In February 2020, Alaska Airlines announced the airline would join the oneworld alliance by summer 2021. This was major news in the points blogosphere, especially for fans of Alaska Airlines’ frequent flyer program, Alaska Mileage Plan, famous for its exceptional mileage sales and excellent mileage redemption opportunities. How would this affect the program, especially when it comes to earning and redeeming miles? How would this impact Alaska’s current non-oneworld partners? In light of this news, should mileage hoarders still stockpile miles on speculation?
Well, before the public could truly digest this news, the pandemic hit, and it seemed that talk of Alaska joining oneworld had fallen by the wayside. But then, months later, Alaska Airlines CEO Brad Tilden again addressed the alliance news—with a twist. While many believed the pandemic would halt Alaska’s plan for joining oneworld, Tilden had indicated that these unprecedented times had actually helped fast-track Alaska into the alliance. In fact, he announced that Alaska Airlines could be a member before the close of 2020!
However, as recently as last week, news broke that the proposed alliance addition would now fall closer to the original time frame of summer 2021. As of now, it’s slated for QI 2021.
Alaska Airlines joining oneworld should not be as difficult as other alliance additions we have seen in the past. It certainly helps that Alaska Airlines already has partnerships with several oneworld airlines, including American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, and Qantas. Not so long ago, Alaska Airlines and American Airlines had a super strong mileage partnership. But the airlines’ frequent flyer programs had mostly parted ways in 2019 and eliminated reciprocal mileage redemptions effective March 2020 for most flights (in 2018, they had ended this reciprocity for domestic flights). So, clearly, these two airline frenemies are looking to reinstate the love they once shared. Exactly how they will do so remains to be seen.
It also remains to be seen how Alaska Airlines will handle its partnerships with non-oneworld airlines such as Emirates, Hainan, and Singapore Airlines. With Alaska Mileage Plan’s frequent mileage sales, many a traveler has been able to score that Emirates first-class seat—shower included—for a fraction of the cash price. In addition, as the mileage program of an alliance-free airline, Alaska Mileage Plan has always been able to live by its own rules and reward customers with perks like stopovers on one-way awards and great redemption levels. (Hello: 70,000 one-way award ticket on Cathay Pacific from the continental US to Africa with a free stopover in Hong Kong!) We have no idea how this is going to change, and we have no indication from the teams at Alaska Airlines nor oneworld alliance. We also have no idea how this will affect those with elite status on Alaska or within oneworld, nor the impact it will have on the Alaska lounges that are currently part of the Priority Pass lounge network.
What we do know is that, like everything these days, it’s an uncertain future in which we can only hope for the best. And as we get more news on the details of Alaska’s entry into oneworld, we’ll be sure to fill you in.