Big news: Alaska Airlines “planning” to join oneworld alliance in 2021


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Alaska Airlines announced today that it is planning to join oneworld alliance in mid-2021, along with a renewed love-hate relationship with American Airlines. They were meant to break up next month! You petty FFPs. Think about us kids before you plan a future separation!

While Alaska’s application to join oneworld has not been approved yet, it has come up with a timeline for this transition that raises a lot of fear and excitement at the same time. For me at least.


Alaska Airline’s transition timeline

Alaska Airline’s transition timeline

What is Alaska Airlines? Why should I care if I am based in Singapore?

I wrote an article recently on why Alaska Airline’s Mileage Plan is my favourite frequent flyer program and why I value Alaska miles a lot more than Krisflyer miles.

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What I am afraid of…the uncertainties

Lessons from past experiences like the one with SPG’s transition to Marriott Bonvoy taught me that any change to an amazing loyalty program is bad. When a program is so much better than others, you just want it to stay the way it is. The skeptic in me is sure that this will bring more bad than good.

Mileage accrual
Alaska’s mileage accrual on partner flights is pretty amazing. Flying business or first class gives you 300% – 600% mileage accrual. Far better than what other airlines offer for premium seats on their own plane and FFP. I am hopping that this will not take a hit.

Award chart
Alaska currently has different award charts for each of its partners. The good thing about this is that devaluations are usually isolated and not across the board. Take the award chart devaluation for Emirates in 2016 for example. That devaluation effectively killed the value of redeeming your Alaska miles on Emirates flights but does not affect any of Alaska’s other partners. As Alaska already has a lot of oneworld partners at the moment, I am pretty sure that that there will be some form of devaluation when Alaska has a unified oneworld partners award chart to cover all of its oneworld partners like American Airlines, Cathay, Japan Airlines, Qantas, British Airways and Finnair. This would hurt. Because redeeming 50,000 and 70,000 miles for Cathay Pacific’s Business and First Class respectively from Singapore to New York with no fuel surcharges is currently an outstanding value.

Free stopover
Redeeming Alaska’s miles on any of its partners gives you the opportunity of having a free stopover (for days, weeks or months) before continuing on to your final destination. For example, if you are flying from Singapore to San Francisco on Japan Airlines, you may choose to have a short vacation in Tokyo before flying to San Francisco. This will not cost you anything more in terms of miles and cash. I wonder if this perk will be carried on to Alaska’s future oneworld partner award chart and I don’t have a good feeling about it.

What I am excited about…the possibilities

Mileage accrual

To me, there is one airline that would truly complete Alaska’s prestigious list of airline partners; Qatar Airways. Being a oneworld airline would open this door. I will be able to earn and redeem my Alaska miles with Qatar but the question is how good will the earn and burn rates be? Very excited for this one.

Status match

As an MVP Gold member with Alaska, I will be matched to oneworld Sapphire to receive some nice travel benefits like oneworld business lounge usage.

Conclusion

I am having mixed feelings about this. If I have the power to stop Alaska from joining oneworld, I would. We will find out what the future holds and how my valuation of Alaska miles will change but for now, it’s business as usual and for me, there is no FFP out there better than Alaska Airline’s Mileage Plan.

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