Alaska Airlines adds coach restriction to companion certificates

If I didn’t know any better I’d say Alaska Airlines is doing their best to be the most hated airline in the country. The number of fees they’ve added and benefits they’ve eliminated in the past year have been shocking.

Just this week they announced that the 1,000 mile booking bonus for using the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Visa would be eliminated as of August 1, 2012.

The other major benefit of the Alaska Mileage Plan Visa has been the $99 companion certificate which could be used for any route and any fare. This was a fantastic benefit. From the east coast Alaska often had fares to Hawaii in paid first class for under $1,000, so for ~$1,000 you could fly two people to Hawaii in first class. I’ve often suggested that as a strategy for people looking to go to Hawaii in first class instead of redeeming miles.

Well, it appears as if the $99 companion certificate has been “enhanced,” and as of August 1, 2012, is only valid for coach travel.

I really have to wonder what Alaska Airlines is thinking lately, especially with this change. Why would you eliminate the two real benefits of your credit card at once?

But what’s kind of funny about all of this is that back in March the online credit card application was updated with the following verbiage regarding the companion certificate:

Receive an annual coach Companion Fare from $110 (USD) ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees, from $11 depending on your Alaska Airlines flight itinerary).†

After frequent flyers noticed this, Alaska quickly removed the word “coach” and claimed it was a “computer glitch.” Interesting computers they have, which randomly add the word “coach” to terms and conditions. It seems that in reality they had just added the verbiage a bit too early.

Alaska Airlines, there’s nothing “North of Expected” about you anymore.

Comments

  1. That is bad news I was getting ready to move toward some big spending and travel on Alaska. Oh well I guess I’ll find another airline.

  2. Does this mean any travel after 8/1 will be subject to this restriction or can 1st be booked up until then?

  3. As Alaska is going head-to-head against Allegiant in some of its new markets now, such as Bellingham – Hawaii, perhaps it is trying to gradually turn into an Allegiant type of airline?

  4. @lucky: “Just this week they announced that the 500 mile booking bonus for using the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan Visa would be eliminated as of August 1, 2012.” You mean the 1000 mile booking bonus.

  5. Just booked my first and last 1st class companion fare to HI. Wont be renewing my AK signature Visa again.

  6. @ chris — I believe the change applies for bookings made after 8/01, and not travel after 8/01.

  7. Sigh. No misinformation, please. The letter from Alaska Airlines says that companion fare e-certificates issued after August 1 will be subject to this limitation. It specifically states that e-certificates that were issued before August 1 will continue to be valid for redemption for first class companion tickets until their expiration dates. If anything, I would argue that this could be grounds to get in while the getting is good, if Alaska might still be issuing companion e-certificates to new card applicants before August 1.

  8. Where is the letter?

    For regular AS flyers this change does have some positive attributes, notably that it should improve availability of upgrades on transcon and Hawaii flights.

    It does devalue the credit card

  9. I agree w/Carl. I do not see anything on the AK website nor any letter that is anything more than that which was “mis-stated” in March. If there is some text, somewhere, please provide a link or some direction to find it. Thank you.
    PS-if this is true, I will cancel all 4 of my AK credit card accounts immediately and get 1.25 miles on Starwood Preferred and convert that mileage to another carrier.

  10. Lucky: thanks. I just read the thread on FlyerTalk as well which likewise confirms it. That seals the deal for me. $75 x 4 each year + $110 for the companion ticket and the actual first class ticket is all revenue that B of A and Alaska won’t be seeing anymore.

  11. wow…bad news indeed….they are really going downwards…I got crappy service this past weekend on my PDX-LAS flight, and now this. Perhaps its time to take our voices to the social media stream and see if they actually listen?

  12. I’m guessing it’s not simply AS pushing for the CC changes but BoA which issues the CC and was on the hook for some of the cost. Oh well, looks like my companion certs issued before August just got that much more valuable.

  13. I see a lot of so called “enhancements” in their program but one positive (potential) value I see is their partnership with Emirates. Does anyone agree with my observation?

  14. To be fair, AS is nowhere near the “most-hated” airline in America, and it would take a great deal to get there.

    AFAIK, no other airline-affiliated credit card offers a $99 companion ticket on any fare or a 1000 bonus with each booking, so they are discontinuing benefits that others didn’t offer.

    I understand that they have instituted other unpopular fees, but you overstate the case.

    Judging by my own experience on UA and the comments on Flyertalk, UA seems to take the “most-hated” title this year.

    Last year, I transferred most of my travel from AS to UA because I am doing more international travel, and UA has long-haul routes and better international partners (for my travel needs). However, i still think that AS is a top-notch domestic airline.

    Their in-flight service beats other US-based airlines (in my opinion). They have a better on-time record than any airline based in the continental US.

    They have no change fees for MVP Gold and Gold75 elite members, which is a benefit that is unique.

    Award tickets are easier to book than with Skymiles or Advantage. They are the only US-based partner of EK.

    They still offer 50% bonus to MVPs (as compared to 25% for other airlines) and 100% bonus to MVP Gold and above (as compared to just 50% for UA Gold).

  15. I’m with “uwr”… it’s getting silly how every devaluing of any AS benefit is met with doom and gloom. I’m a happy MVP Gold and likely to stay that way until they let AA start staffing the flight crews, expire my miles, or do something else incredibly stupid.

    This and the ending of the .com bonus makes my BoA credit card less valuable and I’ll be reconsidering come renewal time, but that hardly means the airline itself is bad.

  16. For those asking about the letter, I received a physical letter and I expect that is what everybody else is using as their source of information as well. Going from offering a certificate valid for both first class and economy to future-issued certificates only being valid for economy is clearly a devaluation of the credit cards, and indirectly, of the Mileage Plan program itself. But +1 to the previous comment noting that nobody else is offering a similar companion certificate on their base credit card products. If Alaska (and Bank of America) were to have gone from not having a companion certificate feature on their cards to having a companion certificate feature valid only for economy, that would be seen as a significant upgrade of the cards’ value for many people.

  17. so if I already have 2 vouchers in hand and book before Aug 1, am I good. planning on a December trip to Hawaii.

  18. I just received their notification via a letter over the weekend. Paying around $1800 for two R/T tickets in F from San Diego to Hawaii using the certificate was a great deal but not cheap. With status on other airlines we were always lucky enough to be upgraded on trips to Hawaii. Purchasing tickets in F was nice as we knew for sure we would be in First Class. This is a major downgrade of benefits, and after having the card for 2 years I will not be renewing.

  19. Yes. My long romance with AK Air’s Visa card is over. First I had to fight to get a higher credit limit at the level I had 30 years ago even though I have better credit than 30 years ago, then they unilaterally reduced the credit limit because I wasn’t using enough of my credit. WTF? But this is the last straw taking away the first class companion ticket. There is no first class on AK from where I live, I used the companion fare exclusively for long trips to HI or Mexico. There is no point in a companion fare at all from here, they’re all $200-300 flights. Add in the $75 annual fee the $110 cost of the ticket it’s not worth it. Besides I have to really suck it up to have anything to do with Bank of America ever since 2008. I will get a local credit union card and won’t have to take a shower every time I contact BofA.

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