Old Feb 12, 19, 11:11 am
Moderator: Southwest Airlines
Join Date: Sep 1999
Location: California
Programs: WN CP & A-list preferred, just another shafted United Club Lifetime Member, Hotwire, Priceline, tent
Posts: 19,432
Alaska just emailed this to, I presume, all elite members:

I am writing today to talk with you about Saver fares, which is a new product Alaska Airlines recently launched. Many of you have written or called us asking for a better understanding of the rationale behind this decision, and I'd like to provide some context for why we launched a new fare class with fewer benefits than other Alaska Airlines products.

Saver fares are designed for a specific type of traveler - one who prioritizes price above all else, and not the elite Mileage Plan™ benefits you've come to know and love. Saver fares offer cost-conscious guests the absolute lowest fare possible. The trade-off is that these tickets are not refundable, not changeable, and not eligible for front-of-cabin seat selections or complimentary upgrades - even as an elite member.

We resisted launching Saver fares, but in recent years the offering of Basic Economy fares by other airlines have become popular among cost-conscious flyers and we started to lose business to the competition. In order for Alaska to be considered by shoppers, we had to reduce our Main Cabin fares to match the lowest published prices of our competitors' Basic Economy fares, while still offering full Main Cabin benefits.

As you can imagine, this became impossible to sustain. This industry shift to Basic Economy has cost Alaska hundreds of millions of dollars over the past few years. It was simply a financial imperative that we launch our own version to protect Alaska Airlines over the long term. We recognize, in some situations, you will pay more for Main Cabin fares that provide the full suite of the elite benefits you're accustomed to. Our goal continues to be what it has always been, to fulfill our commitment to maintaining low fares, great service and generous Mileage Plan rewards.

The airline industry is constantly changing and often forces us to make difficult decisions, but we remain focused on setting ourselves apart from other airlines. Our Saver fares needed to be more generous than run-of-the-mill Basic Economy fares, and they are. Alaska passengers who purchase Saver fares earn full miles for their trip, are allowed to bring a carry-on bag and in many cases can still be assigned a seat at the time of booking - albeit in the rear of the aircraft. Additionally, elite Mileage Plan members who purchase Saver fares will still enjoy priority boarding.

We did a poor job at providing you with enough information well in advance about how Saver fares might impact your elite experience, and for that I apologize. Going forward, we will err on the side of providing our most loyal customers like you with more proactive and transparent communication about product changes of this magnitude — for better or worse.

Thank you for your loyalty and understanding. It means the world to us, and we don't take it for granted.

Andrew Harrison
EVP & Chief Commercial Officer, Alaska Airlines
In short, "We know you are upset, but this is how it's going to be."

Somehow I can't believe that Alaska believes that it should have announced their "no more elite benefits on our lowest fares" policy at the start of 2018, when customers were deciding where to spend their 2018 travel dollars. I'm sure that it was financially better to keep customers in the dark, blindside them at the end of the year, then apologize. Loss of customer trust is hard to weigh against short-term financial consequences, and I don't believe that these breaches of faith have long-lasting effect unless they are repeated and they exceed industry norms.

I'm sure the need to provide advance notice was debated internally. I would have had more respect for Alaska if they had admitted that giving more notice would have been too financially costly. Sometimes doing right by customers is just too expensive.
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