On Monday, Delta Air Lines and AeroMexico began a “joint cooperation agreement” to operate flights between the United States and Mexico. This doesn’t necessarily change the average customer’s experience. However, it does allow the two carriers to cooperate more closely to market, sell, and operate flights together. That kind of efficiency could potentially lead to more flights to more destinations and lower prices. The original application was filed in 2015.
Their relationship is already a lot closer than some realize. Delta has steadily increased its ownership stake in AeroMexico and currently owns 36% of the airline, with options to increase that stake to 49%. I’m generally in favor of free markets and consolidation in the aviation industry. If they manage to accomplish the goals they claim, that’s great. However…
Wild Speculation on What This Means for Alaska Airlines
…this news got me thinking. Before I go further, please know I’m putting on my conspiracy hat and have nothing to justify my logic except a pattern of events.
Rocky noted in January that AeroMexico’s relationship with Alaska Airlines was rather rocky from the start. Alaska Mileage Plan awards for travel on AeroMexico were mysteriously blocked beginning in February 2016. Alaska only made it official in January of this year (conveniently enough, most airlines only publish inventory 330 days out, so the delay guarantees there were no outstanding awards paid for with Alaska miles). You can continue to earn Alaska miles on AeroMexico, but it is now one of the few partners that makes it impossible to redeem miles for award travel.
All this points to a strengthening of the Delta-AeroMexico relationship, and, less obviously, a trend of SkyTeam carriers parting ways with Alaska Airlines. Air France-KLM and Korean Air are the only remaining Mileage Plan partners with full earn/redeem reciprocity, and Korean Air’s relationship was weak from the start with some convoluted redemption rules. Recent Alaska partnerships with Hainan and JAL to the west, and with Condor and Icelandair to the east, might be signs of preparation for future turmoil between Mileage Plan and SkyTeam. It could be years away or might never happen, but it would not surprise me.