South of Expected

Last year, I picked up the Bank of America Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card when they were running a 40k miles after first purchase promotion.

Alaska offers its members using the card a 1K mile bonus on each booking.  At the time, I figured I would pick up Alaska-coded American Airlines flights occasionally when the AS-coded flights were cheaper or the same price as American’s own flight numbers.  Since making Executive Platinum last year, I’ve stuck to American-marketed and operated flights for the sake of my complimentary upgrades, so this part of my plan didn’t quite work out.  As of a few days ago, Alaska quietly inserted the note in July statements that the booking bonus was going to end August 1st.

As a further enticement of the card, Alaska offered a $110 companion ticket for cardholders annually good on any fare (for itineraries entirely on Alaska metal).  Since Alaska offers rather cheap, fully-flexible first class fares from Newark to Hawaii, this can be quite a bargain.  Consider a simple United fare to Kauai around Labor Day weekend:

This particular itinerary is far from ideal:  The JFK-LAX and HNL-EWR flights aren’t eligible for complimentary upgrades (even if I do like p.s.).  The same itinerary in Business or First Class on United runs about $2500 per person.

While American is a bit more expensive, I would almost certainly be assured complimentary upgrades as an Executive Platinum member (albeit at the cost of 20 500-mile stickers to upgrade a companion for the entire trip) or could easily burn 4 of my spare systemwides to upgrade:

In contrast, a first class itinerary on Alaska Airlines for a single traveler runs $1695.  The companion ticket adds $167.50 to this ($110 for the ticket, $57.50 in excise taxes).

While it is not an ideal itinerary, the total all-in cost of airfare per person comes to $931.25 for first class.  The class of service bonus (~5k RDM if crediting to American) and ability to save my RPUs and GPUs with United makes the small price increase very tolerable. (If combined with an easily available Avios award for 4.5k points per person on American for an early morning BOS-JFK segment, the inbound overnight in Seattle can be avoided by taking the SEA-BOS redeye operated by Alaska.)

Today, the companion ticket has been restricted to coach fares effective August 1st.  To make matters worse, Alaska-operated flights in coach out of EWR tend to be expensive…

While $1400 or so ($1275 plus the companion fare and its excise taxes) is a bit cheaper than my sample United itinerary would be for two, the cost of an overnight in Seattle each way (or an overnight on the outbound and a BOS-JFK Avios award on the return) eats up most of the cost savings.

While I do not have nearly as much invested in Alaska as say American or United (I’ve only flown 6 Alaska-operated one-ways on the LAX-SEA route and I have the credit card), I’m still left to grumble about these “changes I’m going to like” that I had thought were confined to Jeff Smisek’s Continental Airlines d.b.a. United Airlines.

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