Alaska Airlines introduces bare-bones airfare for seats in the back of the plane

Alaska Airlines will begin selling the “Saver Fare” this fall.
(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Alaska Airlines is adding to its arsenal in the battle against ultra-low-cost carriers by launching a bare-bones ticket for passengers who are willing to board last and sit in the back of the plane.

Delta, American and United already sell a similar no-frills fare called “basic economy” that doesn’t allow passengers to rebook or upgrade to roomier seats, and the passengers don’t get to choose their seats. United and American board basic economy passengers last and charge them a fee for large carry-on bags.

Basic economy passengers at Delta, American and United sit in the same seats as regular economy fliers, but the tickets are about $20 cheaper and include more restrictions.


During an earnings conference call, Alaska Airlines executives said they will begin selling a bare-bones ticket this fall called the “Saver Fare,” which also won’t allow passengers to rebook, cancel tickets or upgrade to seats with more legroom.

The main difference between Alaska’s Saver Fare and the basic economy seats sold by other airlines is that Saver Fare lets passengers choose their seats — as long as they’re in the back of the plane.

Executives with Delta, American and United introduced basic economy seats over the last few years to compete with low-cost airlines such as Frontier and Spirit, which have been growing in popularity and drawing passengers away from the three big carriers.

The low prices of the basic economy fares also have helped attract travelers to the airline booking sites. Once the passengers see the restrictions on basic economy seats, they often book a higher-priced ticket instead, airline industry experts say.

During an earnings call this month, United Airlines’ chief commercial officer, Andrew Nocella, said he estimates that 60% to 70% of travelers who are drawn to the airline by basic economy fares end up booking regular economy seats.

“While there is still room for further optimization, it’s been an effective competitive tool,” he said.

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