Clark Howard

Alaska Airlines: 9 things to know before you fly

If you’re looking for affordable plane tickets, Alaska Airlines should be on your list, especially if you live on the West Coast. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be en route to America’s 49th state to take advantage of some great domestic deals.

The Seattle, Washington-based carrier began in 1932 as McGee Airlines, with flights to Anchorage during the heart of the Great Depression. Today Alaska Airlines is the fifth-largest airline in the country.

Looking for cheap flights out west? Here are 9 things to know about Alaska Airlines

Alaska Airlines is well regarded in the aviation industry for its customer service. If you’ve never flown Alaska or you’re thinking of booking a ticket again in the near future, here are some important things to know about the carrier:

1. Where does Alaska Airlines fly?

Alaska Airlines flies to more than 115 cities in the Americas, including the United States, Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica. Alaska and Alaska Global Partners, actually service more than 900 cities across the world.

With its hub at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Alaska Airlines controls much of the air traffic in and out of Alaska. If you're flying to a U.S. city not on the West Coast, Alaska Airlines will typically only service the largest metro area of that state. The airline boasts that it flies the most nonstop flights to the West Coast. See their flight map here.

2. What are Alaska Airline’s fare classes?

Alaska Airlines has three different class fares: Main Cabin (Economy), Premium and First Class.

  • Main Cabin: Known as Economy, these seats come with Wi-Fi, and complimentary snacks and soft drinks. If you're flying on an Airbus aircraft, they offer a special menu.
  • Premium Class: With upgrades starting at $15, Premium Class gets you complimentary cocktails, hand-selected wine, and beer and soft drinks, juices and Starbucks Coffee. You'll have to buy your meals, though. Seats also come with 4 inches more legroom, but more on that later.
  • First Class: Amenities include two checked bags for free and you get to skip ahead with expedited check-in and priority boarding. You also get express security screening and free access to Alaska Lounges at select airports. Onboard, your seat will have 40 inches of legroom.

3. What is Alaska Airline’s baggage policy?

Alaska Airlines has a “one + one” rule when it comes to bags. Passengers are allowed one carry-on bag, plus one smaller personal item.

The personal item size limit was recently changed to 22” x 14” x 9” and must fit in the overhead bin or under your seat.

For checked bags, the airline charges $25 for the first bag, $25 for a second bag and $75 for a third + additional bags. The bags can weigh no more than 50 pounds and have a maximum dimension of 62 inches or there will be a $75 fee.

Alaska Airlines will accept your checked bags at the airport from four hours before your flight time. If you have to check your bags, fees can be paid via online check-in, at a check-in kiosk, or at the ticket counter.

In the event that your carry-on bag is misplaced, Alaska Airline provides this downloadable baggage ID tag to help ease the return process.

4. What is Alaska Airline’s Price Guarantee?

Alaska Airlines promises that travelers will find the lowest fares on Alaska Airlines flights at and EasyBiz, which is a corporate microsite for business travelers.

The airline says on its website, "If you book your flight on Alaska Airlines and then find a cheaper fare, either on our site or with another travel company, we'll refund or credit you the difference at your request."

5. How much legroom do Alaska Airline’s seats offer?

Alaska Airlines' main cabin seats have a pitch of 31 and 32 inches, the airline says on its website. Seats in Premium Plus give you a few more inches and let you stretch out more to relax.

There are some aircraft that have no Premium Plus seating, so the carrier encourages travelers looking for more room to upgrade by checking in online, at a kiosk, their app, or in person with a customer service rep.

6. In-flight meals: What is Alaska Airlines serving?

Already offering one of the best in-flight meals, Alaska Airlines  recently announced a new, seasonal Main Cabin food and beverage menu. The summer menu is West Coast-inspired and features fresh fare like avocado, artichokes, seasonal berries and cage-free eggs. The offerings began at the end of July and will run until November 15.

The airline also serves a rotating selection of craft beers and will begin an “elevated” wine program this fall, an Alaska Airlines spokeswoman told Team Clark.

7. About Alaska Airline’s frequent flyer program: Mileage Plan

Alaska Airlines has a frequent flyer program called Mileage Plan. Travelers can earn one mile for every mile flown on Alaska, even on the lowest fare. Like other loyalty programs, Mileage Plan lets you earn miles by shopping, dining, renting cars and staying in hotels.

With a First Class seat, you'll earn 75% more Mileage Plan bonus miles. Flight miles in any class count toward Elite status, which unlocks a number of benefits, including unlimited complimentary upgrades.

RELATED: A comparison of airline food for each major airline

8. How do customers view Alaska Airline’s service?

For the 11th straight year, the carrier ranked first in JD Power's North American Customer Satisfaction Survey, which was released in May 2018.

Alaska Airlines also tied for second out of 10 among major U.S. carriers in the American Customer Satisfaction Index report that was released in April 2018. It came in third last year.

Company 2017 2018 Change
Southwest 80 80 0%
Alaska 78 79 1%
JetBlue 82 79 -4%
Allegiant 71 74 4%
American 76 74 -3%
Delta 76 74 -3%
All others 74 73 -1%
United 70 67 -4%
Frontier 63 62 -2%
Spirit 61 62 2%

9. Alaska Airline’s app lets you order food before your flight

We told you customer service was a strong point with Alaska Airlines. To that point, up to 12 hours before your flight, you can reserve a meal using the Alaska Airlines app's Main Cabin Pre-Order feature. The service is available on most Boeing aircraft.

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