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Alaska Airlines’ quirky Hawaii sale links big waves to cheaper airfares

A surfer catches a big wave
Big waves on Oahu’s North Shore could mean cheaper airfares for Alaska Airline customers.
(Ronen Zilberman / Associated Press)

Alaska Airlines is getting its quirky on — and hopes you notice. The airline started a Hawaii airfare sale Monday that offers discounts based on the size of state’s waves. If swells get as high as 30 feet, travelers could save 30% on tickets. Even little waves of 10 feet or less would bring a 10% discount.

Alaska is using data from Surfline to track waves, and will update the size — and discounts — at noon and 5 p.m. Pacific time. The sale, which lasts until Friday, is good for surfers and anyone who wants to grab a flight to Hawaii now through Nov. 20. The data-tracking of waves, by the way, comes from 14 different locations across all the islands, including Oahu’s north and south shores.

For the record:
9:33 AM, Nov. 06, 2019 An earlier version had the incorrect date for the Alaska Airlines sale deadline. It is Nov. 20.

Why the gimmicky come-on?

Alaska already gets high customer satisfaction ratings among traditional North American airlines in annual J.D. Power reports. And its loyalty program gets high marks from a variety of consumer travel websites. Still, the airline is out to win over new customers with a more creative approach that uses data to make travel more affordable.

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“Fare sales are boring ...,” said Natalie Bowman, the airline’s managing director of brand and marketing communications. “We need to be more disruptive and get our name out there more often.” Besides, she said, the 87-year-old company wants to bring back its tradition of being the quirky underdog (there was a time when gate agents used to entertain passengers by playing charades).

As for future airfare sales, data could drive discounts that reflect people’s “passion points.” Examples of that could include offering a dip in prices tied to snow levels to make skiers take notice, or launching a fare sale for the state with the most breakups around Valentine’s Day to help people who need to “get out of town and help heal their broken heart,” Bowman said.


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