It’s a big day for both Alaska Airlines and the oneworld alliance, as the Seattle-based airline has officially joined a global alliance today. This plan was initially announced in February 2020, just over a year ago. Let’s take a look at what we know about Alaska Airlines’ new membership in oneworld, as there are still some unanswered questions.
Details of Alaska Airlines & oneworld
In many ways it seems like the “big three” global alliances are less important to airlines than before, or are at least losing steam. Airlines have instead focused on joint ventures and reciprocal partnerships, since ultimately there’s only so much airlines in an alliance can have in common.
Alaska Airlines has now joined the oneworld alliance
That’s also why Alaska Airlines choosing to join the oneworld alliance is significant. Alaska Airlines is the latest airline to join oneworld after Royal Air Maroc joined the oneworld alliance in the spring of 2020. However, around the same time LATAM left the oneworld alliance, as it continues to pursue its relationship with Delta.
If you go to oneworld’s website you’ll now see Alaska Airlines listed as a member, and you can expect oneworld airport signage around the world to be updated as well.
The members of the oneworld alliance
The American & Alaska partnership
Alaska Airlines joining oneworld is part of a bigger play whereby we’re seeing the airline cooperate more closely with American Airlines. The two airlines ultimately realize they’re better off working together than separately, in particular to compete with Delta:
- American will turn Seattle into a long haul hub, and Alaska Airlines will provide most of the feed for these flights; American has already announced plans to fly to Bangalore, London, and Shanghai
- This helps Alaska compete against Delta in Seattle, and it allows American to hopefully establish a more profitable long haul hub than Los Angeles
- Expect much closer cooperation between American and Alaska, even beyond standard oneworld reciprocity, as the airlines will work very closely together; for example, Alaska and American are also introducing reciprocal upgrades
American Airlines will be boosting its presence in Seattle
What does oneworld alliance mean for earning Alaska miles?
Alaska Airlines has long had a unique set of global airline partners, and the list of airline partners has expanded as of today. Alaska already partnered with several oneworld airlines prior to joining oneworld, including American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, Qantas, and Qatar Airways.
With Alaska now being in oneworld, it should be possible to:
- Earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles for travel on all oneworld airlines
- Earn miles with all oneworld airlines for travel on Alaska Airlines
You can find all of Alaska Mileage Plan’s mileage earning rates on partner airlines on this page.
Alaska Airlines already had partnerships with several oneworld airlines
What does oneworld alliance mean for redeeming Alaska miles?
Even though Alaska Airlines has joined the oneworld alliance, it’s business as usual when it comes to redeeming Mileage Plan miles for now, and that’s probably a good thing.
Alaska Airlines has announced that additional oneworld awards will only be launched in the summer of 2021, and the program aims to provide at least 90 days notice of any award chart changes.
It’s already possible to redeem Mileage Plan miles on several oneworld partner airlines, including American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, and Qantas.
There are so many amazing sweet spots when it comes to redeeming Mileage Plan miles, and as of now there are a lot more questions than answers, with the most significant being:
- Will Alaska Mileage Plan continue to allow free stopovers on awards?
- Will Alaska Mileage Plan continue to only allow awards on a single partner airline, or will you be able to book awards that include travel on multiple airlines?
- Will Alaska Mileage Plan create a single, unified award chart (rather than separate charts for each partner), and if so, will we see award redemption rates climb significantly?
Will we see Alaska redemption rates on Cathay Pacific increase?
What does oneworld alliance mean for Alaska Mileage Plan status?
One of the benefits of a global airline allowance is that you receive certain standardized perks when traveling on partner airlines. Here’s how Alaska Mileage Plan status maps over to oneworld:
- Alaska MVP status gets you oneworld Ruby
- Alaska MVP Gold status gets you oneworld Sapphire
- Alaska MVP Gold 75K status gets you oneworld Emerald
This is exciting for Mileage Plan members — especially top tier elites, since I consider oneworld Emerald status to be the most valuable alliance elite status.
What else should we expect in terms of status for Alaska Airlines joining oneworld?
- You can now earn elite miles for travel on all oneworld partner airlines
- We know that Alaska Mileage Plan will be introducing a new 100K elite tier, but we don’t know details beyond that just yet
Access some amazing lounges with oneworld Emerald status
What does oneworld alliance mean for Alaska’s non-oneworld partners?
One of the things that has long made Alaska Airlines unique is its partnerships. For example, Alaska Airlines has partnerships with several non-oneworld airlines, ranging from Emirates Airline, to Hainan Airlines, to Icelandair, to Singapore Airlines.
As of now there has been no announcement of any of these partnerships ending. Airlines are allowed to have partnerships outside of alliances, though in some cases the dynamics do change. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some partnerships eventually end, though only time will tell how this plays out.
For example, historically Alaska and Emirates have had a close partnership. However, with Qatar Airways now flying to Seattle, and also cooperating more closely with both Alaska and American, one has to wonder if the Emirates partnership might change a bit.
Will Alaska’s partnership with Emirates survive?
What does oneworld alliance mean for Alaska Lounge access?
With Alaska joining oneworld, there are immediate lounge access implications, both when it comes to Alaska Mileage Plan elite members accessing partner airlines, and other oneworld elite members accessing Alaska Lounges:
- American AAdvantage Platinum members and above can now access Alaska Lounges when flying a oneworld airline in most international markets same day
- All non-Alaska Mileage Plan and non-American AAdvantage oneworld Sapphire members and above can access Alaska Lounges when flying a oneworld airline in any market same day (this includes domestic flights)
- Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold members can now access all oneworld Sapphire lounges (including American Admirals Clubs), and Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K members can now access all oneworld Emerald lounges, when flying a oneworld airline in most international markets same day
Alaska Lounges are now open to select oneworld elite members
Alaska Airlines has now officially joined the oneworld alliance, which is an exciting development. The reality is that this probably doesn’t have too many immediate implications for most, between travel restrictions currently in place, plus new oneworld award redemptions only being rolled out in summer.
Still, as of today it should be possible to earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles on all oneworld partner airlines, and vice versa. Furthermore, Alaska elite members can start taking advantage of all oneworld elite perks.
For many of us, the biggest question is what happens to Mileage Plan redemptions when they’re updated this summer.
What do you make of Alaska Airlines joining oneworld?