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Once you’ve found the best airline for your needs, it can be really hard to pick which type of seat to go for. My guide to Alaska Airlines Saver vs Main may be able to help you come to a decision.
Having flown many times, from the most basic economy seating to First Class, I get the temptation to choose the cheapest tickets. Sometimes, a flight isn’t a special occasion, it’s just something I have to endure for work or similar reasons. I want to find the cheapest flights available even if that means sacrificing some comfort.
However, it’s not always easy to understand the terms and conditions of these cheap flights, especially if you have to cancel last minute.
Having flown Alaska myself, I’ll give you a rundown of both Saver and Main seating, including the comfort factor, the extras that are involved, and the details around cancelation and last-minute changes. That way, you can decide what works best for you.
But if you’re in a rush, here’s the bottom line up front:
The Bottom Line Up Front
Sometimes it’s worth spending a little extra on a flight, in my opinion, and that makes the Alaska Airlines Main seating worth the cost. There are advantages to the Saver seating, mostly in terms of pricing, but Main seating offers much more flexibility and peace of mind. If you have to cancel or change your flight, you’ll be better off going for a Main seat.
The Main Differences between Alaska Airlines Saver vs Main
Let’s take a look at the main differences between the two:
- The Saver seating is cheaper, whereas the Main seating is more expensive
- The Saver seats are narrow with less leg room, whereas the Main seating has more space
- The Saver seating is limited, with most seats at the back by the bathroom, whereas Main seats have more choice
- The Saver seating offers less flexibility, whereas the Main seating has options in case you have to cancel or change your flight
- The Saver seats won’t allow you to choose where you want to sit, whereas you can choose with the Main seating
Alaska Airlines Saver
Saver is the cheapest option. I’d say it’s pretty comparable to economy seating from other airlines (like American Airlines, for example). It’s a no-frills flight experience, but the pricing makes it an attractive option if you’re on a tight budget.
Let’s get the limitations out of the way. On the Saver tier, of course, you get the last choice when it comes to overhead storage, as you’ll be last on the plane. You also don’t collect as many MIleage Plan Elite benefits. Seats are assigned at check-in, and they can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to sit next to anyone you’re traveling.
There are some other things to bear in mind too. You can’t get a refund (beyond the first 24 hours after ticketing), and you won’t be able to change your flight. There’s no standby, and if any guest doesn’t show up for any flight during a trip, the other flights will be automatically canceled with no refund available. The fares are also non-transferable.
These restrictions are pretty standard when it comes to economy seating, but that doesn’t make it easier when you have to unexpectedly cancel. Still, that’s a risk I am sometimes willing to take to save a little cash, and you might feel the same way.
The seats are okay. Not the best, but that’s to be expected. I’d say they’re pretty average in terms of economy seating, and they’re not the worst I’ve experienced. They don’t have much legroom, and the seats are narrow.
The seats are thin, and they recline a little bit. The trays are small, so you won’t be able to fit a lot on there. You can also expect to be seated fairly near the back of the plane, which means you might be near the bathrooms.
The seats have power outlets, so you can plug in your USB charger.
Alaska Airlines has a drawback in that they don’t offer seat-back in-flight entertainment. They do have an app, the Gogo Entertainment App, which has movies and documentaries, including some new releases. But you’ll need to provide your own screen for this purpose.
You could bring a tablet, but it’s worth keeping in mind that the trays are quite small, so larger tablets may not be able to be propped up neatly.
You can expect a small snack (like a couple of cookies) for free, otherwise, you’ll need to pay extra for meals. The food on Alaska Airlines is pretty good, and you can order using the app to pre-order your meals.
The main draw of the Saver seating is the pricing. You can save a good $40 per flight compared to the Main plan which can mount up if there’s a group of you flying. For example, at the time of writing, flying from Columbus to Seattle costs $139 on the Saver plan and $189 on the Main plan.
You can bring a free carry-on bag, too. If you can withstand the limited seating options and you’re pretty sure you won’t need to cancel or change your flight, you might decide the low pricing is worth it.
Pros and Cons
Here’s my opinion on the pros and cons of the Saver plan:
- Low price point per flight
- Includes free carry-on bag
- Can pre-order meals using the Alaska Airlines app
- Access to in-flight entertainment on your own devices
- Seats have power outlets for phone charging etc
- You’ll be the last to board and the last to pick overhead storage
- You won’t be able to pick seats and you may not have seats that are assigned together
- Limited seating options at the back of the plane
- Flights are non-transferable
- Only one small free snack
There are mixed opinions online about the Saver plan.
For example, some people were caught out by the lack of ability to cancel or change their flights. They also found that it took a long time to board. I’ve been there many times, stuck in a long, unmoving line for a flight, so I do understand those complaints. The lack of space was also a problem for many people, especially on crowded flights.
There are some positive reviews. Many passengers had a great experience with Alaska Airlines’ customer service team.
Alaska Airlines Main
In my opinion, the Main seating does offer some benefits over the Saver plan. Sometimes I just want that extra legroom, and I think it’s worth the price, especially for longer flights. Here’s what I think in more detail:
Compared to the Saver plan there are some advantages. For example, you can change or cancel your reservation before your flight departs to get future travel credit, and you can do same-day confirmed changes during the check-in window (with a $25-50 fee applied). You can cancel under their 24-hour cancellation policy.
Plus, if you can’t make your flight and you let them know, you can use the value of your flight as credit against a future flight. That’s a pretty big advantage compared to the Saver seating.
The Main seats are pretty comfortable. They’re thicker than the Saver seats, and they have more width and legroom. I find this seating to be much more comfortable for longer flights (no sore legs at the end of a flight). They recline, and they have a decently sized tray. Like the Saver seats, they have a USB charging slot.
The Main seating is located in the central area of the plane, so further away from the bathrooms, which is a huge bonus if that bothers you. Plus, you get second dibs on boarding (after First Class), and you can choose your seat! This is a huge advantage if you’re traveling in a group, particularly if you’re flying with kids.
There’s no difference in terms of entertainment between the Saver and Main seating. You’ll have access to the entertainment app, which gives you hundreds of movies and TV shows.
Like the Saver seating, there’s no seat-back entertainment, so you’ll need to bring your own device (and headphones or Airpods).
The food is pretty much the same, too. You’ll get a small free snack (think along the lines of those small cookies again), but everything else will need to be paid for on top of your flight charge. Again, you can pre-order food beforehand on the app, saving you from deciding on the plane.
Some food is only available through pre-order, like the Signature Fruit & Cheese Platter and the Ginger Garlic Beef Wrap, so it’s worth downloading the app and having a look.
This is the main drawback compared to the Saver plan. On the surface of it, it’s undoubtedly cheaper to fly Saver. To give another example, flying from New York to Seattle costs $139 on the Saver plan compared to $189 on the Main plan.
However, you do lack flexibility on the Saver plan. So if the worst happens and you have to cancel for whatever reason, you’ll lose money in the long run.
If it comes down to saving money, and you’re willing to take a risk, the Saver plan is the one to go for in my opinion.
Pros and Cons
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the Main seating:
- More comfortable seating, with more room
- Access to in-flight entertainment using an app
- Can pre-order food using the app
- Seating is further away from the bathrooms
- Boards earlier than the Saver plan
- Earlier access to the overhead storage
- More flexibility
- Can pre-book seats
- More expensive per flight, which can add up
Some passengers felt that the upgrade in legroom just wasn’t worth the price increase, especially on short flights. They also felt frustrated by delays, which may be a universal problem since Covid.
However, there are some glowing reviews too. Again, people were impressed by the customer service, with customers being given free drinks to make up for the delays.
The Verdict: Alaska Airlines Saver or Alaska Airlines Main?
I think it ultimately comes down to what is more important to you.
Sometimes, I just want a cheap flight to get somewhere quickly. In that case, Saver has the advantage. The seating isn’t that bad, really, and for short flights, it’s bearable.
However, I see flying as a special experience, and while my budget doesn’t often stretch to First Class, I like to spend a little more to have some comforts. More legroom, more width, and slightly more padded seating are well worth it from my perspective. Plus, I hate being the last to board, so going for Main seating avoids that.
But really, the reason why I’m going to choose Main as the better option is because of the flexibility it offers. The Terms and Conditions of the Saver seats are strict, to put it mildly. I wouldn’t be able to relax knowing I’d lose my flight money if something happened at the last minute. Plus, switching flights is stressful enough without having to worry about paying extra for it.
Personally speaking, I’d pay extra and go for the Main seat. If you’re on a tight budget, you might prefer to take the risk and save some cash by choosing a Saver seat.
Alternatives to Try
If you want to skip Alaska Airlines altogether, there are some other options to try instead:
- You could go for American Airlines. The seats can be a little more pricey, but they do have some great benefits too. Plus, they have the obvious advantage of having a greater range of flights. Check out our American Airlines Economy vs. Basic comparison for more details.
- You could try Delta, too. They have some affordable seating, good in-flight entertainment, and good refreshments. You can find out more in our Delta Basic Economy vs Main Cabin comparison.
- Southwest is another almost fully regional airline worth looking at. They have good customer service and decently comfortable seating. Read more in our Southwest vs Delta comparison.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before you go, here are some frequently asked questions about flying Alaska:
Answer: You can earn miles by:
Booking Alaska flights
Signing up for an Alaska Airlines credit card and using that to gain miles
Fly with airline partners including American Airlines, British Airways, Japan Airlines, and Korean Air
Book hotel stays at participating hotels
Reserve rental cars
Shop with selected Alaska Airlines partners
Answer: You can join their Elite status, which can give you flight benefits (like upgrades) and airport benefits (like free checked bags, faster lines, and priority boarding). You’ll also earn miles more quickly, and get some service benefits like more flexible travel options.
It does take some time to get to Elite status, but if you fly domestically pretty often, you’ll find the miles start racking up quickly, which will get you to Elite faster.
Answer: Covid guidance is constantly changing, but its current restrictions are fairly relaxed. Masks are optional (unless you’re traveling to Canada, in which case masks are required). There are some travel restrictions still in place depending on the country you’re traveling to, so I’d recommend researching this thoroughly.
Answer: Alaska Airlines have some policies in place to make sure their flights are accessible for those requiring wheelchair access. You will need to request these services while booking, and you’ll have to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your departure time.
There are a couple of options for getting on the plane in a wheelchair:
Jet bridge – this is an enclosed walkway that connects the airport terminal to the plane
Boarding ramp – these are movable ramps that connect from the ground to the door of the plane
They can also help you with any extra support you need in the following areas:
Developmental and intellectual disabilities
Oxygen and respiratory devices
To Sum Up …
I hope this has helped you to conclude what’s best for you. Alaska Airlines offer great deals on all their flights, so in my opinion, it’s worth going for Main seating for that extra bit of comfort and peace of mind. However, the prices of their Basic seats are so low that you may be tempted to take a risk.
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