American Airlines and Alaska Airlines announced a renewed partnership in February and Alaska will join the oneworld alliance March 31, 2020. American and Alaska already have reciprocal earning and redemption.
I’ve written that more benefits are coming, in addition to those which will be provided by oneworld memebrship. In building the partnership American Airlines has talked about the need to be ‘seamless’ so that customers become indifferent as to which airline they’re flying. An American Airlines elite member needs to be treated just as well on Alaska Airlines, and vice versa.
American today has announced several things that we already knew were coming, though there’s just a little more in the way of specifics.
- Reciprocal elite upgrades will be coming
- Upgrades will be available both on domestic and international flights
- Elites from each airline will receive priority check-in, security and boarding and extra baggage allowances plus lounge access on international itineraries – in other words oneworld benefits
- Complimentary access to extra legroom seats for top and mid-tier elites, which American recently took away and then restored for elites with some of its joint venture partners
At some point in 2021 “Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members will be eligible for free domestic upgrades on Alaska and MVP Gold 75K will be eligible for free domestic upgrades when traveling on American.” The benefit could be expanded to lower-tier elites in the future. And “[w]hen the long-haul international flights launch” that are part of the partnership, Seattle – London and Bangalore, then Alaska’s MVP Gold 75K members will be able to upgrade on American’s international flights.
It’s not clear what Alaska members will use to support long haul upgrades, whether miles or a new instrument Alaska is considering as a replacement for Guest Upgrades.
And it’s not clear what priority upgrades will be given. One Mile at a Time thinks it may be something like Executive Platinums followed by Alaska MVP Gold 75Ks on American flights, and the reverse on Alaska flights.
There’s a lot exciting going on at AAdvantage (though other international programs are being far more aggressive). It hasn’t devalued awards the way Delta and United have during the pandemic. And eliminating award redeposit fees was a great move.
Still, I’m not as convinced as One Mile at a Time that the new AAdvantage President is the key driver of positive change (“based on talking to him, I have new hope for the AAdvantage program”) as though previous President Bridge Blaise-Shamai was somehow leading the race to the bottom. Circumstances have changed.
Time has passed since Scott Kirby’s departure as airline President. They now need to lean on their primary marketing engine as more than just ‘the credit card program’ as senior legacy US Airways executives have referred to AAdvantage in the past.