Alaska Airlines has announced that it will join Qantas in the Oneworld alliance in mid-2021.
Based in Seattle, Alaska Airlines has a strong network on the U.S. west coast and flies many routes to Hawaii and Alaska. But it is primarily a short-haul airline, flying almost exclusively within the United States except for a few routes to Canada, Mexico and Costa Rica. The airline merged with Virgin America in 2017.
There is already a Oneworld airline, American Airlines, which is based in the United States. American Airlines will remain a Oneworld member and expand its partnership with Alaska Airlines.
It’s already possible to redeem Alaska Airlines miles on all American Airlines flights, and Alaska Lounge members can now access all American Airlines Admirals Club lounges when flying with American Airlines. (Alaska Lounge members can also use the Qantas Club when flying with Qantas, just as Qantas Club members have access to Alaska Lounges.) In a few months, Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members will also have the opportunity to earn miles on all American Airlines flights.
Taking advantage of its new Oneworld partner’s hub, American Airlines is also launching two new long-haul routes from Seattle. American Airlines will fly non-stop from Seattle to Bangalore from October 2020, and to London Heathrow from March 2021. American will be relying on Alaska Airlines connections for these new routes to succeed.
When will Alaska Airlines join Oneworld?
As was the case for Royal Air Maroc, which will officially join the Oneworld alliance on 1 April 2020, it will take around 15-18 months for Alaska Airlines to complete the formalities required.
At this stage, Alaska Airlines says it expects to become a full Oneworld member in “summer 2021”, which in the northern hemisphere means around June or July 2021. An exact joining date will be revealed closer to the time.
What does this mean for Australian frequent flyers?
Alaska Airlines is currently a partner of Qantas. It’s already possible to earn and redeem Qantas Frequent Flyer points on Alaska Airlines flights, and vice versa. (This partnership can be particularly lucrative if you’re buying discounted Alaska Airlines miles to redeem for Qantas flights in premium cabins.)
However, it’s currently only possible to redeem Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles for Qantas domestic flights or Qantas flights between Australia and North America. Soon, you’ll be able to redeem Alaskan miles for all Qantas flights. (Hopefully, Alaska Airlines won’t “enhance” its award charts before this is made possible…)
Once Alaska Airlines becomes a Oneworld alliance member, you’ll also be able to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer status credits when flying on any Alaska Airlines flight. In addition, your Qantas Frequent Flyer status will gain reciprocal Oneworld status benefits including lounge access, additional baggage allowance, priority check-in and boarding, on all Alaska Airlines flights. You’ll also have the possibility to include Alaska Airlines flights as part of a Qantas Oneworld Award booking.
It’s already possible to earn Elite Qualifying Miles, which count towards Alaska Airlines MVP status, when flying with Qantas. In addition, Alaska Airlines MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members receive access to Qantas international Business lounges when flying with Qantas. But it will soon be possible to earn Alaskan Elite Qualifying Miles on all Oneworld airlines and receive reciprocal Oneworld status benefits across the entire alliance. That’s exciting news, as Alaska Airlines already has an excellent frequent flyer program.
What about Alaska’s current partnerships?
Alaska Airlines currently has frequent flyer partnerships with 15 airlines. 7 of these airlines are already affiliated with the Oneworld alliance, such as British Airways and Finnair. But Alaska Airlines also has some unique partners including Icelandair, Condor, Emirates, Korean Air and Singapore Airlines.
Alaska Airlines says that it plans to keep each of its existing global airline partnerships “as long as they continue to provide a unique value to our guests”. Reading between the lines, this could mean that a small number of existing partnerships are discontinued if they’re seen to compete directly with one of Alaska’s Oneworld partner airlines. (Given its recent divorce with American Airlines, LATAM Airlines could be one of the first Alaskan partners to go.)
We’ll learn more about Alaska Airlines’ new role in the Oneworld alliance over the coming months. But this is very exciting news for Oneworld, which is losing its only member based in South America from May.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Changes afoot at Alaska Airlines [joins Oneworld]