Alaska Airlines, American Airlines

Alaska Aims to Join oneworld By Mid-2021 Plus Expanded pAArtnership

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This is REALLY big news.

alaska oneworld

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Alaska Airlines today announced both a new expanded partnership with American Airlines AND their intent to join the oneworld airline alliance in 2021

First, let’s look at the details Alaska announced today regarding the new American Airlines partnership (which essentially revitalizes the one they used to have and then killed off a few years back):

Effective immediately:

Redeem Alaska Mileage Plan™ miles on all American Airlines flights.
Access any of American’s 50 Admirals Club locations worldwide with an Alaska Lounge membership.
Continue to earn and redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles on our current portfolio of 16 Global Partners.

Starting Spring 2020:

Earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles on any American Airlines flights, domestically and internationally.

Starting Summer 2021:

Earn and redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles on all oneworld airlines.
Alaska elites will enjoy privileges, including priority boarding, premium seating, baggage benefits and more when you fly on American Airlines or any oneworld airline.
Access 650 lounges within the oneworld network as an MVP Gold or Gold 75K member.

Now, let’s discuss

First off, I have to say that this is absolutely fantastic news. That doesn’t mean there can’t wind up being some downside, but on the whole this is amazing.

Alaska has, hands down, the best frequent flyer program in North America (and maybe the world). They care about customer service, and the Alaska Mileage Plan program can provide tremendous value on all sides of the equation:

  • You can earn Alaska Mileage Plan status starting at just 20,000 flown miles annually or 25,000 if you also fly partners with mid-tier status that waives award change/redeposit fees) at just 40,000 Alaska flown miles or 50,000 total miles a year.
  • You still earn based on miles flown! Yes, that is right. You earn miles based on miles-flown, not on spend like all other US carriers now do. I know it’s almost hilarious that we still call them miles, when they aren’t – but they are still real miles with Alaska.
  • They have some great non-alliance partnerships, like Emirates and Fiji. While the redemption rates on Emirates got blown up a couple of years ago, you do still avoid Emirates’ hefty surcharges. For example, I’m using 85,000 Alaska miles to fly Business Class to Male. Using Emirates’ own currency would have been about 50% more miles PLUS almost $1,000 in fees.
  • You can get a free stopover even on a one way award ticket.
  • Redemption rates for some routes are incredulously good, such as 70,000 for First Class on Cathay Pacific or JAL to Asia or on Qantas to Australia – which includes a free stopover! Here are some examples:

About the only downside to Mileage Plan is that, aside from Marriott Bonvoy, no bank points transfer in and the Alaska credit cards don’t tend to have outsized bonuses, not do they have high earning potential for everyday spend.

Partner Earning Rates With Alaska Mileage Plan

And if you actually fly a lot in premium cabins on revenue tickets? Holy cow – see this chart for earning on BA flights, for example:

Insane, right?

Alaska + oneworld

So, having Alaska in oneworld next year does a few things:

  • It allows you to earn very generously flying and then spend on their also generous award chart.
  • It also allows you to accrue status easier than any other oneworld program if you fly Alaska’s own metal, meaning that you’ll now be rewarded network-wide with oneworld elite benefits.  For people looking to leave American’s AAdvantage program (or being forced to), Alaska Mileage Plan is going to be a fantastic option.

Alaska + American Airlines AAdvantage

The benefits (all above) will be very welcome for all involved. The biggest question I have will be around reciprocal upgrades. Delta and Alaska used to have reciprocal upgrades when they had a similar partnership (now defunct). But the old Alaska/AA partnership did not. For that reason I suspect it will be a “no” but who knows? That would sure be the icing on the cake.

This is also a cheaper way to book AA award flights on some routes if you are rich in Alaska miles. For example, a transcon on AA in Business would be 32.5k AA miles or just 25k Alaska.

Final Thoughts

The biggest question to me will be if this leads to a watering down of the Alaska Mileage Plan award chart. Invariably if it grows substantially, sweet spots may become less sweet or vanish entirely.

Beyond that, and I sure hope this never happens, I am scared that one day American Airlines tries to acquire Alaska.

really hope that never happens…..

Are you excited by this news? Or a bit nervous?

Let me know here, on Twitter, or in the private MilesTalk Facebook group.

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