A variety of changes are coming to the partnership between Alaska Airlines and American Airlines as of January 1, 2018, according to a post shared on Twitter by @bmvaughn.
The carriers’ two loyalty programs (Mileage Plan and AAdvantage, respectively) have long enabled reciprocal earning and redemption options when you travel on each others’ flights. In addition, there are some perks like complimentary access to seats with extra legroom if you have elite status. The partnership made great sense for the two carriers when Alaska Airlines was much smaller since it essentially expanded their reach across the country while helping American fill in some gaps in their West Coast network.
This same story could be told about Alaska and Delta, which ultimately parted ways earlier this year since Delta is now making a push to grow its own network, and Alaska has purchased Virgin America. Now it’s American’s turn.
First, the positive news: Alaska and American aren’t calling it quits entirely. You’ll still be able to take advantage of several key benefits:
- You’ll be able to earn Alaska Airlines miles on all international American Airlines flights and also on domestic American Airlines flights booked as an Alaska Airlines codeshare (this means operated by American Airlines but with an AS flight number on your reservation).
- You’ll be able to continue redeeming Alaska Airlines miles on many American Airlines flights. (The nature of Alaska’s award chart means you were never able to book any American flight, but it appears that this list of eligible destinations isn’t changing.)
- If you’re a member of the Alaska Lounge, you can continue to use the Admirals Club when flying on Alaska Airlines or American Airlines.
The bad news is you won’t be able to earn Alaska Airlines miles on domestic flights booked with an AA number, and you won’t be able to use your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan elite status to get free checked backs or seats with extra legroom when you fly on American Airlines. Upgrades were never a part of the AA/AS partnership, but even these two small perks can make traveling in coach more bearable.
Through the rest of the year, this will remain the current chart for earning Alaska miles on American Airlines flights.
The codeshare rule could be particularly tricky when trying to reach destinations not served by Alaska. For example, if I want to fly on American Airlines to Amarillo, TX, this can only be booked with AA flight numbers even though codeshares exist for the SEA-DFW leg. The alternative would be to book multiple tickets for each part of my journey — a risky choice when flying through Dallas.
Some of the pricing for American Airlines award tickets booked with Alaska Airlines miles will also be changing, probably going up for the most part. This makes sense and has been a long time coming since Alaska has not made any changes since American’s last major devaluation. For example, if you’re disappointed about the loss of American’s off-peak awards on many routes, they can still be booked with Alaska miles. Check out the Award Maximizer to view current pricing.
More information can be found on the Alaska Airlines blog. If you have specific questions you can ask them there or I’m happy to reach out to my contacts and try to get additional details on what we can expect next year.