Fare war: United and Alaska drop transcontinental business fares to $368 one-way

Jul 31, 2020

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Airfare deals are typically only available on limited dates. We recommend you use Google Flights to find dates to fly, then book through an online travel agency such as Orbitz or Expedia, which allows you to cancel flights without penalty by 11pm Eastern Time within one day of booking. However, if you’re using The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’ll need to book directly with the airline or through the Amex Travel portal to get 5x MR points. Remember: Fares may disappear quickly, so book right away and take advantage of Orbitz or Expedia’s courtesy cancellation if you’re unable to get the time away from work or family.

Editor’s note: As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.

JetBlue’s Mint effect is real. The airline is launching new transcontinental flights out of Newark (EWR) soon, and it’s already driving down the prices in the market.

Last week, we told you about JetBlue Mint flights from Newark to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO) available from $368 each way. Today, we’re seeing that United and Alaska Airlines are matching these fares. Even better, the low fares are now available through the end of the schedule in June 2021, including major holidays like Thanksgiving and New Year’s. JetBlue’s deal wasn’t as widespread originally.

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If you’re considering booking this deal, you’ll probably want to pick United over Alaska. United offers lie-flat seats in business class on all its premium coast-to-coast flights, whereas Alaska only offers standard recliner seats. Most flights on this route are operated by United’s 757-200s with business class seats arranged in a 2-2 configuration. However, there are a few flights a day operated by United’s 787-10s. These planes feature United’s new Polaris business class seats, which are a huge upgrade over the older seats, so you’ll want to try snag a seat one of those flights.

United Polaris (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
United Polaris (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

If there are low JetBlue Mint fares available for your dates then that’d be a great pick, too. While Mint doesn’t come with lounge access, it’s one of the best domestic premium cabins for onboard social distancing. Of the 16 seats in the Mint cabin, four of them are individual suites. Rows 2 and 4 are arranged in a 1-1 configuration and each suite has two large tables, as well as a door.

Should I book travel now?

There is a risk with booking travel now, since there is no way to guarantee when it will be safe to travel again. The CDC has a strong warning against any nonessential travel within the United States. While we hope things will return to normal quickly, there has been a surge in COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

While all states have at least partially reopened, several have a mandatory, 14-day quarantine order in effect for visitors. If you’re booking this deal, know that New York and New Jersey have mandatory quarantines for travelers entering from high-risk states — including California. If the situation does not get better soon, you may end up being forced to change or cancel your trip.

Related: New York expands quarantine restrictions to 36 total U.S. states and territories

It’s also important to understand the cancellation and rebooking policies for any airfare you book. Fortunately, with any new United bookings made by Aug. 31, 2020 — along with Alaska and JetBlue bookings made by Sept. 8 — there is a good amount of flexibility. All of the airlines are allowing tickets to be changed or canceled for no fee. If rebooking, you’ll pay the difference between the original and new fare. If you cancel, you’ll enjoy a voucher or flight credit that can be put toward a new reservation.

Related: Airline coronavirus change and cancellation policies

Transcon business class flight deals currently available

Airlines: Alaska, JetBlue, United
Routes: Newark (EWR) to/from Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO)
Cost: $368+ one-way in business class
Travel Dates: July 2020 – June 2021

Pay With: The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on airfare booked directly with the airline; starting Jan. 1, 2021 earn 5x points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year), Citi Prestige® Card (5x on airfare),  Citi Premier® Card (3x on airfare), Chase Sapphire Reserve (3x on travel), American Express® Gold Card (3x on airfare booked directly with the airline or amextravel.com) or Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on travel)

The information for the Citi Prestige card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Sample itineraries

Here’s a look at some of the best deals you could book. This isn’t an exhaustive list, so you may be able to find deals between other cities as well.

Newark (EWR) to Los Angeles (LAX) for $368 one-way nonstop on United in business class

(Photo by United)

Los Angeles (LAX) to Newark (EWR) for $368 one-way nonstop on United in business class

(Photo by United)

Newark (EWR) to Los Angeles (LAX) for $388 one-way nonstop on Alaska in first class

(Photo by Alaska Airlines)

Newark (EWR) to San Francisco (SFO) for $398 one-way nonstop on United in business class

(Photo by United)

Newark (EWR) to San Francisco (SFO) to for $398 one-way nonstop on JetBlue Mint

(Photo by JetBlue)

How to book

It’s easy to book one of these deals. Just head to Google Flights and plug in your desired departure and destination cities. Filter your search to only show nonstop flights and select business class. Then, use the calendar function to find dates and prices that work for you and then click through to book with the airline directly or an OTA such as Expedia or Priceline.

(Photo by Google Flights)
(Photo by Google Flights)

Maximize your purchase

Don’t forget to use a credit card that earns bonus points on airfare purchases, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express (5x on flights booked directly with airlines or American Express Travel), Citi Prestige® Card (5x on airfare), Chase Sapphire ReserveAmerican Express® Gold Card Citi Premier® Card (3x on airfare) or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (2x on all travel purchases).

Check out this post for more on maximizing airfare purchases.

Featured image by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.

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