There goes the big game…

I’ll never forget the feeling flying from New York to Florida on JetBlue in the early 2000’s. Live TV via DirectTV had just been installed and it was absolutely mind blowing. Even more mind blowing: the US Mens National Soccer Team was competing well in the World Cup. The flight was one of the most amusing experiences of my airborne life, as I watched the arms of the collective cabin go up and down with joy and agony. The flight was an early insight into the airline tech revolution, but where’s it all going? Alaska Airlines has now removed live TV from Virgin America flights and will soon remove seat back screens entirely. In addition, the airline is launching basic economy fares and raising fees. What happened to the “quirky”, “cool” airline in the USA?

No More Live TV Or Entertainment Screns

This isn’t the newest news – but it’s still just as sad. Alaska Airlines pulled the plug on live TV aboard Virgin America planes on March 1st. The airline is in the process of removing all seat back entertainment from Virgin America’s Airbus fleet. The remedy? Bring your own entertainment. The airline will launch “ultra fast” wifi, capable of allowing all passengers to stream from their own devices. If for some reason that doesn’t prove true, it’s crossword puzzles for all. There won’t be any seat back TV’s to fiddle with. To be fair – this move puts Alaska in line with American Airlines.

Basic Economy “Saver” Fares

Alaska Airlines will begin offering basic economy fares this fall, designed to extract more from your travel wallets in a move which puts the airline directly in line with competition from the “big three” US airlines: Delta, United and American. These fares will not be changeable. The fares will allow advanced seating assignments in the rear of the plane only and customers will board last when flying these “saver” fares. Unfortunately for Alaska Mileage Plan frequent flyers, these fares will not be eligible for upgrades. If you’d like to utilize your hard earned benefits – you’ll soon be forced to pay extra to do so. That’s a shame.

End Of 60 Day Free Changes

An exact implementation date has yet to be determined, but Alaska announced in a conference call to shareholders that it will end the long standing, customer friendly policy of free changes subject to fare difference outside of 60 days. Effectively, you could change any Alaska ticket for free up to 60 days before departure if the price remained the same. If not, you just paid the difference in fare with no fees. Soon – that will go. Alaska will implement a $125 change fee for all changes made outside of the 24 hour purchase window. Once your ticket is more than 24 hours old, you’ll be forced to pay $125 + fare difference, unless you’re a top tier frequent flyer. It’s not necessarily worse than any other airlines, but it certainly removes a brand differentiator.

Is Alaska now “just another airline”?