Oneworld Is Getting A New Member Airline (And Maybe More!)

It has been an interesting few weeks for the “big three” global alliances. For years these alliances were constantly adding airlines, while for the past few years there hasn’t been much movement.

I’d argue that largely these alliances are outdated concepts, as airlines are finding much more value with joint venture partnerships, where airlines are truly working together.

However, in the past several weeks:

It looks like there’s now even more news.

Oneworld is getting a new member airline

As noted by Skift, oneworld is holding a press conference in New York on December 5 to announce their “first full member airline recruit for six years.”

We don’t officially know what that airline will be, though it sure seems to me like one of two airlines is most likely:

  • China Southern has just left SkyTeam, American has invested in them, and it seems like the airline is eventually headed for oneworld, though it’s anyone’s guess if that will actually happen, given that Cathay Pacific is presumably opposed to it
  • As noted by View from the Wing, Royal Air Maroc seems like a likely contender, given that they already have a joint venture with Qatar Airways, they already have a partnership with Iberia that allows you to redeem Avios on them, they’re starting service to Miami next year, and they fill a gap that isn’t currently served by oneworld, as the alliance doesn’t have any airlines based in Africa

So it’s anyone’s guess which of those airlines is most likely to join oneworld, or who knows, it could be any of a number of other airlines.

Alaska wants to become a oneworld Connect member

Earlier this year the “oneworld Connect” concept was announced, as Fiji Airways became the first airline to join this model. Essentially this means that airlines don’t fully join the alliance, but rather have a limited partnership.

Here’s how oneworld describes this concept:

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

For example, here’s a chart showing oneworld Connect benefits, with some benefits available on all oneworld airlines (priority check-in and boarding), and more benefits available on the oneworld sponsor airlines:

It looks like another airline is interested in this concept. Alaska Airlines’ Chief Commercial Officer, Andrew Harrison, had the following to say today, per Skift:

“There’s a Oneworld Connect membership that we’re looking it. The whole goal here is to ensure that when people in the cities we serve travel internationally they are on our partners so they stay in our program.”

“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.”

So it doesn’t sound to me like Alaska Airlines is the one joining oneworld on December 5, though there’s potentially some interesting stuff happening here.

Frankly I’m not sure how valuable this really would be, given that Alaska Airlines is already pretty good about having unique airline partners and offering valuable benefits on them. Still, it seems like it could be a cool step for them.

Bottom line

While it was pretty boring for a while when it comes to the major global alliances, we’re finally seeing some excitement, both positive and negative. I’ll be curious to see what airline joins oneworld as a full member, and am also curious if Alaska ends up joining as a oneworld Connect member.

What airline do you think will join oneworld?

Comments

  1. Does this mean that MVP = OneWorld Ruby, MVP Gold = OneWorld Sapphire, and MVP Gold 75K = OneWorld Emerald? Because if so, I can see Alaska elite status becoming the “Aegean and Turkish Elite status” of OneWorld.

  2. So is the notion of Aer Lingus joining OW now dead?

    Alaska joining in some capacity would be interesting. I wonder if they would allow cross-earning with AA again.

  3. MVP 75Ks getting OW Emerald would be great but I have a hard time imagining that since you can get AS status flying solely on airlines such as Emirates, Singapore, Iceland, etc.

    But I’d settle for earning BA Tier Points for Alaska flights. That would let me easily maintain MVP Gold and BA Gold.

  4. Would rather have Air Italy Join and give another option for Europe travel.

    RAM is great for Casablanca but not really exciting news for the masses.

    China Southern, probably more profitable, again just doesn’t do anything for me.

  5. It probably won’t be but having Alaska would be great. Losing the reciprocal benefits on AA was a kicker.

  6. It’ll give oneworld a direct US to Africa connection which they lack. Although probably won’t entice people to fly them if they are going beyond Morocco.

  7. What would happen if AS developed its own OW award chart? Is it possible that the CX sweet spot would get subsumed?

  8. I doubt it would be Alaska realistically they do everything better than American
    American has to see them as a threat
    Who would ever want to fly American and hope for a decent flight attendant and professional polished service and a comfortable seat and earn next to nothing in AAs damaged FF program?
    Yes Alaska could use the benefit of an Alliance but I would be stunned if it happened
    American even blocks seat assignments and AAs elite benefits
    when booking their flights on Alaska.com

  9. @ flyingrohit — Nope, for oneworld Connect airlines they don’t actually get full oneworld status, but rather just select check-in and boarding privileges.

  10. @ Greg DeMichillie — oneworld Connect doesn’t come with oneworld-wide status, so wouldn’t expect that to happen.

  11. @ jfhscott — Since being a oneworld Connect member doesn’t actually get full access to oneworld awards, I wouldn’t expect we’d see such a chart.

  12. Royal Air Maroc doesn’t have such a large network in Africa. An airline like Rwandair (despite their smaller footprint) would probably be more useful especially in east and central africa which BA has pretty much negleted.

    @Jeff
    With QR threatening to leave OW, i doubt their 49% owned Air Italy would be joining at this point. Alone the protest from AA…

  13. I am guessing it’s Philippine Airlines. They’ve been in the press lately about joining and alliance. And some aviation insiders have been saying OneWorld. Prior to the financial crisis that shut it down for a month, CX was in the process of sponsoring PAL to join OneWorld. And after the crisis, for a time, CX management took over.

  14. I am guessing it’s Philippine Airlines. They’ve been in the press lately about joining and alliance. And some aviation insiders have been saying OneWorld. Prior to the financial crisis that shut it down for a month, CX was in the process of sponsoring PAL to join OneWorld. And after the crisis, for a time, CX management took over.

  15. Hope it’s WestJet. Having a proper competitor to air Canada in a large alliance would be helpful to the consumer.

  16. I just got the scoop on this from an insider. Spirit is joining Oneworld. They figured that award availability to Europe in the “Big Front Seats” and quality of service will match up well with AA’s basic economy product and loyalty program. They will also announce that AA is moving to make all miles expire every 3 months and in exchange Spirit will decrease the boarding efficiency so they don’t embarrass the AA Group 4 credit card holders on code-share flights.

  17. @Howard if WestJet joins anything, it will be SkyTeam. They are doing a JV with Delta and partner with KLM-Air France.

  18. I think it’s too soon for China Southern. My money is on PAL or RAM.

    Longshots = Hawaiian Airlines (JV with JAL) or Aer Lingus (IAG).

  19. There have been rumours that it’s Philippine Airlines. Representatives from oneworld have been invited a few times to their main office. But once China Southern joins, this will become more complicated.

  20. Royal Air Maroc would fill an existing gap between Europe and Western Africa that today Oneworld has. It’s not all about North America folks 😉

  21. Whomever it is the idea of where Alaska is going will be a thing to watch. They are like a lost boat in the ocean these days. Huge mistake in giving up the Virgin brand and a massive payout for basically slots and aircraft/personnel. The return is the loss of a great brand. They are going nowhere without some sort of link up beyond their joint ventures. Branson must be laughing at this and their unwillingness to change to a full Virgin brand and pay him the fee. The Alaska brand is just not going to cut it on their own outside of the west coast.

  22. The choice for Philippine Airlines will be a very interesting proposition. For a while they’ve courted (and failed to deal with) Delta for various reasons, and because nothing materialized it will seem that their entry into SkyTeam has become all but near-impossible.

    PAL and Cathay have had a good relationship over the past few decades, and I wouldn’t be surprised if oneworld truly welcomed PAL into their ranks. If anything, it marks a major shift in the company’s reputation (aiming for Skytrax 5, among other things). Besides, they’re the only remaining significant flag carrier in Southeast Asia not being part of any alliance.

  23. Welcome to One World Alliance China Southern we have been expecting you. Cathay Pacific will actually benefit from China Southern partnership. China Southern does not compete in the upscale market with Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines. China Southern would help Cathay Pacific compete with the cheap Chinese mainland carriers. I hope American and China Southern get a DFW CAN route going with a 788 beater.

  24. It would make sense from their point of view to add Air Italy, as Oneworld is extremely weak in the Southern / Southeastern Europe market. I would say it just doesn’t exist there.

  25. @Sam
    agreed, RwandAir (WB) would be a great addition to OW given that QR flies to KGL and WB to London (sadly LGW instead of BA hub LHR). It would make for a nice hub in east Africa to connect to Burundi, Angola, Zambia, Cameroon, Nigeria & select Airports in Tanzania.
    KGL airport is very modern and has a solid Lounge (also PP), so that would be great.

  26. Royal Air Maroc is wildly desirable! Africa is such an abysmal blank spot on oneworld’s map and its one of the reasons I consider leaving it. Aside from a few terrible un-redeemable flights on BA, all we have are the southern and eastern cities on QR, and that’s just not enough. FInally, Bangui goes on the oneworld map!

  27. Air Koryo is most likely it. North Korea suffers from ZERO service on One World. Kim Jin Un has been looking for better what’s to earn frequent flyer miles.

  28. Air Koryo makes a lot of sense given that Korea airlines and Asiana are part of the other 2 major alliances. OW needs a presence in Korea.

  29. I wish China Southern would join, but unfortunately that seems not to be the case. TPG has explicitly written that RAM’s CEO will be present at the occasion, so I’m going with Royal Air Maroc.

  30. My bet is on Aer Lingus. Their recent expansion to US destinations requires more harmony with AA. And with many pax using DUB as a pre-clearance transfer point, they also need a better alliance with the European carriers. Watch this space…

  31. Maroc does address OW deficiencies in North and West Africa and a few places in central Africa. The alliance would still be miserably weak in southern and eastern Africa, except for the completely useless “carrier imposed surcharge” BA flights. Compare to Star Alliance with Ethiopian, South African, Turkish and Egyptian (and others) providing service to just about everywhere, with a respectable number of direct intra-Africa flights.

  32. It’s possibly Philippine Airlines.. for a while now, on the PAL website, you can book flights from Manila to other mainland US destinations with connecting flights operated by AA.. (for example, MNL-LAX by PR, LAX-MIA by AA). It might be a clue..

  33. Royal Air Maroc makes more sense to me than PAL. Southeast Asia is already covered by oneworld members CX and MH whereas northern/western Africa barely has any oneworld coverage.

  34. My case is an interesting one and a classic example why Alaska Air MUST do something. Thru this year I have had MVP Gold 75K status each year since that level was introduced in their program. This year for the 1st time I will struggle to even make MVP Gold status. Most of my travel is to Latin America. Used be able to fly DL and earn miles on AS. Used to be able to fly Aeromexico and earn miles on AS. Used to be able to fly AA and earn AS miles on the whole itinerary. Not anymore. Only earning potential is AA on international segments and LATAM (still only on LAN flights even though they merged with TAM to create LATAM well over 5 years ago). Then to top it, one cannot book any revenue flights on the AS website to any destination they do not serve. For example, I cannot book a trip on one ticket to Sao Paulo flying AS SEA-DFW then AA DFW-GRU. Booking separately always costs way more. Major shot in the foot by Alaska in my opinion and it pains me that being a Seattle based traveler (Alaska is our hometown airline) I will seriously have to opt to go with Skyteam next year. Fingers crossed that whatever AS is looking to do, particularly, allowing booking revenue trips using partner airlines wherever they fly to on the AS website happens sooner rather than later before I finally have to jump ship once and for all.

  35. Yes, Morocco is technically in Africa, but it’s not really got a strong enough network in and around the centre of the continent and doesn’t really fill the African void in the alliance. Plus I just can’t see enough opportunities for connecting traffic anywhere within their network to be of great benefit to oneworld.

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