Alaska Airlines has unveiled a subscription pass that allows customers who fly regularly to save money on air travel.
The airline says Flight Pass is the first subscription-based fare plan of its kind. A monthly subscription fee, starting at $49, entitles you to a certain number of round-trip flights, between six and 24 per year. You must book the flights at least 14 days before travel, and you're still on the hook for taxes, fees, and a nominal fare charge (1 cent for most flights, according to the airline, but more for popular routes).
If you're more of a spontaneous traveler, Flight Pass Pro, a more expensive option that starts at $199 per month, allows for same-day bookings up to two hours before the flight. No matter which subscription level you choose, you must accrue flight credits before you can use them, so you can't purchase a year's pass and use all your flights by March, for example.
Additionally, the pass is valid only in a small part of the country — and, ironically, not anywhere in Alaska. You have to fly among 13 airports in California, plus Reno, Las Vegas, or Phoenix.
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While this may be the first subscription-based service for airfare, airlines have been offering subscriptions for extras like airport lounge access, free baggage, and in-flight Wi-Fi for years. American Airlines used to offer a truly unlimited lifetime flight pass in the 1980s and 1990s, but at $250,000 or more, only people like Mark Cuban could afford it.