Alaska Airlines’ Admission To Oneworld Delayed (Good News For Some?)

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When the news that Alaska Airlines was planning to join the oneworld alliance broke last February, it was news that very few people had expected to hear. The airline followed up that surprise with another one when, earlier this summer, it suggested that its membership of the oneworld alliance may be complete before the end of this year. Sadly, that’s a target that the airline no longer expects to meet.

Even to the most optimistic of people, the plan for Alaska Airlines to join oneworld by the end of 2020 sounded ambitious (the logistical challenges of joining one of the major alliances are huge), and now the skeptics among us have been proven right after the airline used its time at the Cowen Global Transportation & Sustainable Mobility Conference yesterday to suggest that it doesn’t expect to be in a position to complete its membership of oneworld before the end of the first quarter of 2021 [HT: Edward Russell].

If you’re in the group of people who have been looking forward to Alaska Airlines joining oneworld so that you can make the most of your Mileage Plan status across a significantly increased network, you’re probably going to be disappointed by this news and are going to have to show a little patience.

If, however, you’re in the group of people who fear for the future of the Mileage Plan program (specifically with regards to the program’s award charts), this may actually be good news. The longer it takes Alaska Airlines to join oneworld the bigger delay we may see before the expected (and almost inevitable) devaluation to Mileage Plan is introduced. This could be of special interest to anyone who took part in the last Alaska Mileage sale in which Mileage Plan members were sold miles at a discount with the promise of an even better discount in October.

While that sale was running, I pointed out that anyone making plans to buy miles in October would be making an assumption that Alaska’s current award charts would still be intact at that point in time and, with Alaska planning to be part of oneworld by the end of the year, that was a risky assumption to make. The news that Alaska Airlines now won’t be joining oneworld much before the end of 1Q 2021 has reduced the risk on an imminent devaluation considerably, so, for the time being, it’s probably safe to continue to make short-term plans based on Alaska’s current award charts.

Bottom Line

It was a huge surprise when, earlier this year, Alaska Airlines announced that it would be joining the oneworld alliance. The news that the airline’s ambitious timeline to join the alliance by the end of this year has fallen flat is not really a surprise at all.

An incredible amount of work goes into incorporating a new member into a global airline alliance (the new member’s systems and processes have to work in harmony with the systems and processes of the alliance’s other members) so, considering the workload and the current world conditions, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the new estimated joining date slip again.

That’s going to be bad news for some, but better news for those hoping to continue making the most of Alaska Mileage Plans generous policies and award charts.


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