Alaska Airlines joining Oneworld: what it means for Qantas flyers

Qantas frequent flyers can already access Alaska Airlines lounges, but there's more to come when Alaska Airlines joins Oneworld.

By Chris Chamberlin, October 13 2020
Alaska Airlines joining Oneworld: what it means for Qantas flyers

With Alaska Airlines now set to join the global Oneworld alliance on March 31, 2021, Qantas Frequent Flyer members will have a host of new perks to look forward to, over and above the Alaska Airlines lounges their status currently unlocks.

Not only will that lounge access expand to more locations and become less restrictive, standard benefits including priority check-in and boarding, boosted baggage allowances and the ability to earn status credits on Alaska Airlines’ own flights will all be added into the mix.

For Alaska Airlines’ own Mileage Plan members, access to Qantas domestic business class and international first class lounges is also on the cards – here’s what you need to know.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan vs Oneworld status tiers

Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan frequent flyer program has an entry level, three main elite tiers, and a lifetime designation for the airline’s most regular flyers.

While Alaska Airlines is yet to formally reveal how its Mileage Plan membership levels will align with the alliance-wide Oneworld Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald levels, here’s how we’re expecting that to shake out:

  • Mileage Plan Member: As the program’s entry-level, non-elite tier, travellers who are simply members of Mileage Plan reside at this level. Members would be able to earn and spend points across the Oneworld alliance, but not receive additional perks at this tier.
  • Mileage Plan MVP: It’s expected these cardholders will be mapped to Oneworld Ruby – akin to Qantas Silver – providing benefits such as priority check-in when travelling with all Oneworld member airlines.
  • Mileage Plan MVP Gold: As the program’s mid-tier status, it’s likely these elite frequent flyers will be onboarded as Oneworld Sapphire members, adding priority boarding and business class airport lounge access to the mix across the Oneworld alliance.
  • Mileage Plan Million Miler: In return for flying 1,000,000 miles on Alaska Airlines, Million Milers get MVP Gold status for life. As above, these travellers are also expected to inherit Oneworld Sapphire status.
  • Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K: Being the program’s highest public tier level, these cardholders will be expecting Oneworld Emerald status to come their way – upgrading lounge access to include Oneworld first class lounges, plus airport fast-track perks and more.

It also remains to be seen how those benefits will be treated when flying across North America, such as on American Airlines.

By joining Oneworld, Alaska Airlines will gain an international network of partner airlines.
By joining Oneworld, Alaska Airlines will gain an international network of partner airlines.

For instance, AA charges most of its own elite frequent flyers for lounge access unless travelling further afield, but grants free lounge access to frequent flyers of other Oneworld alliance airlines, even on the shortest of US domestic flights.

Alaska Airlines: current benefits for Qantas frequent flyers

As Qantas and Alaska Airlines already maintain a reciprocal partnership separate to the Oneworld alliance, some familiar frequent flyer benefits are already available to Qantas Frequent Flyer members, as below.

Access to some Alaska Airlines lounges

Alaska Airlines’ lounges in Los Angeles, Seattle, Anchorage and Portland already welcome Qantas Club members, along with Qantas Gold, Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge frequent flyers.

That access, however, is only available when connecting to or from an international Qantas flight, and when travelling with Alaska Airlines on that connecting service.

Eligible Qantas cardholders can access some Alaska Airlines lounges already.
Eligible Qantas cardholders can access some Alaska Airlines lounges already.

As Qantas Frequent Flyer status and Qantas Club membership details are not currently indicated on Alaska Airlines boarding passes, members need to present their physical or digital Qantas Club or Qantas Frequent Flyer card to gain entry, when eligible to visit an Alaska Airlines lounge.

Alaska Airlines lounge access on domestic-only trips, or access to other Alaska Airlines and partner lounges – such as the Alaska Airlines lounge at New York JFK, or to partner lounges used by Alaskan like the United Club in Philadelphia – are not available.

Earn Qantas Points on Alaska Airlines flights

Qantas Frequent Flyer members can already earn Qantas Points – but not status credits – on Alaska Airlines flights booked under an AS flight number, including on domestic-only journeys within the United States.

The number of Qantas Points earned depends on the distance of flight and the type of fare purchased – with longer flights and higher-priced tickets generally earning more points than short hops and those booked on rock-bottom airfares.

On a one-way flight from Los Angeles to Seattle, travellers could earn 1,650 Qantas Points on paid Alaska Airlines ‘first class’ fares, and between 275 and 1,100 Qantas Points on economy class tickets.

For now, status credits can only be earned on Alaska Airlines flight when the journey is booked on a Qantas (QF) codeshare flight number – similar to how Qantas status credits are earned on Emirates.

Using Qantas Points on Alaska Airlines flights

Qantas Frequent Flyer members have long been able to spend Qantas Points on Alaska Airlines flights.

On that same one-way journey from Los Angeles to Seattle, you’d need 14,000 Qantas Points for an economy class seat, or a much higher 43,500 Qantas Points for ‘first class’. The required co-payment in cash on these bookings is quite low, typically just US$5.60 per passenger.

However, as Alaska Airlines’ better-than-economy cabin is branded as “first class”, the number of Qantas Points needed to book a seat comes at the full Qantas Frequent Flyer first class rates, even though the experience is akin to what most Australian travellers would consider to be business class.

It remains to be seen whether these reward bookings will be recategorised at business class rates to provide a fairer deal to frequent flyers, in the same way that American Airlines’ two-cabin ‘first class’ flights are priced at business class levels in Qantas Frequent Flyer.

Alaska Airlines: new benefits for Qantas frequent flyers

Once Alaska Airlines becomes a full member of Oneworld, Qantas Frequent Flyers will gain additional perks on Alaska Airlines flights, in line with Oneworld alliance standards – here’s what to look out for.

Improved Alaska Airlines lounge access

Rather than only having access to specific lounges when connecting to or from a Qantas flight, Qantas Frequent Flyer Gold, Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge members will gain access to all Alaska Airlines lounges, including on domestic-only trips.

Alaska Airlines' lounges will roll out the welcome mat for Qantas Frequent Flyers.
Alaska Airlines' lounges will roll out the welcome mat for Qantas Frequent Flyers.

This also includes the ‘partner lounges’ designated for use by Alaska Airlines passengers in airports where Alaska doesn’t operate its own lounge.

Provided Oneworld doesn’t implement a new exception to its standard alliance rules, these passengers would also be able to access Alaska Airlines lounges when flying American Airlines, and American Airlines lounges when flying Alaska Airlines.

However, lounge access for Qantas Club cardholders is separate to Oneworld, and so would continue to follow the existing rules, unless changes are directly negotiated between Qantas and Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines priority check-in and boarding

Once Alaska Airlines joins Oneworld, priority check-in is a standard alliance benefit for all Oneworld Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald members.

This includes Qantas Silver, Gold, Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge members.

Under alliance rules, where offered, priority boarding is also extended to Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald cardholders, covering Qantas Gold frequent flyers and above.

Inclusive checked baggage on Alaska Airlines

Across the Oneworld alliance, Sapphire frequent flyers (Qantas Gold) and Emerald-tier members (Qantas Platinum and above) receive additional checked baggage, over and above the allowance indicated on their ticket.

With just one exception (British Airways), this policy applies even if the passenger’s ticket includes no checked baggage at all, which is standard practice in economy on Alaska Airlines.

As Alaska Airlines uses the ‘piece’ system for checked baggage, Qantas Gold frequent flyers would be guaranteed at least one checked bag weighing up to 23kg (50 lbs) at no charge, including on bookings with no checked baggage included.

On bookings with baggage already included, there’s no extra allowance for Qantas Gold and Oneworld Sapphire, as the Sapphire inclusion is a ‘minimum guarantee’ only, except on bookings which include both domestic and international Oneworld flights.

For Qantas Platinum members and above, however, their Oneworld Emerald status provides one additional bag on airlines that use the ‘piece’ system. This could provide one free checked bag on tickets with no checked luggage, or where luggage is included, an extra bag beyond that limit.

Of course, Alaska Airlines could choose to be more generous with its baggage allowance for Oneworld elite frequent flyers – its counterpart American Airlines offers a free checked bag for lower-level Oneworld Ruby members, and three checked bags for Oneworld Emeralds, for instance – but this remains at the airline’s discretion.

Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald frequent flyers are also normally entitled to priority luggage tags on Oneworld flights.

Airport fast-track with Alaska Airlines

For top-tier Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers – that’s Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge – access to airport fast-track lanes is also provided, where available.

This typically includes a priority lane at airport security where such a lane exists. However, travellers who qualify for TSA PreCheck may find the designated PreCheck lane even faster.

Earn status credits on Alaska Airlines flights

Once Alaska Airlines is a full member of the Oneworld alliance, travellers should expect to earn Qantas status credits on eligible Alaska Airlines flights, booked under the airline’s native ‘AS’ flight number.

This would open the door to earning Qantas status credits on purely domestic itineraries with Alaska Airlines, and on Alaska Airlines flights that aren’t booked in conjunction with Qantas airfares.

Of course, the number of status credits earned may not be as high as when travelling on a Qantas (QF) codeshare flight, but some status credits still beats none, when travelling on an AS flight number.

Qantas benefits for Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members

Just as Qantas Frequent Flyer members will get new perks when travelling with Alaska Airlines, eligible Mileage Plan members can look forward to new perks on Qantas, too.

Qantas lounge access for Mileage Plan members

Under the existing deal between Qantas and Alaska Airlines, Mileage Plan MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K members can already visit domestic Qantas Clubs and international Qantas business lounges prior to Qantas flights.

The biggest addition will be for MVP Gold 75k cardholders, assuming they’re mapped to Oneworld Emerald, which would add Qantas’ domestic business class lounges and international first class lounges into the mix.

Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers can access the Qantas First Lounge in Los Angeles, prior to Oneworld flights.
Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers can access the Qantas First Lounge in Los Angeles, prior to Oneworld flights.

This would include the Qantas First Lounge in Los Angeles, as well as the Qantas First Lounges in Sydney, Melbourne and Singapore, when these reopen and international flights resume.

Other Qantas benefits for Mileage Plan members

All elite Mileage Plan members can expect access to Qantas priority check-in queues, with Sapphire and Emerald frequent flyers making use of Qantas’ domestic priority security lanes, and Emerald members receiving Express Path cards for international travel, when this resumes.

Some travellers may also be eligible for additional checked baggage, depending on the type of fare purchased, where they’re travelling to, and how their Mileage Plan status aligns with the Oneworld tiers.

Mileage Plan members would also be able to earn qualifying flight miles and qualifying segments on eligible Qantas fares and flights, helping to gain or retain their Mileage Plan status – comparable to how Qantas frequent flyers earn status credits.

Also read: Alaska Airlines will join Oneworld by end of this year

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

05 May 2016

Total posts 590

A nice change, but probably will be quite a while before they are useful due to the border closures.

Qantas

01 Jun 2016

Total posts 27

Currently, Alaskan Airlines flight cannot be included in RTW award tickets, However once they become a OW member, I think this would be allowed.

29 Jan 2015

Total posts 38

Nice article, Chris. Thank you.


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