We Tried the New Alaska Airlines Flight Pass, Which May Be the Solution to Your LAX-SFO Travel Headache
The $49+ service includes nonstop flights within California, plus travel to Arizona and Nevada. Is it worth it?
Alaska Airlines recently launched Flight Pass, the first-ever domestic flight subscription service of its kind. I tested it out, and these are my thoughts after booking my first flight.
First, here’s how it works: This flight subscription is good for bi-monthly (six trips total), monthly (12 trips) or twice-monthly (24 trips) round-trip flights per year on Alaska Airlines routes within California, and between California and Nevada or Arizona. (You must book round-trips — no one-ways allowed.) Currently, Alaska connects 13 California airports to each other, with additional service to Reno, Phoenix and Las Vegas, for about 100 daily flights. If your home airport is San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles or Burbank, we’re looking at you.
The Flight Pass subscription starts at $49 a month for bi-monthly flights, or one flight every two months. That means you’re getting six round-trip flights each year, for $98 a pop. If you’re traveling more often, you can pay $99 for one round-trip flight per month, or $189 a month for two round-trip flights per month.
For the standard Flight Pass, subscribers must book flights at least 14 days in advance. That might work if you have routine travel plans, but it won’t be convenient for many frequent flyers, including myself. With my last-minute work travel schedule, there’s no way I’m able to plan with certainty two weeks in advance.
Flight Pass Pro is a better fit for me, although it’s quadruple the price, at $199 a month for bi-monthly flights. With this enhanced subscription, I can book up to two hours before a flight departs, which allows for extreme flexibility and spontaneity for last-minute weekend getaways. Both Flight Pass options allow you to book flights up to 90 days in advance.
How Flight Pass Pro worked for me…
1. If you travel regularly between some of these destinations, Flight Pass makes it easier to budget for annual travel. Subscribers are locking in rates that are almost always lower than actual fares.
2. With remote work still very much a thing, Flight Pass allows you to live your best digital nomad life. All the destinations included are in the same time zone most of the year, so you don’t even have to worry about jet lag from frequent travel.
3. You’ll still earn reward miles per mile flown on flights booked with Flight Pass. Alaska is one of the few airlines to still award miles per mile flown rather than based on dollar spend, and you’ll earn at least 500 miles for each flight, since they offer a 500-mile minimum earn per flight.
4. If you have elite status with Alaska Airlines, you’ll enjoy all of your Mileage Plan elite benefits like complimentary checked bags and upgrades when flying with Flight Pass. If you’re purchasing Flight Pass and aren’t already a Mileage Plan member, definitely sign up.
5. You can choose a seat for free in the main cabin when booking with Flight Pass. All of the flights included are short hops of less than two hours, so the main cabin is fine by me. The longest route included on Flight Pass is San Francisco to Phoenix, which is about 650 miles.
6. The booking process to use credits is seamless and intuitive. You’ll log into a separate Flight Pass website though, not through the regular Alaska Airlines website. Once a flight is booked, it’ll appear in your Alaska Airlines app, and selecting a seat, checking bags and checking in is just like any normal booking.
7. Change fees are waived, so you can fiddle around with the exact dates of your flight once booked, so long as the destination remains the same and there is Flight Pass seat availability.
And how it didn’t work…
1. You’re locked into the subscription for a full 12 months.
2. Each credit is good for a round-trip flight, so you can’t break it up into two separate one-way tickets.
3. Monthly flight credits expire, so if you don’t use your flights, you lose them. You cannot use your flight credits to book flights for other passengers, but this could encourage you to take more frequent short getaways, knowing that you’ve already paid for the flight.
4. With your credits, you can book flights for just $0.01, but keep in mind that you’ll still have to pay $14.60 in airport taxes and fees for each flight.
5. Some of the most popular flights will require a higher fare. For example, there would likely be a premium to fly on the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Higher fares are calculated based on seat availability, so as a flight fills up, a premium might kick in. I recently spotted a few weekend flights from SFO to LAX that had a $64.60 or $114.60 premium. But in my searches, the vast majority of flights have been available for $0.01.
6: Flight Pass is limited to adults 18 years and older, and there are no family plans available yet.
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