Update 03-31-21 – Alaska has officially joined Oneworld. Learn the latest on reciprocal benefits and upgrades and more here.
American Airlines and Alaska Airlines are syncing up as new strategic partners. In a massive move, Alaska will be partnering closely with American on long-haul routes, and will be joining the oneworld alliance.
Here is what this will look like:
- Alaska Airlines intends to join the oneworld alliance, the world’s fastest growing and most highly rated global airline alliance, by summer 2021, which will connect Alaska guests to more than 1,200 destinations worldwide.
- American will launch the first service from Seattle (SEA) to Bangalore, India (BLR) beginning October 2020. A new American route from SEA to the global business hub London Heathrow (LHR) will begin flying in March 2021.
- The airlines will continue their domestic codeshare that offers customers hassle-free booking and travel between the two networks. The codeshare will expand to include international routes from Los Angeles (LAX) and SEA.
- Alaska and American loyalty members will enjoy benefits across both airlines, including the ability to earn and use miles on both airlines’ full networks, elite status reciprocity and lounge access to nearly 50 American Admirals Club lounges worldwide and seven Alaska Lounges in the U.S.
New American & Alaska Partnership
After years of weakening their partnership, the two carriers are back together and stronger than ever before. In fact, American and Alaska were expected to shrink their codeshare partnership in March 2020. Clearly, that’s not the case anymore.
Beyond just codeshares domestically, the two airlines will forge codeshares on routes to China, New Zealand, Australia from Los Angeles.
New American Airlines Routes From Seattle
American and Alaska will also codeshare on new routes operated by American:
- Seattle/Tacoma (SEA) to Bangalore, India (BLR) – October 2020
- Seattle/Tacoma to London Heathrow (LHR) – March 2021
While the Bangalore route might seem a bit random initially, make no mistake this is a play for a corporate contract with Amazon and Microsoft — both companies (and many tech companies) have a huge employee presence in Bangalore, and obviously have their corporate headquarters in the Seattle area.
“Beginning West Coast international service from Seattle will complement American’s strong existing international network from LAX,” said Vasu Raja, American’s Senior Vice President, Network Strategy.
“India is a grossly underserved market, despite the number of businesses with a major presence in both India and the West Coast. By adding Seattle to Bangalore, we’re giving customers from more than 70 U.S. cities access to India in one stop or less — versus the two, three or four stops they’d have to make to get there in the past.”
On American’s end, where the airline has been weak in the Pacific Northwest, this gives the airline a huge lift with an expanded network in the region.
For Alaska, joining the oneworld alliance may mean the end of fantastic, low mileage redemptions (like with Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines) and lucrative Mileage Plan earnings. The award charts will have to restructured to factor in the rest of oneworld.
While I personally love the expanded relationship specifically between American and Alaska, I am nervous about the future of Mileage Plan and how the oneworld alliance will play in. At the very least, I suspect Alaska may end relationships with some of its current partners.
This is huge news and an evolving story on how this will play out in the months to come.
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