Alliance Upgrades Will Be New oneworld Benefit As Alaska Airlines Becomes Next Member

Alaska Airlines has formally signed its agreement to join oneworld, and expects to become an alliance member by end of year. While they’ve been talking about joining for two years the plan to do so was only announced in February meaning they’ll be delivering on the promise in under a year rather than the standard expection of 18 months. Already American and Alaska have rolled out reciprocal mileage and elite status earning.

American Airlines had gutted its partnership with Alaska, here’s their internal reasoning for turning around on the idea which was a prerequisite to Alaska’s joining.

Cranky Flier spoke with oneworld’s CEO who shared that alliance upgrades – using miles from one oneworld member airline to upgrade on another – will roll out around the time that Alaska joins the alliance.

I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if ‘alliance upgrades’ worked similarly to upgrades between American, British Airways, and Iberia requiring purchase of full fare tickets to be eligible.

Alliance membership will also mean that Alaska Airlines members will be able to get boarding passes for their full trip using the airline’s mobile app including on other alliance carriers, something which isn’t generally possible for other members of the alliance today but sounds like it’s in the pipeline (I find such IT projects never happen when promised).

Overall though I expect a devaluation of Alaska’s Mileage Plan program as part of the joining. And one oneworld lounge access benefit is certain to be devalued as a result of Alaska’s membership as well.

Still, subject to these devaluations, most customers who have Platinum status or less on American should probably credit to Alaska. That’s because:

  • Alaska miles go farther, under their current award chart
  • Alaska status will still be recognized on American
  • Alaska status is easier to earn, with no minimum spend requirement

Net net joining oneworld should be good for Alaska, it remains to be seen whether it’ll be good for Mileage Plan members.

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. Interesting enough the news is bitter sweet given all that is going on around us today. Of course as a long time mm flyer at AS I have concerns as well as the excitement that an alliance brings to someone that travels internationally.

    As for the award charts etc thats a crap shoot today personally I don’t think even the airlines have a good handle on what the next 12 to 24 months will look like. Will the charts be kind to us travelers to entice people back into the air? Maybe to get us to “burn” miles? Or will they tighten ? Anyone that knows is blowing smoke. As a business owner we can only plan for today and tomorrow after that is a moving target. Will a vaccine automatically make things go back to what we knew as normal, not sure but one thing you can count on the largest world wide public debt ever and that will be the challenge for politicians here in the US it spells depression how deep who knows

  2. Ghostrider, you make a good point regarding offers: I’d love to see how many points members have compared to this time last year, etc… I wonder how many of our balances are growing as we can’t spend them.

    And, of course, these points are a liability on a company’s balance sheet

  3. Panda, while points are a liability on the airline balance sheets it’s also a huge asset witness the transactions the airlines have made leveraging their programs for cash today. They have to get people in the air as soon as they can, one way will be those very points sitting out there. example I am sitting on three million combined points/miles from airlines and hotels. To say I am concerned is an understatement. One reason is the cancellation of two major International trips due to the virus.

  4. I wouldn’t get too excited about these alliance-wide upgrades as they will almost certainly be based off of the highest fares in each cabin (e.g., from Y and B fares in Economy to Business). Both Star and Skyteam already have something similar and of course, it’s based off of almost-full-fares.

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