Alaska Airlines and American Airlines partnership is being dissolved on March 1, 2020. Going forward the airlines will only have a codeshare agreement. The current partnership, which has already been reduced since the merger with Virgin America, will see more cuts next spring. These will prevent frequent flyers on either program form earning any miles or spending miles for award travel on the other.
American Airline and Alaska Airline Changes
Alaska Airlines posted the change on their website in October which lays out the changes.
What’s changing, effective March 1, 2020:
- You will no longer earn Mileage Plan miles on American Airlines international flights.
- You will no longer be able to redeem miles for award travel on American Airlines domestic or international flights.
After the merger with Virgin American, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines cut benefits drastically. Elite customers lost all benefits when flying the other airline. Elites could no longer select priority seats, check luggage for free, or enjoy priority luggage or security screening. Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members still earn miles on AA international flights, but not domestic flights. Meanwhile, American Airline AAdvantage members could only earn miles on AA marketed flights, operated by Alaska. Similarly, on domestic flights, Alaska marketed, AA operated flights earn Mileage Plan miles. Meaning, only earning on domestic AA flights is available on codeshare flights. Miles could be redeemed system-wide on both airlines.
Starting March 1, 2020 much of this changes. Mileage Plan and AAdvantage members will no longer be able to redeem miles on any partner flight. This is a huge blow to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members as American Airlines was the only way to redeem miles to most of Central America and the Caribbean. American Airlines was also one of the best ways to get to Europe without high fuel surcharges when redeeming miles. It’s rare that Finnair releases award space in premium cabins and British Airways has high fuel surcharges.
What’s not changing:
- You’ll continue to earn a mile for every mile flown on eligible domestic American Airlines flights with an Alaska Airlines (AS) flight number to select key destinations in the Midwest and eastern US and Canada.
- Alaska Lounge members can still access over 50 Admirals Club lounges worldwide when flying on an Alaska Airlines or American Airlines flight.
Although American Airlines and Alaska will end their frequent flyer partnerships, their codeshares are not ending. In this case if the flight is flown by AA but sold with an Alaska Airline flight number, you can still earn miles on those flight. This has been the only way to earn miles on domestic flights since 2018. This is not changing.
Mileage Plan Massive Devaluation
Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan has suffered from a massive devaluation in recent years. Alaska Airlines has been shedding partners left and right and trying to slowly add them. In the last couple of years Mileage Plan members have lost Air France, KLM, Delta, Aeromexico, and now American Airlines. Due to the Delta investment in LATAM, Mileage Plan is likely to lose LATAM as well. Alaska has added JAL, Finnair, Aer Lingus, Singapore Airlines, and EL Al recently. Singapore Airlines and El Al flights can still not be redeemed for awards.
The end of the AA partnership will hurt and makes Alaska miles less valuable. There are now fewer options for awards and earning miles throughout North America, Latin America, and Europe. I cannot think of an airline which will fill this void. Subsequently, Mileage Plan is less valuable than ever. If LATAM is lost, then the ship is truly sinking. Yet then again, I’ve been saying for years, Alaska Airline Mileage Plan is not for global awards.
Meanwhile there is the American Airline frequent flyer. AA flyers will lose direct flight options from the West Coast, but not suffer nearly as much as Alaska Airlines. American Airlines has been building up their Los Angeles hubs and serves many destinations on the West Coast and beyond from Los Angeles and Phoenix. AA flyers will lose destinations in Alaska and the Northwest, but nothing like an entire region (Central America) that Alaska flyers will lose access to.
This change with American Airlines will help Delta in Seattle. Delta has a global reach and Alaska’s global reach through partners is hurt by this change. If Delta successfully convinces LATAM to stop partnering with Alaska, the battle for Seattle will be squeezed even more. As Alaska flyers will have zero access to Latin America.
I can hope that Alaska Airlines has some tricks up their sleeves. Maybe future partnerships with airlines such as Copa, Azul, or Gol in Latin America. More airline partnerships would be nice, but one can guess that almost any Skyteam or Star Alliance airline is out. But who knows, maybe we could see a TAP, Turkish, or LOT partnership. Time will only tell.
What do you make of these changes? Is anyone surprised? I actually thought Alaska and American would cozy up and work closer together. I was clearly wrong!