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Originally it was meant to happen by the end of this year, but when Alaska Airlines realized just how complicated joining a global airline alliance can be, the date for it to join oneworld was pushed back to “not before the end of the first quarter” of 2021. Well, as vague deadlines go, that one turned out to be remarkably accurate because Alaska Airlines has now announced that it will join the oneworld alliance on 31 March 2020.
The news that Alaska Airlines was set to join the oneworld alliance came as a shock to most people when the news first broke in February of this year, but with the airline joining forces with American to counteract Delta’s increasing presence on the West Coast, the move makes sense.
Since the announcement, one of the bigger questions that keeps getting raised is the one that asks how much of Alaska’s individuality (the things that help Alaska Airlines differentiate itself from the larger, less popular airlines) will disappear once it has to fit in with its new partners in the alliance? The fact is that no one outside of Alaska Airlines knows the answer to that but with a firm date now set for Alaska’s membership of oneworld, we’re a lot closer to finding out.
Here’s how Alaska is framing the benefits it believes are on the way for the airline and its flyers:
oneworld further opens the world to our guests with more than 1,000 global destinations. You’ll fly more easily from Boise to Beijing or Portland to Prague. We’re already Global Partners with six oneworld members which include American Airlines, British Airways, Japan Airlines and Qantas, but soon we’ll add seven new partners under the alliance umbrella including Iberia and Qatar Airways.
Connectivity becomes easier with oneworld as our network (especially strong on the West Coast) supports the major, long-haul international flying of our fellow member airlines.
With our award-winning Mileage Plan program, our guests will be able to accrue and redeem miles across the oneworld global network.
For our elite travelers, oneworld prides itself on providing a consistent, high quality guest experience across the alliance. Status with us means status with oneworld and its 13 member airlines. This includes access to oneworld member airlines’ lounges when traveling internationally, priority check-in, access to preferred and pre-reserved seats, priority boarding and many other benefits. This key improvement to our guest experience will help us compete with our bigger U.S. rivals who offer their own global network.
oneworld also boosts the visibility of the Alaska brand. Being a member of a prestigious global alliance will help us be better known around North America – and around the world.
Interestingly, the very last paragraph of the Alaska Airlines blog post that announced the joining date touches on the issue of its non-oneworld partners (Singapore Airlines, Emirates, EL AL, etc…):
Also, you might be wondering about our partnerships with our current Global Partners that are not a part of oneworld. We value the benefits those partnerships provide our guests, and we’ll continue to maintain them as long as it’s mutually beneficial to do so.
That doesn’t really say very much does it? It’s neither a commitment to make those partnerships work nor is it an admission that some partnerships will have to go by the wayside if they clash with the interests of Alaska’s new partners in oneworld (Qatar Airways tolerates American’s partnership with Etihad but will it tolerate Alaska’s partnership with Emirates?)
This is something that only time will tell…and that’s pretty much also the case with Alaska’s generous loyalty program and equally generous award charts. Will they still be intact come 31 March 2021? How about on 1 January 2022? Considering how much more customer-friendly some of Alaska’s MileagePlan rules are compared to the rules of the other oneworld airline loyalty programs and considering how much easier it will be to earn top-tier Alaska Airlines status (and therefore top-tier oneworld status) when flights from all the oneworld airlines count towards that status, it’s hard not to believe that things are going to change…and not for the better.
Still, for the time being all we have is speculation and no more than that. We can try to second guess what Alaska’s management team will want to do and what the other oneworld airlines will ask Alaska Airlines to do, but the truth is that we’ll just have to be patient and wait for the next announcement to be made (and then wait for the one after that too). For the time being it’s probably safest to assume that things won’t be staying the same and that negative changes are on the way – that may soften the blow a bit if things do eventually change – so don’t stockpile Alaska Miles and don’t make any long term plans based on how things stand with the airline and its loyalty program right now.
I guess my key bit of advice to Alaska flyers right now would be to enjoy the good times while they’re still here because you never know when they’ll be little more than a fond memory. If you don’t know what I mean by that just ask any American Airlines loyalist to tell you about life before and after the US Airways takeover – that will give you an idea of how things can change 🙂
Alaska Airlines has confirmed that it will officially join the oneworld alliance on 31 March 2020. For those of us who hold elite status with other oneworld airlines, this is almost certainly good news. For Alaska’s own elites the merits (or otherwise) of this news are yet to be revealed.
[HT for the tip-off to YHBU]