Alaska Airlines 2010 Baggage Policy Changes – Promises or PR?

Alaska Airlines wants you to know that its Bag Fee Guarantee just got better, even as it restructures prices for bag fees – raising some, lowering some (these are the bag fee changes we told you about back in April).

Bag Fees Drops … Sort Of

To review, here are the old and new prices for checked-bags on Alaska (and see our Airline Bag Fee Chart for prices on all domestic carriers):

  • 1st checked-bag: Was $15 – New fee, $20
  • 2nd checked-bag: Was $25 – New fee, $20
  • 3rd checked-bag: Was $50 – New fee: $20
  • 4th – 10th checked-bag: Was $100 each – New fee, $50 each

Looks pretty good – all those lowered fees. Except of course for that first checked-bag which jumps five bucks.

…but One Key Fee Rises

Okay, all you readers out there who fly with checked-bags: how many of you check more than one?

I didn’t think so. So under the guise of being “generous”, Alaska raises the one price that matters: the first checked-bag fee. Okay, airlines have to make money, we get it. But just so you get it, too.

Now, what about that improvement in Alaska’s “Baggage Service Guarantee“?

Does the Guarantee Mean “No Lost Bag”?

First of all, any airline that has any sort of baggage guarantee rocks in my book, but don’t get your hopes up: Alaska’s guarantee does not guarantee against loss.

Your bag could still be “mishandled” as they say in airline lingo – no guarantees on that, meaning losing a bag remains a slim but distinct possibility.

Alaska Airlines is out front with their bag guarantee of a newly proposed Department of Transportation (DOT) set of rules that provides for checked bag fee refunds for canceled flights and delayed baggage arrival.

What Alaska’s Baggage Guarantee Covers

This is from the airline’s website:

“If your baggage is not at baggage claim within 20 minutes of your plane parking at the gate, you’re entitled to a $20 Discount Code for use on a future Alaska Airlines or Horizon Air flight or 2,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan bonus miles.” Alaska Airlines website

The guarantee used to say, “25 minutes” so this sounds good – and, hey, $20 is better than a poke in the eye – but there are exceptions to this guarantee, and here are the important ones:

The Guarantee Loopholes

  • Oversize bags: Guarantee does not apply to items delivered to the odd/oversize bag claim area (such as pets and sports equipment)
  • Mexico: Guarantee does not apply to flights arriving from Mexico
  • Weather: Guarantee can be suspended in the event of an airport bag system malfunction, or during severe weather, or “other conditions out of the airlines’ control that prohibit timely baggage delivery”
  • One voucher only: Only one voucher per customer (even if more than one bag is delivered late)
  • Limited time only: Vouchers come with a “use-by” date

Plus, you have find an Alaska customer service agent and request the voucher; no one is going to be standing there with a fistful of vouchers, asking passengers if their bags arrived on time.

Bottom Line

Pack light, and use a carryon. This results in savings on nearly every airline except JetBlue, which gives you a free checked-bag and Southwest, which gives you two. But remember, a carryon represents a savings of time, too – meaning, there’s less of it you’ll have to spend in the airport waiting for your bag.

As for Alaska’s guarantee, maybe it’s not the greatest in the world, but still – give Alaska credit for having any baggage guarantee at all, limited though it may be.

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Published: June 18, 2010