Alaska Airlines Companion Fare Complete Guide

Updated 6/19/18 to reflect new requirement to pay using the Alaska Airlines Visa.

The Alaska Airlines Companion Fare Code is undoubledly one of the top perks of the Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card and the Alaska Airlines Visa Business. This single-use benefit repeats each year and can be used to enormous value, as shown below.

Alaska Airlines Companion Fare

A few general things to know about the Alaska Airlines Companion Fare Code

First, a few general things to know about the Alaska Airlines Companion Fare code / tickets:

  • You get one code per open Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card and/or Alaska Airlines Visa Business card account. This means, for example, if you have both the personal version and business version, you will receive two Companion Fare codes.
  • You don’t need to fly before the code expires. The code is valid for bookings made up until the expiration date (which is one year from the date the code is issued), though you can book as far out as the schedule allows (meaning you need to book before expiration; you do not need to fly before expiration)
  • Companion Fare codes are only valid for economy class bookings
  • You can instantly upgrade to first class by booking an upgradeable economy class fare and then using elite-status guest upgrade certificates after booking
  • It doesn’t have to be used for a round-trip. While the benefit is often advertised as being for round trip itineraries, one-ways also work, as do routings that might not seem conventionally round trip (more below)
  • Travel can’t take place on partner airlines. The Companion Fare is only valid with paid fares on Alaska/Virgin/Horizon/etc.
  • Companion Fares can not be used with award tickets. Your travel needs to be a normal paid economy class fare.
  • The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature sometimes offers the Companion Fare for $0 + taxes for the first year (find the current offer information here); in subsequent years, the Companion Fare costs $99 + taxes

Finding your Companion Fare code

When you log in to your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account, you can find your Companion Fare(s) on the left side of your profile under “Discount and Companion Fare Codes” and “Valid”:

Your fare code(s) will appear under the “shop” button.

Your valid Companion Fare code(s) will appear under the “Shop” button as seen in the image above. If you click on “Shop”, it will automatically populate that code in Alaska’s multi-city search tool:

If you clicked the “Shop” button from your account, the code would automatically populate int he “Discount or companion fare code” box.

From there, you can fill in your city pairs. The system will accept anywhere from one pair to four pairs.

You can use the Alaska Airlines Companion Fare Code one-way

The Alaska Airlines companion fare code can be used for one-ways. As an example, here is a companion fare itinerary for two passengers on a one-way trip from Chicago-O’Hare to Seattle:

As you can see, the cost of the first passenger is $138.60. The second passenger is $99 + taxes, fees, and surcharges. The total for two passengers is $283.83. In this case, the companion fare would be a poor value since it represents barely any savings over booking two one-way fares. However, a one-way booking could be useful on a last-minute ticket, when the fare for each passenger would otherwise be quite high.

East-west rule

The main “rule” with regard to routing is that you can go east and west one time each. For example, you could go west first, then east as shown in this map, starting in Newark and heading west to San Francisco, and then traveling eastward from Portland to Newark.

As shown in that picture, the flights do not need to be strictly round trip.

In fact, you can do some backtracking on the way from one city to the next, but each of your destinations needs to lie somewhere within in a rough circle going west then east or east and then west.

A more complicated example can be seen here:

Newark to Seattle to Anchorage to Maui (west), then Maui to Los Angeles, then San Jose del Cabo to San Francisco to Boston (east)

As you can see, your itinerary can get more complex. And the dates can be booked as far out as the schedule allows, so the flights don’t necessarily need to be in close temporal proximity. Here’s an exmaple of the above map pricing out via the Alaska Airlines multi-city tool, with a trip from Newark to Seattle to Anchorage (stopping in Anchorage for four days), then flying from Anchorage to Maui (stopping in Maui for 3 days), and then five months later flying from Cabo San Lucas to San Francisco to Boston to end the trip. I priced this itinerary several months ago, and the total for 2 passengers was $1,301.46:

That’s $650 per passenger for a lot of flying. And that’s assuming that you are using  the $99 annual companion fare after year 1. If you have access to a first-year $0 fare, it would take off another $99 — dropping the total to around $600 per passenger.

What’s more, since Alaska Airlines still runs a frequent flyer program based on distance flown, each passenger will earn redeemable miles equal to at least 100% mileage flown. In the above example, that’s 13,063 miles even with no elite status bonus (enough for a saver-level one-way ticket within the continental US). A top-tier MVP Gold 75K member would earn more than 29,000 miles on that itinerary. Keep in mind that both passengers earn miles based on their status. That’s just one example — more connecting flights are possible depending on flight times. If you receive an error that your flight can not be booked, it means it isn’t a valid routing. If you’re confident that it should be valid, you may try booking over the phone with an agent (though phone bookings may incur a small fee).

Can you change an Alaska Airlines Companion Fare ticket?

Yes, you can change an Alaska Airlines companion fare ticket as per the usual Alaska Airlines change rules. Alaska long had a very customer-friendly change policy that allowed for free changes far in advance, but since mid-2018 they began charging a $125 change fee per passenger (plus any change in fare) starting 24 hours after you make a reservation for all but MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members.

What happens if you cancel an Alaska Airlines Companion Fare ticket?

If you cancel an Alaska Airlines companion fare ticket, you lose the companion fare code. You don’t want to do this. You’re much better off changing your flight to something else as far in the future as possible (in order to give you time to find an alternate plan).

Who can use my Alaska Airlines Companion Fare ticket?

As this companion fare is a discount code, it is very flexible. The owner of the code does not need to travel on the itinerary. This is nice, because it means that you could use your companion fare for friends or family to travel.

For companion fares issued before October 1, 2019, the rule is that the owner of the code either needs to travel on the itinerary or purchase the itinerary with a credit card issued in his/her name.

As an example, I am an Alaska Airlines Visa Signature card holder. I have a companion fare code. Here are the two scenarios:

  1. I plan to travel: If I am on the itinerary, anyone can pay for it. I could pay for the ticket. My companion could pay for it with his/her credit card. My uncle could pay for the ticket. Lady Gaga could pay for it. If the owner of the code is traveling, anyone can pay for it.
  2. I don’t plan to travel: I must pay for the itinerary with a credit card issued in my name, but I can book it for any traveler. I can book a companion fare ticket for my sister and her husband or for two of my friends or for Lady Gaga and her hair stylist. As long as I pay for it with a credit card issued in my name, anyone can travel.

However, for companion fares issued on or after October 1, 2019, both the primary fare and the companion fare must be purchased using your Alaska Airlines credit card.

Do I have to use my Alaska Airlines credit card to pay for the ticket?

For companion fares issued before October 1, 2019, you do not need to use your Alaska Airlines credit card to pay for an Alaska Airlines companion fare itinerary. You can use any major credit card accepted by Alaska Airlines. You may prefer using a card that comes with better travel insurance (See: Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance). On the other hand, you may be happy to pick up 3x Alaska miles on the purchase with the Alaska Airlines credit cards. The choice is yours.

However, for companion fares issued on or after October 1, 2019, you will need to use your Alaska Airlines credit card to pay for both the primary and companion fare.

Can I book an upgradeable fare?

Yes. One of the nice things about this companion fare is that you can book an eligible fare class to use one of your guest upgrades and instantly upgrade to first class after booking if you have elite status with Alaska Airlines. If you would like to instantly upgrade after booking, you will need to choose a flight with availability and a fare class that is upgradeable. For example, in the image below, you’ll see that the letter “F” in a dark blue box indicates that an instant upgrade using a guest upgrade certificate is possible:

In the example above, first class was available on both legs of the trip. However, note that you can choose to use an upgrade on one leg and not the other, paying the higher fare class for the part of the journey you wish to upgrade. You can alternatively hold off and hope for a complimentary airport upgrade.

If you opt to be waitlisted for an upgrade, your companion is supposed to be waitlisted with you. In my experience, that isn’t always automatic — I have had to bring it to the attention of the gate agent that I was traveling with a companion and they adjusted the waitlist accordingly.

Can I use MyWallet funds to pay for my ticket in conjunction with the Companion Fare?

Yes, you can use MyWallet funds to pay for your ticket when using the Alaska Airlines companion fare. As seen below, you can simply check the box at the bottom to use your MyWallet funds.

Can I use two Companion Fare codes to book four people on the same flight?

Yes, you absolutely can use two companion fare codes to book people on the same flight, provided you are following the rules for payment outlined above. This means that if you are traveling as a family and have multiple companion fares, you can book your party on a single flight.

What else?

Like most of our Resource Pages, this is meant to be a living guide that will be a work in progress. Did we leave something out? Do you have additional questions? Does something need to be updated? Please feel free to let us know in the comments.

Bottom line

The Alaska Airlines Visa Companion Fare gets a little less attention that some other companion tickets, but considering Alaska’s distance-based mileage earning program and the flexibility of the companion fare codes, this is a benefit that can be incredibly valuable if maximized properly.

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