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Could airlines offer subscription passes? One airline gives it a try

Alaska Airlines Disruptions
Posted at 7:02 AM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-25 08:49:24-04

Alaska Airlines recently launched a flight pass that starts at $49 a month. Subscribers can book one round-trip flight every two months for a penny, then about $15 in fees.

Currently, this deal is only for flights between certain airports in California, Nevada and Arizona, but the question now is if other airlines could try this too.

“I imagine it will always start small,” said Nick Ewen, director of content with The Points Guy. “You're not gonna see an unlimited flight pass across an airline's entire domestic network. I think they would test in particular markets where they are maybe seeing an uptick in some business travel. Maybe they're going after some corporate contracts and they want to provide some more flexibility for those employees.”

Ewen said he sees subscriptions as a potential win for airlines because it's a consistent form of revenue and could help them forecast demand. But right now, he said travel is very much on demand and not consistent, so there is a risk.

Another question is do customers want this type of service?

“A lot of travelers have really wanted a lot of flexibility to jump on a specific fare when they see it rather than being in many ways locked into a specific subscription model where they have committed to pay for a certain amount,” Ewen said.

JetBlue had an unlimited flying pass in 2009, but it didn't translate into a sustainable business model.

With any subscription service, Ewen said to crunch the numbers to make sure it works for you. He said that companies are counting on you paying more for a plan than you're actually getting out of it in terms of value.