Alaska Air offering first bag free for frequent fliers

Alaska Airlines is giving its frequent fliers a New Year’s present: a baggage fee waiver during January.

The SeaTac-based airline announced Tuesday it will waive its customary $25 fee for the first checked bag for its Mileage Plan members during 2015’s first month. Second and subsequent checked bags will trigger a fee.

The airline wants more fliers to join its frequent flier program during what is usually a slower month for air travel.

Unlike some other airlines’ frequent flier programs, Alaska isn’t moving to a spending-based frequent flier reward program. Alaska is retaining its program of rewarding customers based on miles flown, not on the money they spend on their tickets. Under Alaska’s program a 600-mile trip from Sea-Tac to San Francisco will earn the same number of frequent flier miles if the flier pays a $49 fare or a $129 fare.

The airline, however, will give fliers who buy a first class, refundable coach and business class fares with a 75 percent mileage bonus beginning Thursday.

Fliers who aren’t Alaska Mileage Plan members can sign up online at Alaska’s website, or at the airport before they check their bags to take advantage of the free first bag offer.

Alaska is competing on some routes with Southwest Airlines, which has yet to begin charging checked bag fees. Another competitor, JetBlue Airways, announced last month that it will begin charging checked bag fees in 2015 for its customers paying low fares. JetBlue formerly didn’t charge for its first checked bag.

Two ultra-low cost airlines, Spirit and Allegiant, charge their customers both for checked and carry-on bags. Spirit does not fly from Sea-Tac, but offers routes from Portland. Allegiant likewise has no routes from Sea-Tac, but has made Bellingham a small hub for its flights to vacation destinations.