Alaska Airlines Will No Longer Let Passengers Do This, as of Feb. 15
The carrier is also increasing the price of a popular feature at the beginning of next year.
Now that travel has rebounded to pre-COVID levels, the airline industry is making up for lost time as they normalize their service. Carriers are picking up where they left off by attempting to woo prospective passengers with certain comforts, perks, or benefits. While many are fine-tuning their loyalty and rewards programs, others are streamlining the boarding process or upgrading their in-flight meal offerings. But with the onslaught of returning passengers, some companies have also had to revoke certain privileges. And now, Alaska Airlines has announced that it will no longer let passengers do one thing when they travel. Read on to see which new rule will go into effect early next year.
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Alaska provides some travelers with access to its network of airport lounges.
For most travelers, getting to the airport with time to spare can mean fighting off the urge to splurge on expensive terminal food and pre-flight cocktails. But for some premium ticket holders and frequent flyers, the first move after clearing security is to make a beeline for a lounge to kill time before takeoff.
It's no wonder why they remain a popular perk: Most of the spaces provide plenty of comfortable seating, complimentary food and beverages, fast WiFi, and power ports for charging. In fact, some carriers have been forced to limit how much time travelers can spend in them due to overcrowding.
While lounges can sometimes be independently operated or set up by a credit card company, most major airlines also run their own facilities at their busiest airports across the U.S. and around the world. This includes Alaska Airlines, which has nine lounges for its Alaska MVP Gold, Gold 75K, and Gold 100K elite status loyalty customers; first-class passengers; and travelers who pay an annual membership fee for access. But now, the carrier has announced a significant policy change.
Alaska Airlines will no longer allow some passengers to do one thing before their flights.
Some travelers who count on their pre-flight lounge time might need to come up with a new airport routine. On Nov. 17, Alaska Airlines announced it is cutting lounge access for first-class passengers on any flights shorter than 2,100 miles, travel rewards blog One Mile at a Time first reported. The new rules will go into effect on Feb. 15 of next year.
Travelers flying with a layover that includes a segment longer than 2,100 miles will still be able to access all lounges in the airline's network for that day, even when in airports servicing their shorter flights. First-class passengers who fall short of the distance requirement will be able to purchase a day pass at a discounted rate of $30 if they want access.
Guests or family members are also not allowed to accompany first-class travelers unless they hold an eligible ticket of their own. Previously, all premium ticketholders who purchased their airfare with cash or rewards miles were allowed to enter the lounge on the day of their trip, regardless of the distance.
Some travelers are excluded from the latest policy change.
If you've already purchased tickets for a trip with Alaska and are disappointed with the change, you may still be in luck. The carrier specifies that the changes only affect any reservations booked as of Nov. 18, 2022 and for travel as of Feb. 15, 2023, according to One Mile at a Time.
Alaska residents who are members of the airline's free Club 49 program will also be exempt from the policy change. The company clarified that those travelers will still be eligible for lounge access with any first-class ticket, no matter how long it is, The Points Guy reports.
The airline also announced another change to lounge access that will affect regular ticket holders.
There are also changes coming for those who don't purchase first-class tickets. The airline announced that it was raising the price of its annual lounge membership from $450 to $500, while Lounge+ will jump from $600 to $650, One Mile at a Time reports. The new pricing will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
According to the carrier, it made the latest policy changes to help cut down on overcrowding at its popular pre-flight spaces. The membership price increase also comes as the airline has expanded its lounge network and upgraded its existing spaces, according to The Points Guy.
"Our Lounges have become so popular during certain times of the day, we're making adjustments to our complimentary First Class access policy to allow for a bit more elbow room," the company said in a statement, per The Points Guy. "We know change can be difficult—but we need to adjust how we operate our Lounges to ensure our guests have the best experiences possible when they visit."
"Even with this change, our First Class access policy remains the most generous in the industry for domestic travel," the carrier explained. "Most airlines do not allow access to lounges when traveling on a First Class domestic itinerary except for select markets."