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Alaska Airlines has announced a negative change to its lounge access policy. The airline will eliminate lounge access for Alaska first class passengers across a wide range of flights. Also, Alaska will increase the pricing of its lounge membership. The increase applies to both Lounge and Lounge+ memberships.
Alaska First Class Lounge Access Changes
The new access rules come into force on February 15, 2023. So, if you have booked travel before, you will not be affected. In addition, the rules affect paid and award first-class passengers. From that date, access to the lounge is based on the distance flown. The new rules are as follows:
- Access will only be allowed on itineraries that have one leg over 2,100 miles.
- Alaska first class passengers on shorter flights can purchase discounted lounge access day passes for $30.
At first glance, this development may not seem a big deal, but it is a notable devaluation of the Alaska first class lounge access policy.
When you look at the Alaska route map, you find that the new policy eliminates lounge access on the bulk of its routes. In fact, it seems that you will only get lounge access on the longest of transcontinental routes. Take, for instance, Alaska’s Seattle to New Orleans route. Although it is long, it comes in a few miles short of the 2,100. This means you will have to pay extra to get lounge access even on this route.
Club 49 Exception
There is one exception to the new distance-based qualification rules. Club 49 members traveling on routes to and from the state of Alaska receive lounge access. The access is regardless of the distance of any segments flown.
Lounge Membership Price Increase
Starting in 2023, Alaska has announced an increase in pricing to both its lounge programs.
Alaska Lounge Membership
Alaska Lounge membership grants you access to Alaska lounges only, and the new pricing is as follows:
- Non-elites will now be charged $500 annually for Alaska Lounge membership.
- Alaska Elites (MVP, MVP Gold, MVP Gold 75K, and MVP Gold 100K) will now be charged $400 annually for Alaska Lounge membership.
Alaska Lounge+ Membership
Although more expensive Alaska Lounge+ membership does grant you access to more lounges than the basic lounge membership. This is especially useful when flying with partners. You can access the following lounges (aside from Alaska lounges) with your Alaska Lounge+ membership:
- Access select United Clubs when flying Alaska.
- Qantas Clubs when you are flying Qantas.
- Access AA Admirals Clubs or Alaska Lounges when flying AA or Alaska.
The increased pricing for 2023 is as follows:
- Non-elites will now be charged $650 annually for Alaska Lounge+ membership.
- Alaska Elites (MVP, MVP Gold, MVP Gold 75K, and MVP Gold 100K) will now be charged $550 annually for Alaska Lounge+ membership.
One thing worth keeping in mind is that from 2023 MVP, Gold 100K members have additional options. 100K members can select Alaska Lounge+ membership as an elite choice benefit.
Why Is Alaska Eliminating First Class Lounge Access?
Alaska has been faced with a lounge overcrowding issue for some time now. The primary cause of this has been Alaska joining Oneworld and teaming up with American. As a result, many more travelers are eligible to access Alaska lounges. This has resulted in overcrowding, and Alaska has limited to no options to expand its lounge capacity.
Although this latest move is designed to reduce lounge demand, Alaska may shoot itself in the foot. One of its competitive advantages was lounge access compared to the competition. Therefore, eliminating lounge access may not be the smartest move in the long run. Time will tell if Alaska should have looked elsewhere to reduce demand for its lounges.
Rome was not built in a day, as the saying goes, and it did not collapse in a day. Hopefully, this move by Alaska is not the first of a series of Alaska Mileage Plan devaluations. The program is our favorite for a reason. It would be a shame to see Alaska lose that status with a series of small devaluations that eat away at the program's value.
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