Subscriptions are coming to travel, should you get on board?

Apr 19, 2022, 4:00 PM | Updated: Apr 20, 2022, 12:00 pm
FILE - The first Alaska Airlines passenger flight on a Boeing 737-9 Max airplane takes off, Monday,...

FILE - The first Alaska Airlines passenger flight on a Boeing 737-9 Max airplane takes off, Monday, March 1, 2021, on a flight to San Diego from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. The subscription pricing model is trending in the travel industry. Alaska Airlines recently launched a subscription service for West Coast flyers, offering 1-cent flights (on top of a monthly fee) for flights between California, Nevada and Arizona. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Subscriptions have seeped into nearly every consumer industry, from TV to tacos. There are even services that help subscribers cancel all their subscriptions. But one industry has notably lagged: travel.

That could be changing.

The market for travel subscriptions has started to expand and includes cheap flights, airport lounges, luxury accommodations and high-end credit cards.

“Subscription models can add a lot of predictability to an industry that can be very spiky,” says Amy Konary, vice president at the Subscribed Institute by Zuora, a think tank focused on the subscription economy .

Travel purchases tend to be one-off and transactional. Airline and hotel loyalty programs aim to promote loyalty and benefits, but only those travelers who travel (and pay) a lot can reap the rewards. Subscriptions could turn this concept on its head by offering these benefits upfront.

“The subscription model lets you get access to those premium perks by paying directly,” Konary says.

Will customers take to this idea? Travel brands are rushing to find out.


Alaska Airlines dipped a toe into the subscription waters in March with the launch of its ” Flight Pass.” For a price that starts at $49 per month, subscribers can book one round-trip main cabin flight every two months for one penny plus about $15 in fees. The catch? The flights must be direct, booked within a limited time frame and, most importantly, fly between particular airports in California, Nevada and Arizona.


“Communication has been the big challenge,” says Alex Corey , managing director of business development and products at Alaska Airlines. “It’s been hard for people to appreciate that this might not be designed for them. If I went to my favorite store and it didn’t meet my needs, I’d be like, ‘Hey, make this this way.'”

Instead of trying to be everything for every traveler, Alaska’s subscription has focused on a narrow niche: younger Californians with plenty of wanderlust and schedule flexibility. So far, just under half of subscribers are millennials or Generation Zers, according to Alaska.

It’s a niche product, to be sure, but Alaska is confident that it can appeal to a particular kind of West Coast traveler.

“Californians travel 3.5 times more within their own state than residents of other states do,” says Corey, explaining why the airline chose the state as the proving ground for its idea.

And Alaska focused on the lowest-cost entry point possible, starting at $49 per month to make a flight subscription seem feasible to almost anyone.

“We wanted to compete with an Uber ride or a bar tab,” Corey says.


On the other side of the price spectrum, the luxury travel platform Inspirato offers a subscription service for vacation rentals and high-end hotels starting at $2,500 per month .

That’s $30,000 per year for the opportunity to book high-end accommodations around the world. That might seem like a huge bill for a vacation budget, but it’s potentially more reasonable for remote-working nomads looking to travel as much as possible.

Yet Inspirato’s subscription, too, comes with a long list of caveats and exceptions. Pass holders may book just one trip at a time, bookings are on a first-come, first-served basis and many rooms and homes are available only during off-peak seasons.

Less spendy digital nomads can choose Selina, a co-living and coworking subscription service that combines the cost of accommodation, office space and dependable Wi-Fi into one monthly bill. Subscribers can bounce between Selina’s global destinations and take advantage of surfing lessons, yoga classes and other wellness activities.

These services offer one benefit to potential customers that is difficult to quantify: simplicity. Rather than searching through hundreds of vacation rental listings, subscribers can make one payment per month and choose from a range of vetted options.

Yet simplicity alone won’t cut it, Konary says. Consumers are wary of adding another monthly bill to their long list of active subscriptions and need to know they’re getting a good deal.

“As we’ve become more familiar with these models, we have a high bar for what we expect in terms of value,” Konary says.


Travel subscriptions aren’t a new idea. JetBlue Airways introduced an “All You Can Jet” unlimited flying pass way back in 2009. The promotion received plenty of attention but didn’t translate into a sustainable business model.

And successful travel subscription services already exist. Premium travel credit cards offer perks to travelers such as airport lounge access for a yearly fee. And services like TSA PreCheck and Clear let flyers bypass normal security lines.

But a new wave of subscriptions is coming to travel with one big difference — specificity. Instead of trying to be the Netflix of travel, with something for everyone, new services are providing niche offerings to specific demographics.

Not everyone wants to fly within California every other month or take surfing lessons in Belize at a coworking space. But for those who do, these subscriptions could offer a valuable way to travel without the hassle. Or they could go the way of MoviePass.

“I do think what we’re doing is unique,” Corey says. “I hope it catches on.”


This article was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet. Sam Kemmis is a writer at NerdWallet. Email:


NerdWallet: Is the Alaska Flight Pass even a good deal?

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


File - People shop at an Apple store in the Westfield Garden State Plaza mall in Paramus, New Jerse...
Associated Press

A key inflation gauge tracked by the Fed slowed in February

The Federal Reserve's favored inflation gauge slowed sharply last month, an encouraging sign in the Fed's yearlong effort to cool price pressures through steadily higher interest rates.
10 hours ago
FILE - The OpenAI logo is seen on a mobile phone in front of a computer screen displaying output fr...
Associated Press

Musk, scientists call for halt to AI race sparked by ChatGPT

Are tech companies moving too fast in rolling out powerful artificial intelligence technology that could one day outsmart humans?
1 day ago
Associated Press

Starbucks leader grilled by Senate over anti-union actions

Longtime Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz faced sharp questioning Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee
2 days ago
FILE - The overdose-reversal drug Narcan is displayed during training for employees of the Public H...
Associated Press

FDA approves over-the-counter Narcan; here’s what it means

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved selling naloxone without a prescription, the first over-the-counter opioid treatment.
2 days ago
FILE - A Seattle police officer walks past tents used by people experiencing homelessness, March 11...
Associated Press

Seattle, feds seek to end most oversight of city’s police

  SEATTLE (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department and Seattle officials asked a judge Tuesday to end most federal oversight of the city’s police department, saying its sustained, decade-long reform efforts are a model for other cities whose law enforcement agencies face federal civil rights investigations. Seattle has overhauled virtually all aspects of its police […]
3 days ago
capital gains tax budgets...
Associated Press

Washington moves to end child sex abuse lawsuit time limits

People who were sexually abused as children in Washington state may soon be able to bring lawsuits against the state, schools or other institutions for failing to stop the abuse, no matter when it happened.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.
Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.
SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!
safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Subscriptions are coming to travel, should you get on board?