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Well, this has certainly been a good start to the week for US flyers. First, we have United Airlines announcing that it would eliminate most domestic change fees, then Delta followed suit, and American Airlines rounded off the news from the “Big 3” by improving upon United’s change fee announcement and improving its Basic Economy fares too. Now Alaska Airlines has joined in by confirming that has eliminated all change fees on most domestic and international bookings.
Here’s exactly what Alaska Airlines has announced:
Alaska Airlines is giving guests more peace of mind and effective immediately will eliminate change fees on all domestic and international tickets.
The new change-fee policy applies to all tickets, except for Saver fares. Previously, Alaska’s change fee of $125applied to all non-Saver travel, except for guests traveling on refundable tickets and Mileage Plan top elite status members.
The airline has also confirmed that, in line with the Big 3 US airlines, it too has extended its flexible travel policy to the end of the year.
Alaska Airlines may have eliminated change fees on all of its non-saver (non-basic economy) fares but it hasn’t made any comment about eliminating standby fees (United and American have committed to eliminating these) and, even though it says that it has eliminated change fees on its international fares, it’s worth pointing out that Alaska’s international coverage only extends to Mexico and two destinations in Central America so that’s not really a big deal (or perhaps it is*). *See later
It’s also worth pointing out that this announcement isn’t likely to be greeted with any great joy by Alaska’s most loyal flyers because top-tier Alaska Mileage Plan elites have already been getting their change fees waived for a number of years.
Still, all of that’s probably too negative a start to a section that should be commending Alaska Airlines on following the sudden trend to eliminate change fees (well done Alaska Airlines) and on a move which now leaves JetBlue as the only major US carrier that hasn’t confirmed that change fees are a thing of the past.
For those of us without Mileage Plan top-tier status but who love using Alaska Miles for great Business Class bookings, this is very welcome news – award bookings just became a lot more flexible and Alaska’s currency just became a little more interesting.
Two Stand Out Points
As far as the actual statement that Alaska Airlines issued goes, there are two things that stand out:
Firstly, like United, the airline has chosen to boldly claim that it has eliminated change fees “permanently” so it will be interesting to see how that plays out. Just how permanent will this change really be? Will Alaska Airlines really never charge change fees again or will amnesia set in once the travel crisis is over?
Secondly, the statement says that the airline is eliminating change fees on all “international tickets” and, although this doesn’t mean very much in the context of Alaska Airlines flights, I can’t help but wonder how this will play out once Alaska Airlines has its code on various international flights operated by American Airlines.
Alaska Airlines is expected to be a member of the oneworld alliance by the end of this year so, presumably, at some point in time, it will find itself codesharing on a variety of American Airlines flights that operate outside of North American and the Caribbean (the new American Airlines routes out of Seattle will probably be first). Are these flights going to be included in the “no change fees policy”? If a traveler purchases a Seattle – Shanghai fare through Alaska Airlines (with Alaska Airlines flight numbers) but the flights are operated by American Airlines, will travelers be able to change these flights without penalty?
American Airlines hasn’t eliminated change fees on the long-haul international fares that it offers so it would seem unlikely that buying an American Airlines flight through Alaska Airlines would allow travelers to make fee-free changes…but Alaska’s announcement didn’t come with any caveats and it specifically mentions “all international tickets” and “all tickets except for saver fares”. This may be something to watch.
Alaska Airlines has eliminated change fees on all of the tickets it issues except for saver fare tickets. There has been no statement regarding standby fees so, for the moment these are staying in place but, overall, this is very good news for US travelers.