airlines provides their customers with many different options as to handle the situation. If a customer is flying with multiple airlines, but all tickets were purchased at the same time, Alaska Airlines will promptly find coordinating flights and make necessary arrangements for travelers to board the different air crafts. If tickets were purchased separately through other airlines, Alaska Airlines will contact the different airline companies, but all ticket fares will have to be handled separately through the altered companies. Customers who choose not to travel because of a delayed or canceled flight can get their ticket fares refunded or have travel arranged for a different day, with all associated fees waived. Although all of these options are a great benefit to customers traveling with Alaska Airlines, the travel insurance in general through the company while available, is average when compared to other airline companies in the industry.
The rewards program through Alaska Airlines is called the Mileage Plan. This program, like many other airline rewards programs, is a way for customers to earn points that can be redeemed for travel. Customers can earn points by enrolling in the program free of charge, and purchasing airfare with Alaska Airlines or through many companies partnering with Alaska Airlines to create more opportunities to earn reward points. Many of the additional companies that allow for more points to be earned for the Alaska Airline Mileage Plan include everyday places such as shopping and dining (mainly through purchases with a credit card). The number of points earned for every purchase made with the Mileage Plan can vary on what and when something is being purchased. Unfortunately, Alaska Airlines does not allow members who are part of this plan to combine points with other members to increase the points available. In addition, when redeeming the accrued points for air travel, Alaska Airlines does have restrictions on when and how the points can be used and for what airfare. Not all seats are available for reward purchases, and Alaska Airlines does enforce blackout dates (which are days of travel where no flights can be purchased using Mileage Plan redeemed points). Along with these restrictions, Alaska Airlines also restricts the destinations to which a flight can be purchased using redeemed points through their rewards program. Not all flights are eligible and customers can find a specific list of awarded destinations that can be used at the time their redeemable points are usable. As a benefit to reward members, though, Alaska Airlines does provide some deals that can be found on their membership page that are exclusive to point earning members. This allows members to find better rates for flights and to be able to use reward points on the deals accessible at that time.