Alaska Airlines Expects to Join oneworld Alliance as a Connect Member

Earlier I asked whether Royal Air Maroc is about to join oneworld. The indefatigable Brian Sumers writes at Skift that oneworld will be announcing a new member on December 5. Royal Air Maroc is my bet.

Sumers also writes that Alaska Airlines is considering joining oneworld as a ‘connect’ member.

“There’s a Oneworld Connect membership that we’re looking it,” chief commercial officer Andrew Harrison told analysts. “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.”

Fiji Airways was the first airline announced with this more modest tier in June. This covers only priority check-in and boarding for elites across the whole alliance.

American Airlines and Alaska have largely gutted their partnership and I’m told that was American’s doing.

oneworld connect airlines need three or more sponsors within the alliance, and it’s with these sponsors that the connect member offers mileage earning and redemption and other benefits. In addition to American, Alaska partners with oneworld members British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, LATAM and Qantas.

So there’s no guarantee that bringing Alaska into oneworld as a connect member would have to mean earning AAdvantage miles and elite qualifying miles across Alaska flights (redemption remains an option today).

Alaska plans to sell tickets on partner airlines on its website, helping customers become aware they can earn Mileage Plan miles across their partners, and plans to continue awarding miles based on distance rather than fare paid — differentiating themselves in the industry. That’s smart — one senior airline frequent flyer executive tells me that the switch to revenue-based cost their airline money, but everyone is so invested in the change (including C-suite executives) that they won’t revisit it lest they lose face.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. As a AS MM’er I have longed for an alliance partner as I travel internationally and making connections / changes / lounge access is important to me. But AA who the hell wants Parker? BA is going to charge their “vig” for redemption seats, no matter who you are. I would have much preferred going back to the DL/AF partnership that internationally had some merit. But AA “gag me with a spoon”

  2. Sounds more like a trial, to see if they like it. Would be better to go all in, rather than pussyfoot around the edges, especially since the eclectic mix of partners has been reduced with the departure of Aeromexico, AirFrance, Fiji Airlines, LATAM, and Emirates pricing themselves out of the game.

  3. American Airlines is a Cancer
    After gutting their partnership with Alaska it would be shocking to see it reverse in any reasonable way
    Continue to watch Americans hostility daily to its own One World customers and partner airlines
    I would think they wouldn’t want anything to do with Alaska in One World as Alaska has something called customer service in fact exceptional CS
    But ok I’ve been wrong before
    Alaska helps and cares about customer American takes their cistomers money and then stabs them in the back until bleeding
    Just try booking two separate itineraries and see how that goes or get stranded in a city due to mechanical operations
    Have a seat on the concourse floor and make yourself at home for the night
    Oh that hole through your new luggage normal wear and tear etc
    If only Alaska could run American my life would be Golden
    Enough of my fantasizing back to reality American now sucks thanks to its clueless CEO
    Staying tuned I suppose

  4. Forgive me for asking, but what is a OneWorld Connect partner? Is this like a JV team to the Varsity squad?

    If so, does this mean that AA will view AS as a valid partner? Maybe there’s still life in my Citi AA Exec card since the new AA membership changes requires Admirals Club members to be flying on AA or its “partners.”

  5. AA did not gut the relationship, the US government forced the issue when Alaska / Virgin American merged and made AA reduce the number of code share and earning opportunities between the two. This is exciting if they join as it will strengthen the west coast network of AA and the midwest and east coast for Alaska.

  6. Headline: AS “Expects” to Join.

    Actual Fact and Quote from AS: Eh, we’re looking at it.

    Big difference there, Gary.

    “Thought leadership”

  7. It would be very interesting to know the basis for the unnamed ff executive to contend that becoming a revenue-based ff program cost the airline money per the post above.

  8. @sun viking 82 – incorrect. The government forced a reduction in codesharing. Entirely separate from and after that Alaska and American reduced their level of cooperation, the government did nothing whatsoever to exclude most alaska flights from mileage-earning in AAdvantage.

  9. @Gary —> Just to clarify, should AS actually join oneworld as a “connect partner”:
    — I *will* be able to earn AS miles on a oneworld full partner airline, but does the ticket have to be booked through AS, or can it be through one of the full partners?
    — As an AS MVP Gold, what status does that transfer to within the oneworld “Jewel” status?
    — Finally, you mention above that three oneworld partners need to “sponsor” an airline in order for it to become a “connect parter,” but is there a veto power? Could AA, for example, “blackball” the idea?

  10. If AS joins as a Connect partner, doesn’t that just push US-based travelers who fly on both AS and AA to join the frequent flyer program of one of AS’s Oneworld sponsors? If CX is among the sponsors, say, you could earn Asia Miles on AS’s flights and AA’s flights, something you wouldn’t be able to do in either Mileage Plan or AAdvantage.

    I suppose you’d be giving up upgrades, but at a relatively low elite level, those don’t occur all that often (at least in my experience) and you could potentially reach a higher status level by consolidating AA and AS flying in a single program.

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