Alaska Airlines is planning to join the Oneworld Alliance. Since their announcement in February 2020, there has been an ever changing timeline on when the airline would become a full fledge member. The latest plan brings Alaska into the Oneworld Alliance by March 31, 2021.
When Alaska made the announcement of joining Oneworld, their plan was for summer 2021. This was pre-pandemic and at a time of record growth for both the airline and the industry. Seattle was set to become a major Oneworld hub, with American Airlines adding several international flights from Seattle. Utilizing Alaska’s West Coast dominance, Oneworld member airlines could serve the entire West Coast via one stop in Seattle.
Coronavirus has altered the plans slightly. Initially, with less flying Alaska Airlines thought they would be able to integrate more quickly. In June, the airline confirmed they were on track to join Oneworld by year end. Now, Alaska Airlines is backpedaling. If all goes as planned, Alaska will become Oneworld’s 14th member in March, 2021.
Oneworld Integration is Hardwork
Alaska Airlines has many of their own IT solutions. Doing it cheaper or “better” than the out of box solutions, Alaska has a complex network of homegrown IT solutions. As a standalone network carrier this has worked for them. Yet, as an alliance member Alaska has to be able to talk to all Oneworld partners and provide a seamless travel experience. This means all of these systems need overhauling.
Everything needs refreshing. When Alaska joins Oneworld, they will be connected with over 1000 global destinations through their partners. Their systems need be able to connect your luggage to all partner airlines and destinations. In addition, even little things like their lounge computer systems need upgrading. As they will need to be able to recognize partner elites from S7 to Malaysia Air to allow seamless access and recognition.
Many changes are coming as Alaska Airlines joins Oneworld. Alaska’s Mileplan awards are being overhauled to allow earning and burning on all Oneworld partners. Even Alaska’s luggage system will change as for the first time in modern history Alaska will offer priority luggage for elite flyers.
Change is in the Air
Change is coming to Alaska Airlines. Expect Oneworld benefits to kick in by April 1, 2021. As time gets closer to joining Oneworld, expect to see the Oneworld blue orb and gems showing up everywhere from check-in signs to lounges to airplanes. Alaska will try to make their airlines globally know through the Oneworld Alliance.
As Alaska joins Oneworld, there’s always the looming question. What about currently aligned partners? Oneworld allows airlines to work with partners outside the alliance. Look at the Qantas-Emirates partnership as an example. Alaska will have to re-examine partnerships with Hainan, Singapore Airlines, Korean Air, LATAM, Condor, and El Al. My guess is Korean Air and LATAM are on the chopping block. After all, Delta has been lobbing for this for years.
What do you make of Alaska joining Oneworld?