Friday, 22 March 2024

A major airline just launched a $5 subscription service

by BD Banks

The word “subscription” has, over the years, come to mean different things for different airlines. Some use it to refer to the loyalty program for which one needs only to sign up online and start earning points while others have experimented with an all-you-can-fly model in which one pays for a yearlong membership to take an unlimited number of flights.

Alaska Airlines  (ALK) , which has in the past experimented with a flight pass offering six, 12, or 24 flights a year for a starting price of $49 a month, is now launching a new subscription that offers discounts and early sale access.

Related: Frontier has a new subscription that combines flying with rent

Called “Alaska Access”, the new subscription costs $5 a month (that needs to be paid in one lump sum of $60 for the year ahead) and gives members a monthly coupon for discounted Wi-Fi on Alaska flights and access to a personal online portal showing the lowest available fares on flights they regularly take. Members will also get a notification informing them of new sales and discounts the night before they are announced to the wider public.

A promotional photo announces the new Alaska Access program.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska to customers: ‘We know your time is valuable’

“We know time is valuable for our guests who are busy balancing a lot in their lives and we kept that in mind when we developed Alaska Access,” Alaska’s VP of Business Development Shane Jones said in a statement. “[…] Our new subscription service allows you to discover some of our best deals of the year right at your fingertips, in just minutes.”

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The Seattle-based airline further said that the subscription service was its response “to the continued shift in consumer demand for personalized and tailored experiences.” It is also an additional profit stream for an airline that has multiple additional features and subscription services.

In the fall of 2023, Alaska Airlines raised the cost of its “Alaska Lounge” program offering airport lounge access from $400 to $500 for elite members and from $500 to $600 for non-elite ones. Elite status starts after earning 20,000 miles flying with the airline.

Here is when an Alaska Access pass makes sense (and when it doesn’t)

The new program makes sense for those who fly with Alaska frequently and live on the West Coast (or fly there regularly) as that is where most of the airline’s hubs are. Frequent flyers can also use the discounts to earn points faster; similar services have already been piloted by low-cost airlines such as Spirit Airlines  (SAVE)  and Frontier  (FRON) .

“I signed up for the new service and already found some interesting deals via the personalized fare page,” writes Clint Henderson of travel website The Points Guy. “For example, Alaska is showing flights for as low as $134 each way from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), my home airport, to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA). It’s also showing flights from JFK to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) starting at $159 and from JFK to Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) starting at $139. I’ve seen those prices from Alaska before but not in one easy place like I can now with Alaska Access.”