Alaska Airlines unveiled its new money-saving Club 49 card at Alaska Day events around the state yesterday. Among other perks, the card allows Alaskans who travel on Alaska Airlines to check their first two bags free of charge.
Club 49 is an Alaskans-only club to say thank you “to the state and people who have supported us for nearly 80 years,” according to an Alaska Airlines release, “and to pay homage to their unique travel needs.” The airline, which now employs 1,700 personnel around the state, began service in Alaska in 1932.
Scott Habberstad, Alaska Airlines sales and community marketing manager, announced the airline’s new card on Tuesday at the Juneau Rotary Club meeting in the Baranoff Hotel — part of Alaska Airlines’ statewide Alaska Day celebrations.
What comes with this new card? Of the three rewards revealed today, Juneau Rotarians cheered the loudest when Habberstad announced “two free checked bags wherever you travel on Alaska Airlines.” Currently, Alaska Air charges $20 per bag for the first two checked bags. In comparison, Southwest Airlines already offers two free checked bags while Delta Airlines charges $25 for the first bag and $35 for bag number two.
Flights within Alaska will continue to offer three free checked bags.
While Lower 48 travelers have options for travel — buses, trains, planes and cars — Juneau travelers in a hurry basically have one: to fly.
“If you have a sick relative in the Lower 48 and you have to travel right now it can be expensive,” Habberstad said.
To address this uniquely Alaskan problem, Habberstad said, Club 49’s Travel Now Discount will offer two annual one-way certificates for 30 percent off last minute fares — YAS fares — when flying to, from or within Alaska on Alaska Airlines if flight is booked within four days of departure.
“It takes our most expensive last-minute fare and brings it down to about a 14-day advance fare level,” Habberstad said, “so its a significant, significant savings for last minute travel. Whether it be an emergency, or,” he gestures toward the blustery sky outside the Baranoff, “a mental emergency if you need to go to Hawaii to get out of the rain.”
The club will also bring back the days “when Alaska Airlines really had good Web specials,” Habberstad said. While Alaska Airlines is not offering a Juneau deal this week, Habberstad said Juneau travelers can expect deals similar to Ketchikan’s $129 one-way flight to Seattle.
“Alaska Airlines will offer five to 10 meaningful fares to places people want to go,” he said.
Habberstad acknowledged Alaska Airlines’ role as the prime agent for Juneau travelers to locations outside Southeast Alaska.
“In Alaska, you have to travel,” Habberstad said. Without many options, the airline’s customers are particularly susceptible to the added fees and restrictions of air travel. Club 49 is the airline’s response.
“It’s what our customers have been asking for,” Habberstad said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Membership to the club is free, however registration requires an Alaska Airlines Mileage number linked to an in-state address. Members who sign up between Oct. 18 and Oct. 31 will start seeing benefits on Nov. 1.
Alaska residents can sign up for Club 49 at www.alaskaair.com/club49.
• Contact reporter Russell Stigall at 523-2276.