Favorite things, day 5: Alaska Airlines


What’s not to like about an airline that more or less runs like the good old days of air travel? Courteous staff, clean planes, great terminal facilities at San Francisco and Seattle, where I travel the most. Their social media support is great as well.

Unlike any other carrier I’ve flown, they proactively try to make things better when things go wrong.

A few of the highlights:

  • $25/2,500 mile baggage guarantee. If your bags don’t show up within 20 minutes of reaching the jetway, you get your choice of $25 credit or 2,500 frequent flier miles. (Pro tip: always take the miles. They’re worth more than the $25.)
  • Once when I had an extended mechanical delay, I received an apology email and a voucher before the plane touched down. I didn’t even have to ask.
  • In weather delays, gate agents have organized games in the gate area to keep passengers occupied.

The frequent flier program is the best in the industry. It used to be that frequent flier programs existed to reward loyalty of members. Most airlines now view them as short-term profit centers. Every opportunity to make money off the loyalty program. they jump at.

Alaska still has a traditional program that is based on miles flown. The underlying economics that Alaska has chosen build loyalty for the long term versus extracting as much revenue as possible in the short term. (A very quaint philosophy in today’s business world.)

I just finished up a round-the-world mileage run just to get top tier elite status on Alaska. I flew Mumbai-Hong Kong-San Francisco-London-Johannesburg-Victoria Falls and then the reverse to San Francisco.

I wouldn’t have done that on any other carrier.

There are elite benefits that are unheard of. MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75k can change paid tickets without any fees. That flexibility has a lot of value for me. (Southwest allows anyone to do this, but that is an extreme outlier; Southwest doesn’t have a route network that works for me.)

The Achilles’ Heel in Alaska for me is that their transcontinental flights do not have lie-flat beds, unlike American, Delta, jetBlue and United. But I’ve gotten to the point in my travels that flying 6 hours coast-to-coast is old hat.

Especially if you’re on the West Coast, Alaska should be your pick.




About Rakesh Agrawal

Rakesh Agrawal is Senior Director of product at Amazon (Audible). Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He tweets at @rakeshlobster.
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