I love Alaska Airlines for many reasons, not the least of which is their move to serve the Anchorage-Maui market year-round. Hurrah! Also, Alaska will start daily Seattle-Austin on Aug. 9, 2009. D-e-e-p in the heart of Texas.
As an alternative, I suggested folks might fly to Santa Barbara for about $450 or to Hartford, CT for around $477 a.i. (all-in, including taxes).
I think it’s crucial for price-conscious travelers to have some alternatives when it comes to flying south from Alaska–or north to visit the Great Land.
That said, if I were going to L.A. or Boston, I probably would cave and pay the extra $$$ to fly Alaska Airlines.
First, I’m a frequent flyer. Typically, I fly 8-10 times each year to Seattle, plus trips to Juneau, Portland, Fairbanks, Kodiak, Los Angeles, Mexico, the East Coast–and other places if I can fit it in.
Accordingly, I’ve flown enough to know the value of a loyalty program. As a top-tier traveler with Alaska Airlines (MVP Gold), I get a handful of extra benefits, including:
1. First Class upgrades. Honestly, I usually fly first class. The free upgrade system works pretty well for me.
2. Short line at security. This is handy, particularly in Seattle.
3. Priority call service on the 800-number. OMG. I get through in less than 90 seconds EVERY SINGLE TIME. Otherwise, you can be on hold for 20 minutes (I am not making this up).
4. Friendly phone service when I call. Honestly, Alaska works hard to kiss up to “Golds”. I really DO feel special. And when I’ve got a problem and I’m on the go–that means a lot.
5. I get double miles for all my flights. Today, I booked a ticket for my son using miles. It was 40,000 miles. That’s a fortune. But I’ll be watching the day before the flight. Chances are good I’ll get that ticket for 25,000 miles. And because I’m “gold”, I’ll be able to return those extra miles to my account without a fee.
6. Speaking of fees, as an MVP Gold, I get around most of the fees, including the change fees and the fee for a second bag.
7. Right after Thanksgiving, Alaska sends a box of INCREDIBLE chocolate cookies to its MVP Golds. Honestly, I’d do whatever it takes to make the “Gold” level just to get those cookies. I am not kidding. They are that good.
Second, I’ve taken the plunge to embed my spending habits with an affinity credit card. For me, the Alaska Airlines Visa Card works best for me. Here’s why:
The $50 companion ticket. When you get an Alaska Airlines Visa, the annual fee is $75. But for that, you get a $50 companion ticket. That means you can bring someone along for about $90 ($190 to Mexico). It’s a great deal. I’ve used the tickets to take my kids on trips–and they get the upgrades to “F” with me as well!!
Here at the McMurren household, we have two of these cards. I interviewed a couple who had THREE cards because they have six people in the family–and it works very well. For example, we flew to Mexico at Christmas. My ticket was $1275. My son Drew’s ticket was $191. Nice.
Third, I pay extra money to belong to the Alaska Airlines Board Room. That’s the fancy airport club in Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, L.A., San Francisco and Vancouver. But your card gets you into some other lounges when you’re traveling. But Alaska’s lounges are the best. Smart money says they’re going to go ahead and get a branded Board Room in Honolulu.
At the Board Room, I like the free wireless internet. I also like the Silverhook Coffee, which is roasted right here in Anchorage. We’re working on the wine–but the beer is pretty good.
So, I love Alaska Airlines, in case anyone wants to know. But part of the love means I feel compelled to cry out when I think “my” airline can do better on pricing, service–you know, the works. I figure that’s my duty as an informed consumer.
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