Alaska Airlines will join the global Oneworld alliance by the middle of 2021, in a move which will not only see the domestic US carrier 'go global' but bring benefits for frequent flyers of other Oneworld members – among them Qantas, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways and JAL – when flying with the Seattle-based airline.
And this will be a full membership of Oneworld, not the Oneworld Connect 'lite' model as chosen by Fiji Airlines.
Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire status-holders will have access to Alaska's lounges by dint of their tier rather than travel class, while also enjoying associated perks such as an increased checked baggage allowance and priority check-in-in and boarding.
Qantas Platinums and Golds, along with Qantas Club members, already have access to several Alaska Airlines lounges provided they are travelling on an Alaska flight which connects to or from a Qantas international flight, due to an existing partnership between the Flying Kangaroo and Alaska Airlines.
Those benefits will swing the other way, too, for members of Alaska Airlines' Mileage Plan loyalty scheme. This currently has three tiers – MVP, MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K – with members who clock up one million miles on Alaska granted MVP Gold status for life.
Here's how we expect Alaska's Mileage Plan tiers to match up against their Oneworld equivalents:
- Mileage Plan MVP = Oneworld Ruby (eg Qantas Silver)
- Mileage Plan MVP Gold = Oneworld Sapphire (eg Qantas Gold)
- Mileage Plan MVP Gold 75K = Oneworld Emerald (eg Qantas Platinum)
(That said, Alaska Airlines could also revise and even rebrand its Mileage Plan tiers, such as turning Gold 75K into Mileage Plan Platinum.)
An American Airlines alliance, too
Alaska will also join forces with American Airlines to create a 'West Coast International Alliance', intended to interweave Alaska’s US West Coast network with American’s long-range international routes. This will include a new American route from Seattle to London Heathrow, slated to begin in March 2021.
The West Coast International Alliance will also see Alaska Airlines MVP members and American Airlines' AAdvantage members able to earn and burn miles on both airlines’ networks, with elite status reciprocity and lounge access to nearly 50 American Admirals Club lounges worldwide and seven Alaska Lounges in the U.S.
“Alaska has always been proud to serve Seattle, the city that we call home," said Ben Minicucci, president of Alaska Airlines. "We’re thrilled to give our guests more choice, broader use of loyalty benefits, and seamless global service with American and Oneworld."
Alaska Airlines has steadily stretched its wings beyond its home turf, led by a US$2.6 billion (A$3.4bn) takeover of Virgin America in December 2016, the roll-out of new domestic first class seats and faster inflight WiFi, and a new-look lounge network with a relaxed "West Coast vibe".