Albert writes again on one of my favorite ways to save money when traveling, the unbeatable BoA Alaska Airlines Companion Fare. My wife and I each use ours to go from D.C. to Hawaii every year and them one other exotic place such as Costa Rica. Not only do we get to fly for almost half price, but (both being Golds) get roughly 20,000 miles (~9,600 distance with 100% bonus)!

Greetings, Fellow Travelers!

BLUF: The Alaska Airline Companion Fare—from both the Bank of America AS
personal and business credit cards—is, at its simplest, a two-for-one certificate for
Alaska Airlines tickets. It provides the best way to save money (and earn miles!) when
two people fly Alaska.

Since Joey and I are back in the U.S., we can more effectively use many of the ancillary
benefits from bank and co-branded airline credit cards. For example, one benefit at
which I am getting more efficient is a purchase multiplier at US-based office supply
stores. (Hello, Chase Ink Business Cash!). Store gift cards and advertised no-fee
VISA/MasterCard gift cards offer high accrual rates, when used correctly. (The subject
of a future TTP!) However, the Alaska Airlines Companion fare is the benefit I was most
excited to try.

 

 

Last month, I decided to plan a late summer 2020 trip to the Pacific Northwest to offer
us relief from the swampy DC summer. This was my first time experimenting with how
best to use the companion fare. After some mentorship from our TMFF leader, Glenn,
on the fare’s inner workings, I was ready to book the flights. Do note the companion
fare has a $99 co-pay at purchase, and you always pay taxes for the flight(s). Still for
approx. $120 you get an additional ticket, and that is a deal!

First, I’m an AS Mileage Plan Gold elite. While stationed in Germany, I earned my
status by flying almost exclusively with the broad group of worldwide AS partners.
Namely, I flew Cathay Pacific, Finnair, and Emirates from Europe to and around Asia to
take advantage of the big mileage accrual rates when purchasing business class
tickets. Further, AS Golds receive four Gold Guest Upgrade Certificates, which can be
applied at purchase for an immediate First Class upgrade on an AS flight, when “U”
space is available. For my search, I had four remaining certificates which expired at the
end of 2019. As they offer instant upgrades, they are considered “used” at
purchase—even though my flights, in this case, would be in August 2020.

Second, I searched for the best routes from Washington, DC to the Pacific Northwest.
In metro DC (or WAS, the airport code), AS flies from IAD, DCA, and BWI. We decided
to focus on Vancouver as one of the destination. We hadn’t been there in about five
years, and it’s one of our favorite cities for Asian food, Canadian hospitality, and the
outdoors. Given the AS network, AS’s Seattle hub would be our likely transit point.
Although the option to drive up to Vancouver from Seattle, or even Portland, was there,
I wanted to fly because it’s the most convenient method and accruing AS miles is
always a priority.

 

Next, with my general routing (via Seattle) set, I went to Alaska’s website to start my
search. Once you log in, you need to navigate to the “Discount and companion fare
codes” section of the menu and select “Valid.” Companion fare codes are automatically
loaded into your profile when 1) you meet the initial minimum spend requirements for
your credit card(s), and 2) yearly after you pay the annual credit card fee. After you
select the “SHOP” button, you’ll be taken to the flight search page where your unique
discount fare code will load, and you can begin your search.

With the AS Companion Fare, the search is for an economy class ticket only. That
ticket can be one-way, round trip, or even a multi-city trip, as long as the computer
allows the route. While you cannot outright purchase an AS First Class ticket with the
companion fare, Gold Guest Upgrade Certificates and elite status benefits can identify
upgradable space at purchase (e.g., no waitlist).

 

When you search for flights, “saver” and “main cabin” fares are the default economy
class tickets displayed. Also, next to the fare is an “e” symbol identifying the companion
fare applies to that fare. [NOTE: As I rule, I do not purchase “saver” or any “basic
economy” fares as they have too many restrictions on seat selections, carry-ons, and
accrual rates. Even with the dollar savings, it is never an option for me. You may feel
differently, but do your research!]. Since Alaska let you select and specify upgrade type
during flight searches, the cheapest upgradable fares are displayed along with “main
cabin” fares—the “saver” fare option is eliminated.

Gold Guest certificates are applied to the widest range of economy fare classes while
other elite statuses offer smaller subsets. When you select an upgrade type, the search
displays an “F” next to flight details. A filled-in square means an instant upgrade is
available. A non-filled-in one means none is available. Of course, you should modify
your search as best you can to hunt for those filled-in “F” square. If you don’t have
status or Gold Guest Upgrade Certificates, then your search should focused on the best
fares for your dates. As a reminder, with the companion fare, the “F” search is for two
upgradable seats.

 

Originally, I planned our departure to Vancouver to take advantage of the Labor Day
holiday weekend. (It’s always good to save a day of leave with a federal holiday!)
However, I couldn’t find two upgradeable seats during my first few searches. So,
knowing that flexibility is the key to successful travel planning, started moving further
into August.

After about an hour or so of playing around with dates and routes, I found a nine-day
itinerary with two upgradable seats from DCA to YVR (via SEA) and two upgradeable
seats from SEA to DCA (via LAX). With the verified filled-in “F” squares, I purchased
the itinerary (with the AS credit card that contained the companion fare, a new and
recent Alaska requirement), and post-purchase, I applied my Gold Guest Upgrade
Certificates. A single Gold Guest certificate is required per one-way as long as no stop
is longer than four hours. Therefore, two people, four one-way flights equals four Gold
Guest certificates. A perfect result: first class the entire trip. (I’ll figure out how to get
us from YVR to SEA later.)

To make the AS Companion Fare even more perfect, both flyers earn miles during the
flight. This means, I will earn 100% elite and redeemable miles for the economy class
tickets (you earn based on original fare purchased NOT the upgraded one), and Joey
will earn the same. This is different from Delta’s companion fare, where only the main
individual earns miles (and not at the “1 mile flown = 1 mile earned” rate), and the
companion (after paying taxes and fees) earns nothing. This benefit from Alaska, then,
is an incredible value.

In sum, finding airfare deals is a job. However, with the AS Companion Fare, you can
get a bigger bang-for-your-buck when flying with two people making that job a little
easier and a lot more lucrative. I’m very happy to have used it in concert with my Gold
Guest Upgrade Certificates. I would encourage you to look at the either the personal or
business Bank of America Alaska Airlines credit cards to see if its companion fare
benefit can serve your and your companion’s travel needs.

Happy Travels!
Vr,
Albert
Albert Guerrero, USAF, Ret.
“Let’s Travel Farther, Together!”
Follow my travels on Instagram: @albert_traveler

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