Alaska & Oneworld Connect: What Does It Really Mean?

Filed Under: Alaska

Update: Alaska Airlines will be joining oneworld as a full member as of mid-2021.

Yesterday I wrote briefly about how Alaska Airlines’ Chief Commercial Officer suggested that the airline was looking at becoming a “oneworld Connect” member.

This is different than becoming a full oneworld member, so in this post I wanted to look more closely at what this would (and wouldn’t) mean for frequent flyers.

What is oneworld Connect?

Oneworld Connect is a new concept for the alliance. Earlier this year it was announced that Fiji Airways would become the first oneworld Connect airline, but that hasn’t even fully launched, so it’s understandable that there’s confusion about how this concept works.

Essentially oneworld Connect is intended to be an option for (mostly) smaller airlines to join the alliance without having to pay the full membership costs. Joining a global alliance is expensive, so Connect members are those that partner with some oneworld airlines and that can add value, without wanting to fully join.

Here’s how oneworld describes this concept:

oneworld connect partners will provide select alliance benefits to frequent flyers from any oneworld member airline traveling on their flights, with a more extensive range of benefits offered with a subset of oneworld member airlines, known as their “oneworld sponsors.”

Here’s a chart showing oneworld Connect benefits:

So I figured it makes sense to clarify what a oneworld Connect membership would and wouldn’t mean for Alaska Airlines.

What oneworld Connect wouldn’t mean for Alaska

“Does this mean Alaska MVP Gold 75K would become oneworld Emerald?” “Does this mean we could redeem Alaska Mileage Plan miles on all oneworld airlines?”

No and no.

If Alaska becomes a oneworld Connect member, elite tiers in Mileage Plan wouldn’t come with corresponding oneworld status. It wouldn’t be possible to earn and redeem Mileage Plan miles on all oneworld airlines.

Similarly, not all oneworld frequent flyer programs could suddenly earn and redeem miles for travel on Alaska.

Furthermore, Alaska and American scaled back their partnership as of the beginning of this year, and Alaska becoming a oneworld Connect member wouldn’t necessarily undo that.

What oneworld Connect would mean for Alaska

If Alaska becomes a oneworld Connect member, all oneworld Emerald, Sapphire, and Ruby members would receive priority check-in on Alaska, and all oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members would receive priority boarding on Alaska. That’s actually it.

The intent of oneworld Connect is that it would create a framework for Alaska to better cooperate with several oneworld airlines. Becoming a oneworld Connect member requires being sponsored by existing airlines in the alliance, and Alaska already has close relationships with British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas, and I imagine those would be Alaska’s sponsors.

So under this concept you could expect that they would offer through checking bags and passengers, reciprocal mileage earning and redemptions (including elite miles), and access to select lounges. But Alaska already offers all of those things on their potential sponsor airlines.

Lots of people don’t realize this, but Alaska offers access to British Airways and Qantas lounges under select circumstances.

So I hate to be the downer here, for those who thought MVP Gold 75K would soon translate to oneworld Emerald status, and that you could soon redeem Alaska miles on Qatar Airways. It ain’t happening. And trust me, I wish it were, I’d love to just be loyal to Alaska and call it a day.

So what’s the point?

Ultimately the big three airline alliances are marketing vehicles for airlines, and the oneworld Connect concept is the most superficial level of marketing of all. It’s something that Alaska is even quite transparent about:

“The benefit to Alaska Airlines with these global partners is when people start to think Alaska, they are starting to think global. They are starting to make their plans around flying on our global partners. We are looking at ways to get more seamless.”

Obviously the push for Alaska here is to try and better reinforce that they have global partners, and having limited participation in a global alliance would further make that point.

Oneworld Connect might be valuable for an airline that isn’t good at forging partnerships to begin with, but that’s something Alaska is already very good at. They have a robust frequent flyer program with a unique array of airline partners. So them being a oneworld Connect member is more about reinforcing that concept, rather than materially changing anything that benefits frequent flyers.

So while I understand the excitement at the concept of Alaska being in oneworld, this would mean almost nothing… at least that’s how I see it.

What do you make of Alaska becoming a oneworld Connect member?

  1. @ Ben — I sure hope this means that we can credit AA domestic flights to AS once again in 2019. I very seriously doubt that will happen, but it would be nice!

  2. For me: nothing.

    Never been on Alaska and having no plans either. And rarely travel OW. I was a bit of a Qatar flyer and even loyal QRPC member for a a few years but since Bakar ‘enhanced’ the program I’m out as it is now utterly useless. He has completely screwed it up.

  3. So what about Alaska elites? Nothing?

    Alaska elites only get to use the BA lounges only in London, not JFK. But they still don’t get any benefits like free seat assignment let alone priority.

    Hell, BA doesn’t even give interim lounge access if you’re connecting on Alaska, even if you flew in on BA First!

  4. i think if Alaska and AA merge it will be great as AA get access to the northwest and Alaska network get much bigger,

  5. “So under this concept you could expect that they would offer through checking bags and passengers, reciprocal mileage earning and redemptions (including elite miles)“

    As it stands, flying Alaska earns BA Avios (miles) but not Tier Points (their equivalent of elite miles). So that would be a change. Or am I missing something?

  6. mike,

    There’s no way the merge would be approved. One of the reason that AS had to partially cut down the partnership with AA was merger with VX made them so dominant at the West so anti trust law didn’t like it. If they were to merge with AA, they will be taking all of AA’s LA network which DOT would 100% go against.

  7. As a Bay Area flier, the one thing I need from Alaska is options to the places they don’t fly nonstop to (former VA routes) that don’t involve changing in Seattle. For example, St. Louis, Denver, San Antonio, I have to change in Seattle to earn Alaska points. If I had that, along with a good number of nonstops out of all three area airports, Alaska would be my primary. I fly enough for top tier on one airline so I can choose United (which ties me to SFO, no OAK and it’s, well, United) of I can split between Alaska and United and hope to make 50k on both. I was very disappointed when AS stopped earning miles on AA.

  8. As a AS MM’er and one that travels internationally regularly this mean nothing furthermore it sucks as usual with AS playing second fiddle. One only needs to remember their first agreement with NWA we got essentially nothing I asked a NWA agent once and he said we are treated just like regular passengers, then DL that sucked as well.
    Once again, the other airline elites get something and we get nothing. Frankly with PP/AMEX PLT traveling internationally isn’t so bad. AND nothing changes with points redemption with BA /AA/ Finnair or the others we have that already, AA who the hell wants to fly “Air Dougie”

  9. Could AS joining OW connect result in them needing to devalue their generous award chart with some OW partners, such as US to Asia 70k Cathay F and 75k JAL? That is my only concern.

  10. I had my very last flight on Alaska last month. First Class ticket out of JFK and neither that ticket nor a Priority Pass Premium card would get us access to the Alaska lounge………just a stupid stupid policy that made me laugh and say well their merger has now made them think like United and American and therefore I am history to them………………and their soft and hard continental JFK-SFO had to be one of the worst attempts I have ever seen………..they are a great West Coast regional airline but it stops right there…………..

  11. AS would be far better served by expanding their codeshare arrangements such that they’re symmetrical for airlines other than AA and fixing a ridiculous issue with earning on their metal.

    Being able to book partners on an AS ticket (other than AA) would make them more global than being able to offer a few basic benefits to OW elites.

    The fact that one can’t credit a QF marketed flight operated on AS metal to MileagePlan is also just crazy.

  12. Alaska may become a Oneworld Connect member first, but they will definitely move to a revenue-based program before implementing full membership (which is still a big if). The rumour is the new MileagePlan will be announced next year, no?

  13. Also in the Skift story the Alaska Airlines COO mentioned that they want to sell international flights on Alaska’s website.

    That got me thinking about 3x Alaska miles with the B of A / Alaska Airlines Visa. Or possibly new connection options like a pairing a domestic AS flight with an international AA flight to earn MP miles all the way.

  14. @UA – In the same article it mentions AS will start code sharing on partner services. I believe QF/AS have already requested approval for code sharing to begin in January.

  15. So like, Alaska Golds wouldn’t even get back into AA MCE seats? So the partnership they had before was better than OneWorld Connect?

  16. @JustSaying pretty much sums it up about Alaska. Take away their MP and they’re barely in the also-rans category.

  17. AS will probably become a little closer to the OneWorld international members it is already close to. Will probably keeps its distance from AA as that is a competitor.

  18. @justsaying
    I flew AS First JFK to SFO over the Thanksgiving Holidays and was easily granted access to the JFK Terminal 7 lounge (which btw, happens to be the old UAL lounge before abandoning JFK for Newark). Not sure why you were denied access.

  19. @justsaying @RobASFO If you are flying AS on an upgrade fare I do not think you get lounge access. Actually AS’ policy is better than they typical US airline where you are not allowed lounge access domestically even with paid F/J.

  20. Well that’s a downer… I was looking into access for oneworld space from Mileage Plan, but I guess that’s not happening. But still, at least they do have access to *some* of the oneworld partners.

  21. I think as will start selling tix of some ow carriers directly, and that means gold benefits on the booking front. Big win! That’s as best benefit imho, no change fees.

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