Alaska Airlines Visa Companion Ticket-No More First Class?
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3/12/12 Update: I called Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, and they confirmed that the Alaska Airlines Companion Ticket is still valid on First Class. According to them, "coach" was inserted because some people were getting confused about the 25,000 bonus miles being good for a first class award flight. Really? It's pretty clear in the terms and the Mileage Plan Q&A that you have to *pay* for the first ticket before paying $99 + taxes/fees for the free companion ticket. So those $99 First Class Companion Tickets using the Alaska Airlines Visa are safe...for now :) Here's Alaska Airlines' response to my tweet:

Alaska Airlines Visa Companion Ticket-No More First Class?

Alaska Airlines Visa Companion Ticket-No More First Class?

 

And another thing: the rep I spoke with mentioned that if you apply for the card by phone (800-654-5669, ask for Mileage Plan), you'll get an extra 1000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles, for a total of 26,000. If you apply through the Web site, it's strictly 25,000 miles. While neither is as good as the 40,000 bonus mile offer from last year, if you need to get the card soon, you should call so you can get the extra 1000 miles.

 

Original post:

While answering a reader question earlier today about getting a family of 5 to Hawaii, I took another look at the Alaska Airlines Signature Visa card. It currently only has a 25,000 mile bonus offer (last year they were offering 40,000 bonus miles at one point) but what surprised me most was that on a couple of the credit card applications, Alaska Airlines specified that the annual Companion Fare is limited to coach:

"Receive an annual coach Companion Fare from $110 ($99 base fare plus taxes and fees, from $11 depending on your Alaska Airlines flight itinerary)."

[Bolding is mine]

Here are two screenshots:

Alaska Airlines Visa Companion Ticket-No More First Class?

 

Alaska Airlines Visa Companion Ticket-No More First Class?

 

I checked the Terms and Conditions, and they make no mention of the companion ticket now being limited to coach tickets:

Cardholders that qualify for the Visa Signature card will receive an annual Companion Fare from $110 (USD) ($99 base fare plus taxes and feesfrom $11 depending on your Alaska Airlines flight itinerary).  The Companion Fare e-certificate is issued upon approval of a new account and on each anniversary thereafter.  Mileage Plan miles cannot be used as a form of payment, however both the paying customer and the companion may accrue Mileage Plan miles.  Passenger and companion are responsible for applicable checked baggage fees.  Applicable taxes and fees are subject to change. 

 

This would be a huge loss for many Alaska Airlines Visa cardholders, since the companion ticket being usable for domestic first class is the biggest benefit of this card, especially on flights to Hawaii. In fact, Ben called it "the best kept secret for reasonably priced first class airfare to Hawaii" in his post Tips for Booking Award Flights to Hawaii. Note that as of December 1, 2011, you can only redeem the companion ticket by booking online, not over the phone.

There are a few questions:

  • Is this real or a typo? (See below)
  • If this is real, and thus a major devaluation of the Alaska Airlines Visa offer, when does it take effect for all current cardholders? At their renewal date or on some other date?
  • Are currently issued companion ticket codes still able to book first class companion tickets? (I assume so, but I don't have a code to verify this, so would love input from anyone who does)

I also saw a comment on milepoint that someone had called Alaska on this, and was told there was a computer problem, and that the wording would be fixed in a few days. 

Hmm, really? The word "coach" just kind of snuck in there due to a computer snafu? I don't think so...but in any case, if you have or planned to get the Alaska Visa, it wouldn't hurt to let Bank of America and Alaska Airlines know how you feel about this change (or typo, as the case may be):

Twitter: @AlaskaAir  @BofA_News @BofA_Help

Facebook: Alaska Airlines  

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Comments
Picture?type=large Ehtesham Q. commented 12 Mar 2012
Thanks for heads up. Looks like you were trying to answer someone's question about 5 people going to Hawaii. I am very curious to know that answer too since I have a similar situation?
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 12 Mar 2012
Ehtesham, yes, exactly--I was checking on the Alaska Visa offer to answer Mj's question about bringing 5 people to Hawaii on this post: http://travelsort.com/blog/how-to-maximize-award-travel-for-families As I wrote to Mj, I see BA Avios as the best bet for cheap coach awards since it's just 25K for roundtrip continental US-Hawaii on AA metal, vs. 35K (saver off-peak) or 45K (peak) using AA miles for the same flights. For domestic first, it's hard to beat the Alaska Visa Companion Ticket for $99 + tax, since as we confirmed above it's still offered.
Picture?type=large Jeffrey K. commented 14 Mar 2012
Why would making the companion pass for 99 only for coach be such a large devaluation?
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 15 Mar 2012
Jeffrey, because many folks want to fly in a premium cabin to Hawaii. Award flights to Hawaii for business/first are hard to come by, and generally the full retail price is pretty high given the product. Many folks got the Alaska Airlines Visa specifically to use the companion pass for first class trips to Hawaii.
Picture?type=large Amil W. commented 28 May 2012
Hi Hilary, great post! I have a question, do you know how long the companion code will be valid for? Thanks! Amy
Avatar_60_hilary Hilary Stockton commented 28 May 2012
Thanks Amil! The companion code typically has an expiration date of 1 year from the date of issue, but travel just needs to be booked by that date; the travel can occur after that, so you could book until right before the expiration date for travel up to 330 days in advance.
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