Like many people this morning, I was jumping up and down about the announcement from Alaska Airlines about joining Oneworld alliance and extending their relationship with American Airlines. Now, that I have had breakfast and a chance for the news to sink in, I have some questions. I am a top-tier member of the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan, what does this mean for me? What is going on with “dance partner” American Airlines?
First, let’s focus on the on-again, off-again relationship with American Airlines. I have been standing on the sidelines watching this marriage fall apart over the last two years. It’s been watching a married couple not completely divorcing because they have to sell the house first. They just get more miserable as time drags on. The marriage was ripe with benefits and had been reduced to just a code-sharing agreement.
What happened here? You have heard that phrase: “it’s cheaper to keep her” and I think that American Airlines has come to that realization. Delta Airlines has been on the attack on the west coast for the past few years. They came into Seattle to overthrow Alaska Airlines on their home turf. Delta has been going from an alliance-based carrier to a joint venture carrier. I believe that American Airlines has come to the realization that they need to strengthen their west coast presence.
The willingness of American Airlines to stay married to Alaska may have a motivation of better competing against an aggressive Delta Airlines. A self-serving motivation I guess is what is needed to save an ending relationship. Using Alaska as a feeder to grow American’s international routes out of Seattle would give some much-needed competition for Delta.
At this time, we don’t know the specifics of how this revived-relationship will unfold. Will Alaska Airlines be able to earn miles while flying on Amerian only on trans-pacific routes or will it be system-wide like it used to be?
UPDATE 11:30 EST
Starting Spring 2020:
Earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles on any American Airlines flights, domestically and internationally.
There is no date at this time on what constitutes Spring 2020.
I was jumping up and down about this little nugget. As the euphoria declined, I started thinking about what does this really mean. For example, mileage earning on existing Alaska Airlines partner carriers has been pretty generous. Here is the mileage earning rates for Alaska while flying on British Airways:
As you can see, crediting flights on British Airways to Alaska Airlines carriers some hefty bonus mile credits. Will mileage earnings be scaled back to something less generous?
On the redemption side, what changes if any will we see? One of the best perks with Alaska is to get a free stopover on a one-way award ticket. Will the free stopover go away? If you want to go to London, Paris and Rome, you could book two one-way trips using miles:
- U.S. gateway city to London and then on the Rome,
- Rome to Paris then on to your home airport.
Alaska Airlines has good rates on award tickets. They still have an award chart so that you know exactly what your ticket should cost. Will the redemption rates for the Alaska Airlines mileage plan go up?
Then there are the existing partner airlines that are not members of Oneworld. Alaska Airlines recently established a partnership with Singapore Airlines. What will happen with existing Alaska partners that are not members of Oneworld?
Alaska Airlines Elite Membership
Alaska Airlines has the most generous elite qualifying requires on the planet:
- Tier 2 – MVP requires 20,000 Alaska only miles or 25,000 Alaska and partner miles
- Tier 3 – MVP Gold requires 40,000 Alaska miles or 50,000 Alaska and partner miles
- Tier 4 – MVP Gold 75K requires 75,000 Alaska miles or 90,000 Alaska and partner miles
Will my MVP Gold 75K membership become Oneworld Emerald? Will this change the mileage requirements for earning status on Alaska Airlines. If the earning requirements stay the same, I can see a hoard of status matchers coming to Alaska for easier status qualifications.
Alliance Change Timeline
We don’t know enough about the press release other than the press release itself. What remains to be revealed is the mechanics and execution of these alliances. The Alaska Airlines mileage plan may be the best program in the airline universe. There are many issues that we will not know about for a while like possible negative changes for the Alaska Airlines mileage plan members. I will be following the development of how these alliances play out and I report back as soon as the details are released.