Alaska Airlines is tightening its famously lax door policies on its First Class lounges across the United States to reduce overcrowding and provide a better experience to its top-paying customers.
Unique among carriers, Alaska Airlines previously opened its Alaska Lounges to all passengers with First Class tickets, regardless of their route, as long as the flights were purchased outright or redeemed with miles.
The airline’s policies were a sharp distinction from major rivals such as American, Delta, and United, which typically restrict access to customers on international itineraries or with top-tier frequent flyer status. But that’s all changing.
From now on, Alaska Airlines will only grant access to passengers booked on flights longer than 2,100 miles, booked after November 18, 2022, for travel from February 15, 2023.
The new restriction excludes most of the airline’s routes—primarily focused on the West Coast from its hub in the Pacific Northwest—prioritizing its handful of transcontinental flights, Hawaiian destinations, and some flights up to Alaska.
The new restrictions also forbid guests or family members unless their tickets qualify for lounge access based on their route.
The airline issued a statement noting how the popularity of its lounges during certain times of the day has reduced the level of comfort it provided to its customers. “We are making adjustments to our complimentary First Class access policy to allow for a bit more elbow room. We know change can be difficult – but we need to adjust how we operate our Lounges to ensure our guests have the best experiences possible when they visit,” according to Alaska Airlines.
“Even with this change, our First Class access policy remains the most generous in the industry for domestic travel. Most airlines do not allow access to lounges when traveling on a First Class domestic itinerary except for select markets,” explained the airline.
The airline has three Alaska Lounges at its home airport of Seattle-Tacoma (SEA) and one each at San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK), Portland (PDX), and Anchorage (ANC). The lounges offer Wi-Fi and outlets, TVs, lounge chairs, a concierge service, food and snacks throughout the day, and beverages, including Starbucks coffee, west coast wines, local beers, and custom-crafted cocktails.
Paid First Class passengers who no longer qualify for automatic lounge access can purchase a day pass to the Alaska Lounge for $30, discounted from the typical $60.
These changes don’t apply to members of Club 49, the airline’s free program for residents of Alaska. They’ll still get access to the lounges when traveling on First Class tickets to and from their home state, regardless of the distance.
Meanwhile, customers who want lounge access regardless of their flights or tickets can buy annual Alaska Lounge memberships. However, the airline is also hiking the price of these memberships by $50 across the board in 2023.
An annual Alaska Lounge membership, providing access to all eight lounges operated by the airline, currently costs $350 for elite members of its frequent flyer Mileage Plan (MVP, MVP Gold, Gold 75k, and Gold 100k) and $450 for non-elites. From 2023, the prices will rise to $400 and $500, respectively.
Alaska Lounge Plus memberships open the doors to the eight Alaska Lounges and more than 90 lounges operated by partner airlines, including all American Airlines Admirals Clubs and some United Clubs. The price is currently $500 annually for elites and $600 for non-elites. Those prices will also rise to $550 and $650 next year.