A guest post from reader Dean – I picked Alaska over Delta

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As I talked about before, I want Sundays to be a chance to share some thoughts and experiences from readers about Delta travel. A few weeks back we had Chris share his mileage run to Sweden. This week I want to introduce you to reader Dean. He is a blog reader and shared with me after my post about Delta loyalty that he has picked Alaska Air over Delta Air Lines. I would love to know what they are doing right that Delta is either not doing right or is doing wrong. So let’s see what Dean has to say from his point of view:

alaska & delta jets

Credit Sylvester Pittman / Airlineguys.com

Thanks, Rene! I’ve enjoyed being one of your Delta Points readers for a long time. First, there are a couple of things I’d like to point out – Alaska Airlines serves more than the State of Alaska, but they are a regional carrier and don’t cover nearly the number of cities that Delta does. They fly to over half the states and Canada and Mexico, and since I live in their main hub of Seattle it works for me. Although they are not a part of Skyteam, they’ve created a decent partnership with airlines to work with that include American and Delta. If Alaska doesn’t fly somewhere, I can almost always get there via Delta.

Alaska flies an all 737 fleet, so that comes with pluses and minuses. All of their newer planes come with Recaro seats which take less space and are more comfortable. The overhead bins can hold more (Alaska doesn’t charge for carry on), and they have nice LED cabin lighting. You won’t get a full meal on any flights, but they do offer decent food at prices lower than the major airlines – if you fly on their sister airline Horizon, they offer complimentary wine and micro brew beer. Plus there is GoGo in-flight internet, which I have very mixed feelings about (I like being connected, but it’s very glitchy for a high price).

One of the things I like about Alaska is their innovative use of technology. Perhaps it comes from being in the land of Microsoft, but they were one of the first airlines to offer online bookings and have continued to improve on a great offering of options for online as well as phone services for their passengers. I can book award tickets online with many of their partners including Delta.

Alaska has also maintained their call centers in the US, which I find helps when I need help with tough problems. Their partner airline bookings department is also top notch – last year, they got me great award business class seats on Qantas to Australia and New Zealand by taking my request and checking availability daily on my behalf. The award program in general is competitive, and I’ve seldom had problems booking award tickets compared to Delta.

Change fees are a way of life, but Alaska has kept their fees lower than other airlines. There is no fee if you change flights outside of 60 days, and fees just increased to $125 for less than 60 days. For top tier (Gold) flyers, there is never a change fee and no charge for the first two bags checked.

Ultimately, what makes me feel like a valued customer at Alaska are the people. Whether reservation agents trying to get me out of LAX during this week’s shutdown, flight attendants who appear to like their jobs, or helpful club attendants, I get the feeling that my business is appreciated, and that they genuinely want to be working for Alaska.

Thanks Dean so much for your thoughts and sharing with us all and for your insight as an Alaska flyer. We all “get” only $$$ matter to Delta now unlike the way Alaska seems to make you feel valued. I think Delta could learn a thing or two from Alaska especially when it comes to working with rather than against their partners!

PS – Want to contribute to the blog – e-mail me what you want to share – René
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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

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12 comments

  1. If I lived in Seattle depending on where I flew on a normal basis I could easily see going to Alaska Air the no change fee is huge. Also the ability to have some one help with partner bookings and of course one of my top ones the embracing of Technology.

    I am lucky I can call diamond line @ delta and get good service as Delta website and changes are horrible. On one recent booking I had to call three straight weekends as each week due to flight changes they rebooked and left flight segments out or actually changed the days!!!! Nothing like a note in your booking that says you have 8 hours to get yourself from SLC to LAX so you can continue to KOA.

    That is just one example the website just stinks and as Rene says don’t hit the change button but call. Good advice but should not be that way.

  2. The change fee policy is really huge. Also having up todate IT also is nice.
    Last year we were coming back from SEA when weather was cancelling many flights. AS had a flight to MSP that had many open seats when I checked in. Full when we flew to MSP. I am a DL GM that DL had booked on AS for part of my trip. A group of people were talking about how they meetings the next day. There had to be 12 that new each other and some had Resv. on UA and DL. They were all so happy about making it to ORD with connection in MSP. It seemed like AS really new how to work around the constant fog and rain that stopped others or they had extra planes in SEA because it’s their home? I can see why AS has such loyal fans.

  3. I just got my first opportunity to deal with Alaska by getting their credit card and then buying AMEX gift cards. Their partner desk was INCREDIBLE.
    Talk about a staff of people who care about the customer, and that’s Alaska. I dealt with 5 or 6 people at various points and they were all fantastic.
    I can’t say it makes much sense to fly from Las Vegas to Seattle to get to Seoul in Korean when they fly directly from Las Vegas, and I haven’t gotten around to seeing if Alaskan can cut off this wasted routing, but they have some very good award levels despite routings.
    I picked up a one way 1st class Qantas to Sydney for 70k +$55.
    I booked myself and a friend earlier in the year to Sydney on Delta for 240k RT in business elite. Even though the planes are maybe 10% booked in business class they want high level award mileage now, or 310k miles to change my dates: 620k miles. Hmmm. can BUY those seats from Delta through the AMEX IAP for $7500 (but I have to get someone from Chicago to LAX and back in first raising the cost to about $8500). With all the SPG crossover rewards and delta points plus the MR’s , and the 6100 UA miles for the flight from ORD, we are at 1.5 CPM net cost….maybe a little less. I guess Delta has succeeded in one respect: I am going to cancel my awards and buy the tickets rather than use 620k miles to make the changes. Heck, the price may go a little lower and I can refund the tickets and reissue them for $79 with AMEX. I am sorry for rattling on…I am not so old that I should be doing that, but this close call with whether to buy or use points has been floating around for 2 months. I took a look at the blog on the best way to use Delta miles and it seems the 480,000 the 2 of us were going to use could be used to get at least 2 cpm. Rene, how bout we establish a contest with a prize for whoever can come up with the best usable routing for the miles for the period I can find someone to travel with me?

  4. Thanks, Dean. You make a very good argument why AS is better for you. If I lived in Seattle, I could easily see myself doing the same. The change fee policy is absolutely wonderful! I wonder how much of Delta’s revenue comes from change fees. It’s probably a cash cow for them that they would never give up. I’m glad to see an airline that is fair and customer friendly — and still makes money.

  5. I agree! AS is fantastic! I just status matched to them recently from UA and I don’t regret it one bit. I do wish that they flew to more destinations but the fact that I can fly AA/DL and credit to AS is a good consolation. I highly recommend them.

  6. One other great AS item is their credit card. For a $75 annual fee, you get a $99 companion certificate good for anywhere they fly. This can’t be beat for a cheap couple of tickets to Hawaii or Mexico. And unlike DL, both travelers earn miles!
    I have a few FF buddies who form bromances and take each other as companions to fly back and forth on mileage run/ vacations and stop at great spots all along the way from Hawaii to Florida.

  7. Hi Rene I tried the AS CC link and it does not seem to be working anymore? Do you have another one.

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