OneWorld: Alaska airlines to join OneWorld Alliance
Alaska Airlines has announced its intention to join the OneWorld alliance by mid-2021 and to form an international alliance with American Airlines.
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Alaska currently has a domestic codeshare agreement with American Airlines, but it was scheduled to shrink this as of March 202. Instead, they will expand this codeshare agreement to West Coast international routes from Seatle (SEA) and LAX.
The extension of the codeshare agreement gives customers access to more destinations and frequent flyer program benefits. Lounge access will expand to nearly 50 American Admirals Club lounges worldwide as well as 7 Alaska Lounges in the USA.
This can be viewed as a kind of interim arrangement until Alaska has its membership of OneWorld confirmed. Once that happens some of these mutual benefits will just come under the OneWorld alliance, rather than just a joint codeshare agreement.
OneWorld membership benefits
Once approved, Alaska Mileage Plan members can earn and redeem miles throughout OneWorld’s network, with reciprocal benefits on other member airlines, including priority check-in and boarding, access to preferred seats and free checked luggage.
In 2018, it was announced that Alaska Airlines might join OneWorld Connect – which is kind of OneWorld with training wheels. Instead, they have opted for going straight to the big school.
Alaska Airlines got a lot bigger in 2016 when it acquired Virgin America for 2.6 billion, the airline founded by Richard Branson in 2004. Alaska is now a substantial player in the USA market.
What this means for Alaska Mileage Plus loyalty program members
In the USA, the Alaska loyalty program is held in high regard for the low bar of its redemptions and low fees, and the ease of earning miles. Unlike most other USA airlines it has maintained a milage based earn rate rather than moving to revenue base – so you earn points according to how far you fly, rather than how much you spend.
On the surface, presuming that the basic tenants of the scheme don’t change, there will be little to see here for current Mileage Plus members. That’s because Alaska Airlines already are partners with many one world airlines including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, and Qantas, as well as the limited partnership they already have with American Airlines. The important gain for USA domestic flyers is that they will be able to earn Alaskan Mileage Plus points on their American Airlines flights. So it’s back to the glory days of reciprocal mileage earning between the two airlines.
Qantas Frequent Flyer members – what this means for you
Well, pretty much what you would get on with any other OneWorld member, so the benefits include:
- Earning QFF Points
- Earning QFF Status Credits
- Access to lounges (according to status)
- Include Alaska Airlines flights in Qantas/OneWorld round-the-world redemptions
- Additional checked baggage allowance (according to status)
This is an overwhelmingly positive development for Qantas Frequent Flyers. Premium status members will gain the most, with better lounge access and benefits. The other valuable benefit will be the ability to earn Status Credits on Alaska Airlines flights, although we have yet to see what the earn rate will be.
The downside of Alaska Airlines joining OneWorld is likely to be for Mileage Plan members. On the plus side, they will have more opportunities and some new destinations for redemption. On the downside, it is almost certain that redemption rates will increase. This is major, as it was the low redemption rates of Alaska Airways that made the loyalty program so attractive.
Two other potential downsides are the disappearance of a free stopover on one-way awards and the potential for Alaska to loose other partnerships outside the OneWord alliance, like those it has with Korean and Singapore Airlines.
So in summary, if you are a Qantas Frequent Flyer member – Yeah! If you are a Mileage Plan member, then redeem those miles before 2021.