Alaska Airlines exec reveals how it’s going to add basic economy without repeating the mistakes of Delta, American, and United

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Alaska Airlines exec reveals how it’s going to add basic economy without repeating the mistakes of Delta, American, and United

Alaska Airlines is set to launch a new discount ticket class by the end of 2018 called the Saver Fare. The new discount fare is Alaska’s answer to the basic economy tickets that American, Delta, and United have introduced over the past few years.

But for airlines, communicating the merits of basic economy has been far from smooth sailing.

In fact, to say that perception among consumers was overwhelmingly negative would be an understatement. Many felt that the restrictive fare class was just another example of airlines trying to nickel and dime its customers.

Discount fares classes like Basic Economy and Alaska’s Saver Fare, as a premise, are fairly straightforward. They are targeted at the cost-conscious flyers that may otherwise gravitate towards low-cost and ultra-low-cost carriers like Spirit or Frontier.

An Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 interior.
Alaska

In essence, the Saver Fare and other basic economy offerings are discount fare classes within an airline’s economy cabin. As a result, the in-flight service and experience will be the same for Saver Fare as it will be for someone who purchased a pricier main cabin economy ticket. This means passengers who go the Saver Fare route will sit in the same seats, enjoy the same in-flight perks, and amenities as everyone else in coach.

As a result, America’s fifth largest airline is working to avoid going through the same turbulent launch as its larger rivals.

For starters, Saver Fares are less restrictive than the basic economy offerings already the market.

“I think for us, it starts with a product that’s more generous than our competitors have, you earn miles, you can bring a carry-on bag, “Alaska Airlines managing director of marketing and advertising, Natalie Bowman told Business Insider.

Saver Fare passengers can also pre-select seats, a feature other airlines do not offer when flying on basic economy. On the downside, passengers traveling on the discount fare will be relegated to the back of the cabin and in all-likelihood a middle seat.

But for Alaska, clear and concise communication is the key.

“It boils down to transparency and communication during the purchase flow,” Bowman said. “When someone is purchasing a Saver Fare, it will be very clear throughout the process of what they are buying and the restrictions that apply.”

According to Bowman, the airline has embedded a series of touchpoints along the purchase route that set out the amenities and restrictions associated with the Saver Fare.

AP

In addition, Alaska is working with online travel agencies and portals to include pre-purchase alerts for customers that would notify them if a listing for a Saver Fare instead of regular economy.

Confusion while using third-party online travel agencies was a common complaint among customers when the legacies rolled out the basic economy.

Finally, there’s Alaska concerted effort to make sure the employee tasked with making the Saver Fare experience happen are well trained and understand every facet of the service.

“I think the other thing where we saw competitors maybe didn’t put as much focus on and where we want to focus on is making sure the people working at the gates are fully educated on how to explain this ticket offering so that expectations are managed there,” Bowman said.

Once the passengers do understand the restrictions that come along with the Saver Fare, Alaska says it will make it very easy for them to upgrade to a higher fare class.

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