Last updated on March 6th, 2020
Alaska Airlines Strengthens Partnership with American Airlines and Plans to Join One World Alliance
Alaska Airlines just announced that it will be strengthening its partnership with American Airlines. This is the first step in the Seattle-based airline’s eventual move to join the One World Alliance, of which American Airlines is already a member.
Alaska Airlines has already partnered with 16 global and domestic carriers to increase its global destinations. However, this recent announcement means that Alaska’s customers can expect greater access to a network of air travel perks. This is especially those enrolled in the airline’s Mileage Plan™.
Alaska Airlines Credit Card May Get Even Better
The Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® Card is already rated as one of the top co-branded airline cards in the industry. This credit card, which Bank of America issues, provides cardholders with a slew of benefits on top 3X miles on Alaska Airline purchases, unlimited earning potential, and no expiration on miles earned.
The airline’s Visa Signature® Card famously offers cardholders one reduced-price companion fare every year. What’s more, new cardholders can earn 40,000 miles worth around $3,200, on average. As well, they earn an additional companion pass after spending $2,000 within the first 90 days of opening an account.
Other perks include no foreign transaction fees and free checked bags for cardholders and up to six guests. Cardholders also receive a 50% discount on day passes to Alaska Lounges. Alaska hasn’t announced any direct changes to its credit card benefits. However, its reinforced partnership with American and upcoming induction into One World Alliance may offer cardholders’ more flexibility in how they use these perks.
What’s Happening, Exactly?
Alaska Airlines’ partnership does not mean it’s merging with American Airlines. This airline, which has risen to become a favorite mid-range domestic carrier, already had an existing partnership with the air travel giant.
This partnership (in addition to partnerships with 16 other carriers) facilitated connections between Alaska’s mostly domestic routes and American’s more global reach. If you book an international flight, for instance, Alaska may fly you one of American’s hubs, and American will take you the rest of the way.
These partnerships also enabled passengers to book travel in a single reservation through a single airline. Without this partnership, customers would have to book both legs of their travel separately, try to find coordinating flights, and pray that they have enough time to connect.
You may notice when you book airfare your connecting flight might be with a different airline. This is often the result of an airline partnership. The practice is known as a codeshare agreement in the industry because both airlines will share flight codes.
These agreements not only benefit customers but also simplify flight timetables and ideally increase profits for all parties involved. This is why smaller carriers often partner with larger ones.
As the terms of these two airlines’ existing partnership were nearing an end, both decided to renew their business relationship but also take it a step further. Their strengthened partnership will increase American’s presence in the west coast and provide Alaska’s loyal customer base with more destinations.
How Will the Alaska Airlines Partnership Affect Visa Signature® Cardholders?
One thing to keep in mind about Alaska Airlines’ miles is that they’re not exclusive to the airline’s credit card. In fact, these rewards are part of Alaska’s free frequent flyer program, known as the Mileage Plan™. As such, many changes to cardholder benefits will also apply to Mileage Plan™ members.
Alaska Airlines Visa Signature® cardholders will still be able to earn and redeem miles through all of Alaska’s current Mileage Plan™ partners. Previously, American Airlines’ partnership with Alaska did not extend to earning and redeeming miles.
That’s changing, though. Effective immediately, Visa Signature® cardholders can now use their miles to book American Airlines flights. By Spring of 2020, cardholders will also be able to earn miles on American Airlines purchases.
By Summer of 2021, Alaska Airlines plans to become a full member of the One World Alliance, joining American and 12 other airlines. Once this happens, Alaska Signature® Visa cardholders will be able to earn and redeem their miles through any One World Alliance member.
Increased Elite Perks
According to the Alaska Airline’s website, once it joins One World Alliance in 2021, Mileage Plan™ Elite members will also receive exclusive perks on all member airlines. There are no specifics on these perks. However, Alaska Airlines’ website states that they will include priority boarding, premium seating, and extra baggage allowances. Elite Mileage Plan™ members are those who have earned at least 20,000 miles and flown 30 segments with the airline or qualifying partners.
Higher level Elite members who have reached MVP Gold and MVP Gold 75K statuses will also get complimentary access to over 650 One World member airport lounges beginning in 2021. On that note, Alaska Airlines is already giving its passengers a taste of increased lounge access. Alaska Lounge members now have access to 50 American Airlines Admirals Club lounges.
Visa Signature® cardholders don’t have access to this privilege unless they pay separately for this membership, which costs as much as $450 a year. Cardholders presently pay half the price for lounge day passes. However, it’s unclear how this cardholder perk will change once the airline transitions.
Is It All Good News?
For the most part, Alaska Airlines’ strengthened partnership with American Airlines and its impending One World membership is good news for consumers. However, a question remains of what will happen to the airline’s existing partnerships.
Alaska Airlines currently partners with some major global players, and Mileage Plan™ members can use and redeem miles with many of them. However, if membership into One World Alliance means breaking ties with non-member partners, there can be some drawbacks for consumers.
Alaska Airlines will have three fewer partners than it currently has. Additionally, it will be losing some Emirates, Iceland Air, Korean Air, and Singapore Airlines – all popular carriers. Other potential losses include:
- Aer Lingus
- El Al
- Fiji Airways
- Hainan Airlines
In exchange, the airline will gain Qatar Airways, which has soared in recent years as one of the top-rated airlines in the world. Mileage Plan™ members will still be able to earn and redeem miles with the following major airlines, though:
- British Airways
- Cathay Pacific
- Japan Airlines
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