There are new rumors today that Alaska Airlines might be the winning bidder for Virgin America. The New York Times, among other news outlets, reports that Alaska Airlines is poised to pay $2 billion and could announce as soon as Monday. However, this is still coming from an unnamed source, as were earlier rumors that Alaska and JetBlue were both making bids. I have yet to read anything official.
I’m not going to comment on whether the deal makes sense. I think there’s a lot of speculation on that, and I’d like to wait and see what is given as justification when the deal is announced — if at all. However, I’ve already seen a couple people say they’re looking forward to the possibility of Alaska adding some of Virgin’s partners to its Mileage Plan program. That’s something I will discuss.
In short, I just don’t see it happening. Alaska Airlines would be expected to negotiate new partnerships with any airlines it brings over from the Virgin America side, and there are too many issues of competition with Alaska’s existing partners or strategic strengths.
Virgin Atlantic competes with British Airways. Virgin Australia competes with Qantas. Emirates is already a partner with both airlines. Hawaiian Airlines is a direct competitor to Alaska Airlines on service between the mainland and Hawaii, which is an important market for both carriers.
The only possibility I see is that Alaska might pick up Singapore Airlines. But why? It doesn’t deliver many new destinations for Alaska’s customers, and it could irritate Cathay Pacific (although less directly than Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Australia would irritate BA or QF).
So, don’t be jumping up and down just yet hoping to see a raft of new partnerships for Alaska Mileage Plan.