Everything you need to know about flying Alaska Airlines’ Saver fares

Alaska Airlines has expanded greatly over the past 10 years, creating more competition among carriers to the U.S. West Coast.

So whether you’re flying transcontinental from Seattle to New York or jumping down the coast from San Francisco to Los Angeles, chances are you can book an Alaska flight to get you there.

For those of us looking to save some money, Saver fares, Alaska Airlines’ cheapest flights, are a bonus. However, Saver fares do come with some restrictions. After all, Saver fares are Alaska Airlines’ equivalent of basic economy fares found on carriers like American, Delta and United.

This guide gives you the lowdown on how to make the most of Alaska’s budget-friendly flights and offers some strategies to mitigate the restrictions of Saver fares.  

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In This Post

What are Saver fares?

Saver fares are Alaska’s equivalent to basic economy. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Alaska Airlines’ Saver fares are the carrier’s lowest-priced main cabin fares, akin to basic economy on other carriers.

These fares come with restrictions on baggage, seating, boarding order, and your eligibility to change or cancel your flight. The following sections will answer common questions about these restrictions.

Alaska Airlines waives some Saver-fare restrictions for elite members and holders of eligible cards like the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® credit card and Alaska Airlines Visa® Business card. The final sections of this guide will speak to how Mileage Plan elite status and cobranded credit cards come in handy to take advantage of Saver fares.

Related: Comparing basic economy fares across U.S. airlines

Can I check a bag?

Yes, you can check a bag, but not for free.

Saver fares adhere to the same policy as Main Cabin fares for checked bags: The first checked bag costs $30, the second $40 and any additional bags are $100 each.

For more information on Alaska Airlines’ checked bag policy, check out this page.

Related: These are the checked bags carried by TPG’s staff

Can I bring a carry-on?

Yes, you can; the same policies for carry-ons with Main Cabin fares apply to Saver fares. Your carry-on cannot be larger than 22 inches by 14 inches by 9 inches, and those dimensions include wheels and handles.

To determine if your luggage is small enough to be a carry-on, you can always use the bag sizers near the Alaska Airlines ticketing counter.

Because Saver-fare passengers board last, overhead space might not be available for carry-ons, and you may have to gate-check your bag. This should be at no cost.

Like Main Cabin passengers, Saver-fare passengers can also bring on board one personal item like a purse or backpack. 

Related: Keep calm and carry on: TPG shares its favorite travel carry-on bags

Can I select a seat?

You may be able to purchase an upgrade to Premium Class from a Saver fare. CHRIS DONG/THE POINTS GUY

Alaska Airlines assigns seats to Saver-fare passengers upon check-in. Although the airline does try to allow friends and family to sit together, it cannot guarantee this convenience with Saver fares.

Note: Saver-fare passengers can purchase Premium Class seats if their tickets are purchased through alaskaair.com. Premium Class seats are also usually available for purchase upon check-in. You can occasionally purchase Premium Class seats, which offer more legroom and complimentary beverages on flights longer than 350 miles, for as low as $15.

Related: The ultimate guide to getting upgraded on Alaska Airlines

When can I board?

Saver-fare passengers board last, in boarding group E.  

Can I change my flight?

Unless you change your flight within Alaska Airlines’ 24-hour cancellation policy, Saver fares cannot be changed or refunded. The ability to change a flight or get a refund is one of the most important differences between Alaska’s Saver fares and Main Cabin fares.

Another difference is that Saver-fare passengers are not allowed same-day standby for later flights, even if they have Mileage Plan elite status. 

Related: Ultimate guide to canceling a flight and getting a refund with major US airlines

Can I cancel my flight?

If you act quickly, you can cancel your flight for a refund. Alaska Airlines requires passengers to cancel flights within 24 hours of purchase to qualify for a refund. This grace period does not apply to flights departing in less than 24 hours.  

If, however, Alaska Airlines reschedules your flight or changes your itinerary, it will waive any cancellation or change fees, even for Saver-fare passengers. In the case of significant schedule or itinerary changes, Saver-fare passengers receive email or text notifications from Alaska Airlines. See Alaska Airlines’ customer service commitment for more information.  

Do I still earn miles?

Yes! That is, as long as you’re signed up for Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan. Like with Alaska’s standard economy fares, Saver-fare passengers earn a mile for each mile flown.   

Related: How to earn miles with the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program

Does having a cobranded credit card help?

An Alaska Airlines cobranded credit card can make your Saver experience a lot better. ALEX TAI/SOPA IMAGES/LIGHTROCKET/GETTY IMAGES

You can relieve much of the headache of Saver-fare restrictions with cobranded Alaska Airlines rewards cards. 

The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature credit card is only $75 per year and doles out some juicy perks for frequent flyers. With the card, not only do you receive an offer to buy one Alaska Airlines ticket, get one for just taxes and fees ($0 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) and 40,000 bonus miles after you make $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account, but you enjoy the following benefits when you fly Alaska Airlines:  

 One free checked bag for the cardholder and up to six companions per flight. 
 20% cash back on all inflight purchases.
Companion Fare: Every year on your account anniversary, you can purchase a ticket for a travel companion from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22). In other words, after buying the first ticket, your second ticket will only cost $121. Given that Alaska flies to Europe and Asia from the West Coast, this is an insanely good deal. 

The card’s benefits conclusively outweigh the $75 annual fee if you frequently fly Alaska Airlines — especially if your friends and family take advantage of the free checked bags to which you’re entitled.  

The Alaska Airlines Visa Business card is another fantastic option for companies with employees who frequently fly Alaska Airlines. The card is $50 per year plus $25 for each cardholder.

Plus, the welcome bonus for the Alaska Business card is massive: 70,000 miles plus Alaska’s Famous Companion Fare from $121 ($99 fare plus taxes and fees from $22) after you make $4,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of opening your account. In addition to the benefits mentioned above for the Visa Signature card, the Alaska Airlines Visa Business card allows employers to set spending limits for their cardholding employees

Related: The 3 reasons why I applied for the Alaska Airlines Business card

Does having elite status help?

Yep, big time.

Having elite status with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan is the surest way to make Saver fares more tolerable. With elite status, you may board according to your status instead of in the last boarding group. Elite status also means waived baggage fees, inflight refreshments and entertainment according to your status.  

Remember that even with elite status, Saver-fare passengers cannot cancel, change or get a refund for flights outside the 24-hour grace period after ticket purchase. Also, even with elite status, Saver-fare passengers are not eligible for standby flights.  

Bottom line

Alaska Airlines’ Saver fares offer low prices, but the fares come with restrictions.

Elite status with Alaska’s Mileage Plan does allow travelers to get around many of the restrictions, as do cobranded credit credit cards like the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card and Alaska Airlines Visa Business card.

If you fly Saver-fare flights even just a few times a year, the money you save with baggage fees already dwarfs the annual fees. Moreover, with elite status, Saver-fare passengers can avoid checked bag fees, board the plane more quickly, and enjoy complimentary refreshments and inflight entertainment. 

Featured photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines.