Alaska Airlines’ buy-one, get-one fare sale comes with a bonus: an empty seat for COVID-19 safety

Chris Woodyard
USA TODAY

Published 2:30 PM EDT Sep 15, 2020

Trying to turn its empty seats to an advantage, Alaska Airlines announced a two-day airfare sale Tuesday that should delight pairs of passengers traveling together who dreamed of having their own row.

Instead of a simple two-for-the-price-of-one sale, Alaska’s “Get the Row with BOGO” promotion guarantees that two people traveling together will have a third seat that’s left empty.

Given that Alaska has already been blocking middle seats on its mainline flights for social-distancing purposes during the coronavirus pandemic anyway, a promotion that puts two people in a row for three might not be viewed as a giant challenge. But the Seattle-based carrier says the move is aimed at appealing not only to those who seek more comfort, but personal safety.

“Our hope is with this offer … our guests are given further peace of mind while traveling,” said Sangita Woerner, the airline’s senior vice president of marketing and guest experience, in a statement.

Alaska says the BOGO – buy one, get one – sale on its website is limited to travel through Oct. 31, when its guarantee of blocked middle seats for all passengers ends.  Tickets must be purchased by 11:59 p.m. PDT Wednesday. Customers still have to pay taxes and fees on the second seat, though.

The sale doesn’t apply to Alaska’s regional aircraft because they only have two – not three – seats on each side of the aisle.

Alaska isn’t the first airline to try to turn social distancing into a promotion. Deep-discounter Frontier Airlines announced a plan in May to charge passengers at least $39 a flight to sit next to an empty middle seat. The idea was quickly dumped after an outcry from congressional Democrats who viewed it as trying to profit from the virus.

In addition to blocking middle seats at no cost to passengers, Alaska said it is