Alaska Airlines is planning on joining the OneWorld Alliance in 2021, and that will mean major changes for Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan and elite flyers. Currently, Alaska Airlines is not part of any of the big three airline alliances. This is great because it means that Alaska has partners from all alliances and unaligned airlines such as Emirates and Iceland Air. Yet, as Alaska Airline becomes a OneWorld member, I expect major changes.
Mileage Plan Award Changes
I’ve always argued that Alaska’s frequent flyer program is not for global awards. Alaska’s award charts are very focused on travel originating in North America. As Alaska Airlines joins OneWorld a lot of this will change. Every OneWorld airline allows for awards across nearly all partner airlines routes. This means that intra-Europe awards on British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair will soon be available. Not just USA-Europe and vice versa awards. The same goes with using JAL to Australia, not currently available, or using miles between South America and Australia on Qantas. Also not available.
By the time that Alaska Airlines joins OneWorld, more awards and global awards should be available. In addition, it will be likely that Alaska will have a major overhaul to their award structure and rules. There will be new routing rules, including new mix-partner awards for OneWorld carriers and probably a new award structure. Come 2021, Alaska Mileage Plan awards will allow Dallas to Seattle on American, Seattle to Tokyo on Japan Airlines, Tokyo to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific all on a single award! This currently would be three award tickets. Currently, Alaska limits one partner + Alaska on each award direction.
With the major change though comes some bad news. Partner awards, will change. Or at least OneWorld Partner awards will likely standardize in cost. I expect prices will likely increase. First Class awards for 70,000 miles or less on JAL and Cathay Pacific will likely increase drastically. Although, this is just my prediction.
In 2021, expect standardization of award charts across most partners. This likely means higher mileage costs associated with award tickets.
Alaska Adds Partners, Looses Others
As Alaska Airlines joins OneWorld, it’s very likely that their partnerships will change. Currently, Alaska Airlines partners with 7 OneWorld airlines and 11 other airlines.
|OneWorld||American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Fiji Airways, Finnair, Japan Airlines|
|Sky Team||Korean Airlines|
|Star Alliance||Singapore Airlines|
|Unaligned||Aer Lingus, Condor, El Al, Emirates, Hainan, Icelandair, LATAM, PenAir, Ravn Alaska|
Once Alaska joins OneWorld, they will also partner with all OneWorld airlines, including Iberia, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, SriLankan Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Royal Air Maroc, and S7.
Partners At Risk
It is very likely that in the near future that Alaska will end their partnership with LATAM. LATAM leaves OneWorld on May 1, 2020. Similarly, Korean Air is likely on the chopping block, too. Since Delta owns a minority stake and has a joint venture in both airlines, kiss them goodbye. Delta and Alaska have been battling for Seattle and partners for years.
The Emirates partnership will likely continue, as Qantas and Emirates are partners even though Qatar Airways is a OneWorld member. Yet who knows, this too could change. In addition, I’d bet all other partnerships are safe, with the exception of possibly Singapore Airlines, who may face objections from Star Alliance corporate. Yet then again, Singapore Airlines has always flown in their own jet stream and ignored Star Alliance norms.
Thankfully, OneWorld has the most liberal rules when it comes to being part of an alliance yet partnering outside of the alliance. This is why I believe that the majority of the partnerships are safe. If anything, Alaska will gain more partners than they will lose by joining OneWorld.
Alaska Elite Benefits Get Better
Once Alaska Airlines joins OneWorld, Alaska Elite benefits will be better when flying on OneWorld partner airlines. OneWorld offers standard benefits across the airline to elite frequent flyers. One can expect that once Alaska Airlines becomes a member Alaska Elites will have a more seamless travel experience with better benefits.
Alaska Elite Predictions
MVP: OneWorld Ruby
Gold: OneWorld Sapphire
Gold 75K: OneWorld Emerald
My prediction would provide priority seats, luggage and boarding on all flights, along with lounge access on all OneWorld partner airlines on international trips (outside of North America) for MVP Gold and higher. 75K members will enjoy OneWorld Emerald access and be able to access First Class lounges.
Why do I believe this? If you head over to Alaska Airlines partner page, such as American Airlines, it reads
Starting Summer 2021:
- Earn and redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles on all oneworld airlines.
- Alaska elites will enjoy privileges, including priority boarding, premium seating, baggage benefits and more when you fly on American Airlines or any oneworld airline.
- MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75k members can access 650 lounges within the oneworld® airline network.
Possible Alaska Status Qualification Changes
When it comes to status qualification, I do not think that Alaska will increase qualification requirements. Both MVP Gold and 75K have high thresholds, especially when using a mix of partners and Alaska Airlines. Alaska’s 75K requires just 75,000 miles when flying Alaska Airlines only; add in partners and Alaska requires 90,000 miles. This is just 10,000 miles shy of AA Executive Platinum requirement.
Gold status is similar, 40,000 when flying Alaska Airlines only, or 50,000 when flying a mix of partners. Unless someone flies frequently to the West Coast, obtaining status on Alaska can be difficult. Expect limitations to be added such as a requirement for a minimum of 4 segments per year on Alaska or a third requirement of additional miles when partner AA is involved. Or maybe they will blindside us with 100K mile requirement whenever it’s a mix of Alaska and partners, this way it matches AA top tier status.
Predicted OneWorld Status Benefits
My prediction would provide priority seats, checked luggage, and priority boarding on all flights, along with lounge access on all OneWorld partner airlines on international trips (outside of North America) for MVP Gold and higher. MVP 75K members will enjoy OneWorld Emerald access and be able to access First Class lounges.
Hopefully, Alaska will keep strategic partnerships in-place with Hainan and Icelandair which allow lounge access. However, there are no guarantees. The unique lounge access with Qantas and British Airways will expand thanks to OneWorld lounge access rules.
Alaska + OneWorld = Win
Overall, I truly do believe that Alaska Airlines joining OneWorld will be a win-win. Alaska will likely make some overhauls to their mileage program, but I do believe it will be for the best. Alaska is still battling for Seattle market share with Delta. The AA and OneWorld partnership will make Alaska stronger, but also sets Alaska up for a merger with AA in the future. (GOD I HOPE NOT!)