Alaska Airlines Increases Change & Cancelation Fees (And More)

A few weeks ago Tiffany wrote about how Alaska Airlines intends to add basic economy and increase costs for ticket changes. As much as Alaska is an airline that’s loved by frequent flyers, unfortunately their stock isn’t what it once was. We all like airlines with customer friendly policies, but if they’re not able to command a sufficient price premium, it’s hard for them to justify these things.

While Alaska isn’t yet introducing basic economy, they are making one of the other negative changes that they said they would. Specifically, Alaska Airlines is changing their fee structure and policies in three ways as of June 5, 2018, and it’s bad news.

Alaska is adjusting their 24 hour cancelation policy

The DOT requires airlines to give passengers a 24 hour period after booking in which they can cancel their tickets at no cost. Alternatively, they can allow 24 hour holds. Airlines aren’t required to offer this feature when booking within seven days of departure. As a result, different US airlines have different policies.

Delta is probably the most generous, as they let you cancel within 24 hours regardless of when you’re traveling (even if it’s for a same day ticket). Meanwhile American will only let you cancel within 24 hours if you book at least two days before departure.

For tickets purchased as of June 5, 2018, Alaska Airlines will no longer allow free cancelations within 24 hours if you’re booking for travel within 24 hours of departure. If you book further out than that you can still cancel within 24 hours.

So if you book a ticket 25 hours out, you still have 24 hours to cancel. If you book a ticket 20 hours out, you have no grace period. This policy change isn’t totally unreasonable, since I know many people may have bought tickets day of just to get past security, to access a lounge, etc. So I don’t necessarily blame them for this change.

Alaska will no longer offer free cancelations more than 60 days out

Alaska’s change and cancelation fees on award and revenue tickets have long been quite generous. As long as it’s more than 60 days from departure, they let you change or cancel your ticket for free. This is logical in terms of the costs incurred by the airline, since when you’re canceling 60 days out they can easily resell that seat.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re maximizing revenue that way.

For tickets purchased as of June 5, 2018, Alaska will begin charging a $125 fee for all changes and cancelations, even when they’re 60+ days out.

As I see it, this is the biggest loss here. This was such a customer friendly policy, but clearly they know they can get away with charging more fees. In fairness, their fees are still largely lower than other airlines. American charges a $200 fee to change a domestic ticket, for example.

Alaska is increasing the price for same day flight changes

For travel as of June 5, 2018, the cost for a same day flight change on Alaska Airlines will increase from $25 to $50.

On the plus side, they’re changing the window in which you can make a same day change from six hours to 24 hours, so you can make a same day confirmed change as soon as you check-in for your flight. You still need to change to a flight on the same calendar day.

There are a few exceptions, though — for travel on shuttle flights (between Anchorage and Fairbanks, Spokane and Seattle, or Portland and Seattle), as well as flights entirely within the state of California, the confirmed same day change fee will remain $25. Furthermore, refundable tickets, as well as MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members, are eligible for free same day changes.

Bottom line

These are negative changes almost across the board. It’s a real shame to see Alaska Airlines become more like the other guys, but that’s hardly a surprise. The airline is just finishing up a questionable merger and their stock price is way down compared to a couple of years ago. Customer friendly policies often don’t result in much of a revenue premium for airlines, so they don’t have much of a choice…

The sad thing is that this is probably only the beginning, since we’re also expecting to see the introduction of basic economy soon. Who knows what else we’ll see after that…

What do you make of these changes to Alaska’s fees and policies?

Comments

  1. In the article you linked you mentioned Alaska is intending to end waivers for MVP Gold and above, but it seems like that’s not the case in the article itself- rather they’re ending waivers for award tickets 60 days out.

    Do I have that wrong?

  2. I have loved Alaska and their generous policies for years. Now, they seem to becoming more like dreaded United. 🙁 Basic economy? Shudder.

  3. Lead of your article mentions change for Gold and above but nothing I’ve seen indicates that to be true. Please update.

  4. Lame. I’m MVPG and just relocated to SFO. Do they want me to shop United fares? Because this is how you get me to shop United fares. I’m already not flying Alaska on SFO-BOS/JFK due to better scheduling and better products (B6 is a slam dunk in coach, DL or B6 in business). Might as well start looking at UA to everywhere else.

  5. Lucky, why do you say that Alaska plus to eliminate waivers for MVP Gold members and above? I couldn’t find it in the link you included, and I haven’t seen anything from Alaska that suggests that.

  6. Not so good, especially the 60 day cancel for free policy that is ending. I never used it but it was a good insurance policy.

    For now, none of this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back but there are such straws out there.

  7. Two days ago I flew Southwest from San Jose to L.A. But I had chosen the wrong L.A. airport. At the San Jose airport, I approached an agent and he sent me on the next flight to the right airport. It took under 60 seconds to get a new boarding pass and there was no fee.

    To me that’s a very valuable service. And it’s less about the money, more about the customer first approach and the efficiency.

  8. If I have an award ticket booked for December which was ticketed a few months ago, will I still be allowed a free change/cancellation 60 + days out?

  9. Playing right into Delta’s hands. The 60 day out free cancellation was a major distinguishing factor (and actually just sent the refund into one’s Alaska Wallet for future use–so not terrible for the airline). If this trend continues, once loyal Alaska customers will be left to chose just based on stops and price. Not sure that scenario helps Alaska’s business or stock in the long run. In fact, there’s another well known Seattle based company whose stock has soared, and whose founder is now the richest person in the world, based on an unrelenting focus on doing more for their customers. Maybe Alaska could learn something from them.

  10. As a Gold MVP I sometimes have to pay extra for an emergency row or bulkhead based on letter class of service.Totally stupid for a company that understands recognition customer relationship management and loyalty .
    This makes no sense at all
    I will probably end up back on American as much as I admire many of the people at Alaska
    Its a great company overall as it stands today for so many reasons
    but I perceive the company going down the same self destructive path losing its way as the other legacy carriers have.Right now they are still on the whole much better
    I hope I’m wrong as I would like to stay with Alaska for many years to come
    But first up elites shouldn’t be paying for coach seats
    Idiot policy
    And if they lose the fee free change fees for elites I would be gone forever that’s the only thing driving my loyalty on the program side of things.
    Miles I can get in any program
    Which leads to another off topic issue 60k for Lax to SFO or SAN in First for a short flight ?
    When you can Fly Cathay to Hong Kong in First for 10K more?
    Alaska is oddly greedy in premium cabin redemption though still somewhat better than Delta
    Alaska could be awesome if it doesn’t lose its core values of fairness and customer friendly policies

  11. I hope they keep the waivers and benefits from Elites. I live in Fairbanks so i’m kinda locked in, but Delta is an option for out of alaska things. Please don’t make me go to the dark side. I hope Alaska doubles-down on their customer friendly policies and mileage program while adding useful partners.

  12. At least they didn’t change the ridiculous mileage amount for partners’ award tickets.

  13. Now AS has one of the most expensive change fees for award tickets?

    Most airlines do have expensive redeposit fee which AS is matching or still slightly cheaper but what about changes to awards?

  14. @Lucky

    Does it mean we could preemptively book a bunch of awards before 6/5/18 for about 1yr out, and we’ll be free to change these awards as many times as we want as long as they’re done 60 days before departure date?

  15. @ Katie C — That’s my interpretation, though note that it says tickets issued or reissued as of that date, so that means you’d only be allowed one change after June 5.

  16. If I read this correctly, it’s my understanding that here will be no changes for MVPG and above?

  17. Alaska Airlines management: “Our customers love us compared to the hated legacy airlines, because we treat our customers right. Now, lets see what we can do to be more like those other airlines and squeeze our customers.”

  18. I hope someone from AS reads these comments. After almost 20 years booking my family of four exclusively on Alaska I just booked a trip on AA. This is a direct result of their decision to eliminate no fee changes more than 60 days out.

    The ability to book a trip when the window opens and then make small changes if we have to adjust by a day or so was extremely important to us. Four change fees is nothing to sneeze at. I can’t see why I should pay extra to fly AS if they don’t provide something extra that I value in return.

    Bad decision. They are losing their special place in people’s minds.

  19. This was great news, as a declinist and realist, the american empire needed events like this to show who really own the populace. Corporations and their lawyers.

  20. “Customer friendly policies often don’t result in much of a revenue premium for airlines, so they don’t have much of a choice…”
    The ironic thing about this statement is, the airline with the most customer friendly policies is also the most profitable airline.

  21. In Jan 2017 I moved all my business to Alaska after 10 years of EP with American. Now I am sad I did it. First the split off with Delta and American for earning ff miles. Then in small markets, like mine, MFR, the reduced capacity and they are still making us fly propeller aircraft to PDX or SEA. Every other airline servcing our airport has small jets with 1st class seating. So, I started flying, and paying for, first class on Delta. Delta is working hard to steal away customers like me who are disgruntled with Alaska’s new post-merger policies, and frankly, they are doing a damn good job of it. Too bad, and I agree with all your sentiments about the airline, Lucky.

  22. I think there may actually be a silver lining for elites. AS has long had a policy where elites can only request SDC as early as 10pm the night before departure. Based on my interpretation, you can now request as early as 24 hours before the original flight. Guess that’s a positive change for some

  23. I just spoke to Alaska customer service and they clarified the change for the 60 day award rule. All tickets booked and issued before June 5th, will still be able to make changes for FREE until 60 days out. Only tickets issued on or after June 5th will be subject to the new change fees. I did not get clarification on MVP status waivers, just regular people.

  24. @Robert F, that’s incredible. Did you book a higher-class fare (Anytime or Business Select) or have to hem and haw to get the agent to change it? This sort of destination change is sometimes unheard of–especially for free–even if the airports are co-terminaled. I’m moderately impressed.

  25. Be prepared for mileage earning to go revenue based finally. Then you all can really cry…

  26. @Tom – same here. 10 year EP, switched to AS and maintained G75 the last few years. But already seeing changes/reductions in ex-SFO service and I increasingly find myself on UA this year because AS pulled back too much or the options just flat out don’t work.

  27. I have almost $200 in my Travel Bank, most of which expires tomorrow. As I live in a city with very little AS service, I rarely fly AS. Ideally one of you could trade me a hotel GC for it, but realistically this should work: I buy a ticket now for April 2019, which will preserve my cash & allow me a no-fee change if I decide in/ before Feb. 2019 to fly somewhere.

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