Take that, Delta. Alaska offers free rides to Sea-Tac

It could be a while before Delta Air Lines begins zipping Starbucks or Amazon execs around Sea-Tac Airport in Porsche hybrids — as it does at a few other U.S. airports — but the growing competition between Delta and Alaska Airlines is yielding some benefits for ordinary travelers.

While the two airlines maintain a partnership that allows travelers to earn and redeem frequent-flier miles on each other’s flights, they’re trying to win all the business they can for themselves. As Atlanta-based Delta strives to develop Seattle as a West Coast hub, it’s adding routes that are among the most popular in Seattle-based Alaska’s network.  More on this in my recent Travel Wise column for The Seattle Times. 

In the meantime, Alaska is stepping up its game in other ways, including offering free rides to Sea-Tac Airport the Monday and Tuesday before Christmas. During the two-day promotion, Alaska Airlines will pay for one ride for up to $50, for Uber to shuttle travelers to the airport in town cars.

Uber is a San Francisco-based technology company that connects riders with drivers of vehicles for hire in more than 60 cities and 20 countries around the world.

Travelers can request a ride through the Uber application, which is available for Android and iOS devices here.. After entering their credit card information, travelers can request a ride to Sea-Tac Airport from their current location. During the two-day special, Uber rides will be charged to Alaska Airlines.

The offer is valid t from midnight, Dec. 23 through 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 24.. Rides will available on a first-come, first-served basis. Cars typically seat four passengers and are available 24 hours a day.  

Back to the flight competition, Delta will add more than 25 new nonstop flights out of Seattle this spring and summer and five new West Coast destinations — San Francisco, San Diego, Vancouver, B.C., Fairbanks and Portland — as well as expand service to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Anchorage. It’s also starting new nonstops to Hong Kong, Seoul and London (while dropping service to Osaka). To drum up advance bookings, both airlines are offering double mileage award promotions (miles must be credited to their own mileage plans) on certain domestic flights.

Alaska’s promotion covers travel through May 31, 2014, while Delta’s goes through October 2014. Both include “elite-qualifying” miles that help customers earn top-tier frequent-flier status. Alaska’s offer has no cut-off date. Delta requires booking by Dec. 31.

It’s worth a reminder that starting next year, Delta will require passengers who want to maintain their elite frequent flier status in 2015 to spend a minimum of $2,500 with the airline in 2014, including tickets purchased through Delta for travel on most partner airlines, but excluding taxes, bag fees and other extras.

Dollars spent this year for travel in 2014 will count, said Delta spokesman Anthony Black, since both dollars and miles will be posted to passengers’ accounts on the day after travel, regardless of purchase date.

When it comes to fares, the competition between the carriers should push some ticket prices lower, but it could take a while for spring and summer deals to surface, a reason to be careful about booking too far out. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be ready to pounce if you spot a bargain. Anchorage is a good example. Delta will add two seasonal nonstops daily there starting June 5, 2014. A recent search turned up round-trip fares for June and July in the $250 range on both airlines.

As for the Porsche service, no word on when Delta might expand this perk to customers in Seattle.

The program provides select “high value’’ passengers with pickup at aircraft boarding doors and a transfer to connecting gates. It began as a trial in Delta’s Atlanta hub, and has since been expanded to Los Angeles, New York and Minneapolis/St. Paul.

More PreCheck options

It shouldn’t be long before most anyone willing to pay $85 and undergo fingerprinting and pass an ID check could be cleared to use the government’s fast-pass PreCheck security lanes at Sea-Tac.

The Transportation Security Administration has said it plans to open 300 enrollment centers to expedite PreCheck processing.

“We’ve been working with TSA on a program and hope to announce something fairly soon,’’ said Sea-Tac Airport spokesman Perry Cooper. (The first PreCheck application center opened on Dec. 4 at the Indianapolis airport.)

Those who qualify — as of now, elite fliers invited by their airlines or members of the Global Entry, Sentri and Nexus boarder crossing programs — get to pass through security, in most cases, without removing shoes, belts, etc., or laptops and liquids from carry-ons.

Time to get away

It's a good time to start planning a post-holiday getaway to Portland, Victoria or Vancouver, B.C.

•Clipper Vacations (clippervacations.com) has overnight packages from Seattle to Victoria through April starting at $290.50 for two, including round-trip transportation on the Victoria Clipper; a night in a Victoria hotel; and taxes and fuel surcharges.

•PCC Natural Markets is giving away two-for-one coupons for travel through April (some blackout dates) on Amtrak Cascades trains.

•And don’t forget Priceline for winter hotel deals. An $85 bid for a 3.5-star “Upscale Plus” hotel in downtown Portland recently landed me a room in the Portland Marriott City Center. The price was $189 on the hotel’s website.


  1. Two quick comments re: TSA PreCheck. Even though I am eligible through the Global Entry program, I was shuttled through the regular line at DFW over the Thanksgiving holidays. My wife scurried through the PreCheck line, even though both of us had provided our Known Traveler ID's to Alaska prior to our journey. My boarding pass didn't include the PreCheck logo, hence the different experience. I was told by TSA staff that even if you have paid for the Global Entry program, you don't always qualify for the shorter lines.

    Also, I have an artificial knee, so even when I go through the typical PreCheck line, I still need to remove my shoes, coat, belt, watch, and empty my pockets before walking through the scanner. So far, paying to join the program has been positive; skipping the long lines is worth it when it works. We will be taking two overseas journeys in 2014, and I hope to skip some of the long wait times at Customs when coming back into the country.

  2. Thanks for the input-What a lot of people find confusing is that even if you have paid for the Global Entry program and have PreCheck clearance, you might not get it every time you travel because TSA randomly still selects some for full screening. Sounds like that's what happened to you in DFW.

  3. Carol,
    I have had a Nexus account for more than two years. I dutifully input all the info and head off to the airport. In that time I have only "gotten lucky" twice. Every other time they push me to the main line. Strange thing was the one time we were told we couldn't use the PreCheck line by the women who took our luggage, we tried anyway and got right through.

    Don't get me wrong, I love my Nexus card as we are frequent visitors to BC and it has saved us SO much time in border lines but I wish I knew what I was doing wrong. I have asked Alaska and TSA but I keep getting the "it's just the luck of the draw" answer.

    We flew from YVR to HTR last summer and were cleared as PreChecked both ways by BA. Felt like it should have felt here.

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