How to maximize your Alaska Airlines companion fare

Among the most popular benefits of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® card is the annual companion fare. This is a discounted fare from $121 ($99 plus taxes and fees from $22) that can be used on just about any Alaska Airlines or Virgin America itinerary. Cardholders also enjoy a free checked bag for themselves and up to six other passengers (so a total of seven) in their reservation, triple miles on Alaska purchases, and one mile for every dollar spent on everyday purchases.

There are many ways to maximize the value of the companion fare and potentially save hundreds of dollars on air travel each year.

Because the companion fare has a flat price, you can use it to travel anywhere Alaska flies, including Hawaii and Costa Rica. The primary traveler must pay the prevailing fare, but the companion still pays just $99 plus taxes and fees.

You don’t need to worry about “eligible” fare classes or limited inventory. As long as there are still two seats for sale in the economy cabin your companion fare is good to go! Best of all, both travelers will still earn miles with Alaska Airlines and are eligible for complimentary elite upgrades.

Don’t worry if you aren’t traveling round-trip or are planning a stop-over. One-way and round-trip itineraries with one stop-over can also be booked using the companion fare as long as every flight is operated by Alaska Airlines, Virgin America or Horizon Air. If you need to connect on a partner airline and still want to use your companion fare discount, then you’ll need to break your itinerary into separate reservations.

How to book the companion fare

The companion fare will be delivered into your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account each year within two billing cycles after your anniversary date. Visit the “Discount Codes” section of your account.

The discount code will be located underneath the “Shop” button.

Either click on the link to begin a search, or visit the Alaska Airlines home page and type the code into the corresponding field.

Enter the discount code in the indicated field. You’ll need to click on “All search options” first to reach this page.

Results will display separate prices for each flight: the first amount is the normal price charged to the primary traveler, and the second amount is the discounted price charged to the companion traveler. Remember, companions still need to pay taxes and fees, so the cost of each flight could be higher for some destinations. A red “e” symbol will confirm that you’ve found an eligible flight.

A red “e” indicates the cost of the companion fare. The cost of the companion fare is less than $99 in this example because it is averaged over each segment in the itinerary.

When entering passenger information, you’ll be asked to identify the primary and companion passengers. Be careful if you think your plans might change. The primary passenger must travel to maintain the discount, although the companion is permitted to miss his or her flight. The member who received the companion fare discount code can be identified as either passenger.

Each companion fare code is only valid for one calendar year, so plan ahead to ensure that it doesn’t go to waste. As long as you book your flights before the expiration date, travel can take place after the code expires.

Save on first class travel with the companion fare

Although the companion fare can only be used to book flights in the economy cabin, there are still ways to use it and save on first class travel. Complimentary elite upgrades are available close to departure, and some fares can be upgraded further in advance. Alaska Airlines makes it easy to search for these upgradeable fares during the booking process.

On the same front page where you enter your companion fare discount code, select an “upgrade type” from the menu. Why does this choice matter? Only certain economy fares are eligible, and they may not be the least expensive for that trip. Each type of upgrade has different restrictions. Remember that the companion fare doesn’t change; only one passenger needs to pay this premium.

There are three types of advance upgrades:

  • Anyone can upgrade by redeeming 15,000 miles in each direction of travel. Eligible fares include Y, B, S, M, and H.
  • Four MVP Gold guest upgrade codes are issued each year to MVP Gold and 75K members, who may use them for themselves or share with a friend. Eligible fares include Y, S, B, M, H, Q, L, V, and K.
  • Travelers with elite status may be eligible for an instant upgrade without redeeming anything. MVP members can upgrade Y or S fares, MVP Gold can upgrade Y, S, B or M fares, and 75K members can upgrade Y, S, B, M, or H fares.
AS935 and AS313 both have First Class upgrades available, indicated by the “F” in a blue box.

Consider that the difference between the cheapest fare and an upgradeable fare may be a small amount — it could be $10 or $100 or perhaps more. But you only need to pay that amount for the primary traveler. The companion still pays just $99 plus taxes and fees. Because the companion is booked into the same fare, both can benefit from an instant upgrade. (The companion still needs to redeem miles, redeem a guest upgrade, or have elite status.)

If an advance upgrade isn’t available at the time of booking, you should still add yourself to the complimentary upgrade waitlist. If you’re lucky, more upgrades will become available later, and at that time you can call an agent to process the advance upgrade manually.

Now you know all the best tips to maximize the value of your annual companion fare. Learn more about the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® card here.

This credit card program is issued and administered by Bank of America, N.A. Visa and Visa Signature are registered trademarks of Visa International Service Association and are used by the issuer pursuant to license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.