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Alaska and Delta, once close airline partners, have been in fierce competition for flyers throughout 2014. Much of the fight has been over high-value Seattle-based flyers. Alaska offered flyers first double elite miles out of Seattle, and then double EQMs to many destinations after Delta offered double Medallion and base miles.
It looks like Alaska is upping the ante once more by letting Alaska Mileage Plan members check one bag free throughout the month of January. That amounts to a savings of $25 for non-elites. So if you are not already a member of Mileage Plan but intend to fly Alaska, sign up for the program here.
Checked bag fees are one of the more annoying airline add-on charges, and have become the industry standard in recent years, with airlines usually dinging you for $25-$35 per bag. In fact, more airlines seem to be adding them, with JetBlue announcing back in November that it would begin charging flyers for checked bags soon.
Remember, you have to be a member of Mileage Plan in order to get the free checked bag. You must fly between January 1-31, and the flight miles must be credited to your Alaska Mileage Plan account. Travel must also be on flights marketed by Alaska and operated by Alaska, Horizon, SkyWest or PenAir (so you won’t get a free checked bag on American or Delta flights, for example). Travelers who already get free checked bags (i.e. elites) do not get an additional checked bag. The other terms and conditions are below.
While those are fairly standard provisions, there are a few reasons you might want to fly Alaska and credit the miles to Mileage Plan anyway. First, the airline has an extensive route network in the West and to Hawaii and Mexico, so if you are planning a January vacation, it can be a great choice. Alaska also has some fantastic airline partners including Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Fiji Airways. Alaska’s Mileage Plan also has some versatile award routing rules that allow you to book one-ways on many of those partners.
All in all, it is a dynamic frequent flyer program whose miles are among the most valuable mileage and points currencies out there. In my most recent monthly valuations, I valued Alaska miles at 2 cents apiece thanks to its partners, award routing rules and the lucrative new mileage-earning rates that will be instituted in 2015. All that may prompt you to try to status match to Alaska if you have status with another airline including Air Canada, American, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, Southwest, United, US Airways or Virgin America, and to try out the airline in the new year with your elite status there.
The one big drawback to this promotion is that it is only valid for January travel. Most flyers likely already have their January trip plans in place, so the one-month time frame is a bit too limited in my view. Still, if you were thinking of a trip and Alaska was one of the options, you might as well consider it thanks to the small amount of savings you will get on checked bags. Hopefully other airlines including American, Delta and United will consider offering similar promotions and possibly for longer periods of time in the future to woo potential passengers
Terms and conditions for the free checked bag: Mileage Plan members and companions traveling on the same reservation will receive their first checked bag free on qualifying reservations when they check-in for their flight or at the airport. The promotion is valid for flights flown between 12:01 a.m., Jan. 1 through 11:59 p.m., Jan. 31. At least one valid and active Mileage Plan number must be in the reservation at the time of check-in, and flight miles must be credited to Mileage Plan to qualify. Offer may not be applied retroactively, and no refunds will be issued. Not applicable for travelers who already receive one or more free checked bags. Travel is valid on flights marketed by Alaska Airlines and operated by Alaska Airlines, Horizon Air, SkyWest or PenAir between January 1, 2015, and January 31, 2015. Free first checked bag must weigh 50 pounds or less and have a maximum dimension of 62 linear inches (length + height + width) to avoid additional charges. See alaskaair.com/bagrules for complete baggage rules. All terms and conditions of the Mileage Plan program apply. Offer subject to change without notice.
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