It has just been announced that Alaska Airlines will be joining Oneworld alliance in Summer 2021. In addition, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines will re-strengthen their partnership once again; by withdrawing their initial decision to cease reciprocal mileage earnings and elite status benefits. American Airlines has also taken the opportunity to launch two international routes from Seattle to Bangalore and London.

Re-kindling Between Alaska Airlines and American Airlines

The relationship between American Airlines and Alaska Airlines turned sour when Alaska Airlines bought Virgin America’s asset in 2016. This acquisition has caused many overlapping destinations with American Airlines.

Frequent Flyer Programmes Returning to The Good Old Times

Since 2018, both airlines have dramatically scaled down their partnership:

  • Initially in 2018, the airlines ceased both reciprocal elite benefits and reciprocal mileage earnings for domestic flights (except for codeshare flights). Alaska Airlines also revised their redemption rates for American Airlines flight upwards
  • In addition, both airlines were also supposed to end all reciprocal mileage earnings in March 2020 (except for codeshare flights)

With Alaska Airlines joining Oneworld alliance, both American Airlines and Alaska Airlines will re-instate reciprocal mileage earnings and elite status benefits.

New American Airlines Flights From Seattle to Bangalore and London

Beyond Frequent Flyer Programmes, American Airlines has also announced that they will be launching two new international flights from Seattle – the home base for Alaska Airlines:

  • Daily B787-9 flight between Seattle and Bangalore as of October 2020 (American Airlines has not flown to India since 2012)
  • Daily B777-200 flight between Seattle and London as of March 2021

We can expect to see rising codeshare flights between American Airlines and Alaska Airlines. Tapping on Alaska’s regional traffic, we are likely to see further international expansion out of Seattle by American Airlines. American Airlines Vice President of Network Planning has named this partnership with Alaska Airlines the “West Coast International Alliance”.

Below is the timeline that summaries Alaska Airlines’ arrangement with Oneworld alliance and American Airlines.

Enemies Turned Friends Because of Delta?

Many have came to this conclusion because of the following two reasons:

Firstly Alaska Airlines and Delta do not see eye to eye, as Delta has been using Seattle as a transpacific hub since 2014; this threatens Alaska’s survival as Delta feeds this transpacific hub with its domestic traffic.

Secondly, American Airlines and Oneworld Alliance were forced to cut ties with LATAM when Delta purchased a 20% stake in late 2019.

The Future of Alaska Mileage Plan

Although Alaska Airlines does not have huge international operations, its frequent flyer programme is highly popular among the “miles community” worldwide because of these reasons:

  • Low redemptions rates
  • Mileage earnings and redemption partnership with popular airlines such as Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Japan Airlines
  • Alaska miles promotions, which enable everyone to buy miles at low rates to redeem cheap Business/First Class flights
  • Free stopovers

With Alaska Airlines joining Oneworld alliance, there are more opportunities to earn and redeem Alaska miles. However, there are also a few things to be worried about.

Revision of Redemption Rates

The Alaska Mileage Plan currently has different redemption rates across partner airlines. If Alaska choose to have standardised Oneworld redemption rates (a common practice among Oneworld member airlines) there is a possibility that these redemption rates will be revised upwards.

Some of these Oneworld partner airlines include Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.

Possible Removal of Airline Partners

For partner airlines, who are not under Oneworld alliance, there are some chances that some airlines may choose to discontinue the partnership, due to competition or a conflict of interests.

Some of these non-Oneworld partner airlines include Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance) and Korean Air (SkyTeam).

Conclusion

This news has taken many by surprise. While we always love airlines to form new partnership or join an alliance, we cannot be too sure whether Alaska Airlines decision to join Oneworld alliance would be really good for us; there is a possibility that Alaska may have to revise its redemption rates upwards. No matter what the outcome is, we will have to go with the flow and continue to hunt for sweet spots for flight redemption.