Airplane Window

At the moment, Alaska Airlines is one of the most forgiving US airlines when it comes to flight changes and cancellations. Currently, you can change or cancel a flight more than 60 days from departure at no penalty. If you are within 60 days, you have to pay $125 per ticket, which is still less than most other airlines.

However, starting June 5th, the $125 fee will apply to all changes, regardless of how far out you make the change.

Normally, I wouldn’t care about policy changes like this because once I make a travel plan, I hardly ever make changes to it. However, if you’re trying to get crafty with reward redemptions, this can definitely through a hitch in your plans.

This change will affect points and miles travelers in two ways:

  1. You can no longer book a flight just to have something in hand while waiting for a better option to open up.
  2. If you want to take advantage of Alaska Airline’s free stopover, you have to book both segments at the same time, or risk paying the change fee.

Number 1 is a classic move when planning an itinerary using airline miles. Sometimes it’s nice to have the security of a flight to your destination while you wait for a better route or class of service to become available. I was hoping to upgrade my two business class seats from JFK to Tokyo if first class became available, but I’m not sure I want to pay $250 out-of-pocket for this upgrade.

Regarding number 2, the free stopover is great, but sometimes you have to book the flights to your destination the minute they are released to get business or first class. Of course, flights departing from your stopover city won’t be available at this time. Instead of waiting until the stopover flight is available, it was previously best practice to book the flight to the destination first in order to secure the ticket you wanted. Once the day of the stopover flight of interest was released, you could call and add it to your itinerary. All you had to do was pay the additional taxes and the extra miles.

With this new rule, it would not have been possible for me to secure business class flights from JFK to Tokyo and Tokyo to Singapore for essentially the price of the JFK to Tokyo flight.

For an extra 5,000 miles and $23 per person, we get to fly from Tokyo to Singapore in business class!
Final Thoughts

Things are always changing in this hobby and there is no way to know when the next change is going to occur. When it’s a policy change, there is usually a month or so warning, but I still recommend making plans as early as possible to avoid having to deal with negative changes.

Have the changes to Alaska Airlines’ change and cancellation fees affected any of your upcoming travel plans?

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