Alaska Airlines will join the Oneworld alliance in March 2021, while Alaska's regional arm Horizon Air and its regional partner SkyWest Airlines will become Oneworld affiliate members.
The Seattle-based airline was initially aiming for December 2020, but has now reset its timetable and confirmed March 31, 2021 as the new date when it'll take its seat at the Oneworld table.
"There’s a huge amount of complicated work that’s being done behind-the-scenes at Alaska to meet our aggressive deadline," the airline said in a statement issued overnight.
"Changes are required to every one of our major systems so they can ‘talk’ to each oneworld member airline, and ensure we have a smooth and seamless guest experience."
Alaska Airlines will become Oneworld’s 14th member airline, with its SeaTac hub also served by Oneworld members American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines.
It already has partnerships in place with Oneworld members American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines and Qantas, and airline Chairman and CEO Brad Tilden said he was eager to deepen those ties "and looking forward to working with new partners that are some of the best airlines in the world."
“Oneworld will open up a tremendous international network for our business and leisure travellers when they’re ready to start flying overseas again, in addition to greater connectivity around the US through our network for international visitors."
"Despite what's happened with Covid, the world is more global and our customers are more international," Tilden has previously noted. "Our customers in Seattle, San Francisco Los Angeles and San Jose want to fly up and down the West Coast, but they also want to take trips for business or for pleasure to London, Sydney, or Shanghai."
Qantas, Oneworld benefits
Oneworld membership will not only see the domestic US carrier 'go global' but bring benefits for frequent flyers of Qantas and other Oneworld members.
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.
A spokesperson for the airline told Executive Traveller that details on how its loyalty tiers would line up against the three Oneworld tiers would be revealed at a later date.
Alaska Airlines has steadily stretched its wings beyond its home turf, led by 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".