In a crazy turn of events American Airlines and Alaska Airlines are partnering up like never before. The two airlines have decided that instead of cutting their partnership, they will be expanding it. In doing so, they will a create a West Coast focus and international alliance. In the process, Alaska Airlines will join the OneWorld Alliance.
The news is a welcome surprise. Alaska has always been alliance agnostic, working with carriers from all alliances and non-aligned airlines. Per Alaska Airlines, they are seeking full OneWorld membership. Many people assumed that Alaska would join as a OneWorld Connect partner with limited membership. Wrong; the Pacific Northwest regional airline wants full membership with all OneWorld members!
Seattle to Become OneWorld Global Hub
Alaska, American, and OneWorld Airlines plan continual growth for Seattle. British Airways, Japan Airlines, and Cathay Pacific already link their hubs to Seattle. In addition, American Airlines connects Seattle several times a day to almost every one of their domestic hubs. These include Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Miami, and Philadelphia. Now, American Airlines is adding international flights from Seattle to Bangalore, India, beginning October 2020.
Bangalore seems like a random destination for Seattle. Interesting enough, Vasu Raja, Senior Vice President of Network Strategy, believes it’s is a great option. It connects two major tech hubs. In addition, it saves 3-4 hours in travel time for many passengers. Gone will be the usual connections via the Middle East, Europe, or Asia.
The growth will continue for Seattle and OneWorld as American will also start flying from SEA to London Heathrow in March 2021. My guess is that AA will take over one of the twice daily SEA – LHR flight operated by British Airways. Three flights a day to London by OneWorld seems excessive, especially as they compete with daily Virgin service and seasonal service to London Gatwick on Norwegian.
Bangalore and London Is the Tip of the Iceberg
In the video, Vasu hints that with Alaska Airlines feeder traffic, Seattle could easily become a viable hub for AA. After Alaska joins OneWorld, more airlines may choose Seattle. Qantas has hinted at new flights to Seattle for years, and the 787 is perfect for a Sydney to Seattle flight, building open the partnership and codeshares from LAX and SF. With the American Joint Venture, this flight may become an American Airline reality instead. I would not be surprised to see new flights from Qatar, especially if the Alaska-Emirates partnership ends. In addition, Seattle is prime for an Iberia seasonal flight to Spain, or possibly more Asian destinations from Seattle on American.
Alaska and American Expand Partnership
The partnership between Alaska and American Airlines has been strained since the merger with Virgin America. The DOJ required that Alaska stop codesharing on several routes with American where service overlapped. Then, benefits for frequent flyers eroded. Finally, the airlines agreed to stop all mileage and codeshare agreements as of March 1, 2020.
As of today, there has been a 180-degree change in direction. Instead of ending all partnerships, Alaska will expand codeshares and frequent flyer benefits. Starting in March, the airlines will expand codeshares to West Coast international routes from SEA and LAX for broader international access and choice for customers. Codeshares will give customers seamless access to more destinations and reciprocal frequent flyer program benefits. Customers with lounge membership will enjoy shared access to nearly 50 American Admirals Club lounges worldwide and seven Alaska Lounges in the U.S. for same-day travel on American or Alaska flights.
The Future Is Uncertain
At this time, it is not certain what additional benefits we’ll see between Alaska and American. Back in the old days, Alaska frequent flyers enjoyed upgrades on Northwest and vice versa. I do not expect to see this level of cooperation. However, as Alaska joins OneWorld, OneWorld benefits will be available. Alaska Mileage Plan will transform. These include access to better seats, priority boarding, airport lounges, and more. Benefits like these will be extremely useful when traveling globally.
- Continue to earn Alaska Mileage Plan™ miles on American flights with an Alaska flight number (any American flight booked through our website).
- Redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles on any American Airlines flights.
- Continue to access any of American’s 50 Admirals Club locations worldwide with an Alaska Lounge membership.
- Continue to earn and redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles on our current portfolio of 16 Global Partners.
Starting Spring 2020:
- Earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles on any American Airlines flights, domestically and internationally.
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.
As you can see, if anything things are only going to get better for Alaska flyers who fly American Airlines. Including the return of earning miles on AA domestic flights!
OneWorld Lands in Seattle
As Alaska joins OneWorld, the OneWorld alliance will grow substantially in North America and on the West Coast. Alaska Airlines has a similar size and presence in Seattle as American has in Miami. We can only hope that OneWorld and Alaska will seize on this opportunity. This could mean more flights to Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego. Could you imagine if Alaska (or S7 now) brought back Alaska to Russia flights? It would be like the 90s all over again!
We expect Alaska to help drive OneWorld growth beyond Seattle. Both Alaska and American have hubs in Los Angeles. With Alaska’s help of feeder traffic, it will benefit American’s new destinations to the South Pacific. This includes the West Coast of the United States, taking on Delta’s advancements in Seattle.
What do you think of this news? Are you excited for Alaska to join OneWorld?