Alaska Airlines Nails Down oneworld Joining Date

Alaska Airlines has officially nailed down the date it will join the oneworld alliance. The carrier will formally become a member of the global airline alliance from the end of March in 2021. The airline’s partnerships with non-alliance airlines will remain intact for now, but that is no guarantee about the long term arrangements.

Alaska Airlines LAX Getty
Alaska Airlines will join the oneworld alliance officially on March 31st, 2021. Photo: Getty Images

Alaska will join oneworld from March 31st

March 31st, 2021, will be the official day that Alaska Airlines becomes a member of the oneworld alliance. In the airline’s long, rich, and extensive 88-year-history, it will be the first time the non-aligned carrier will become a member of the airline alliance. Nat Pieper, Alaska’s senior vice president of fleet, finances, and alliances, stated the following in a blog post viewed by Simple Flying:

“Every airline has pivotal moments in its history. Decisions that are made for future success and stability, and to provide increased service and a better travel experience for its customers. oneworld offers us those opportunities. We are officially joining a family with some of the best airlines in the world. The possibilities are tremendous.”

Alaska oneworld
Alaska Airlines will join a global partnership spanning 13 full members and Fiji Airways, a oneworld connect member. Photo: oneworld

Alaska Airlines and joining oneworld

Let’s run through the timeline of Alaska Airlines joining the oneworld alliance. In February, Alaska Airlines announced that it would join the alliance. Despite oneworld already having a US carrier in American Airlines, both American and Alaska cooperated extensively before the announcement. The two airlines announced an even deeper relationship with American, targeting new flights to Bangalore and London from Seattle.

Stay informed: Sign up for our daily aviation news digest.

Alaska and American
Alaska Airlines will also partner closely with American Airlines. Photo: Getty Images

Then, just a few weeks later, the world turned upside down with an ongoing crisis. While nothing was clear at the start, Alaska Airlines and its team soon realized that airline partnerships were incredibly crucial for the future. And, in July, Alaska Airlines announced it was pushing forward with oneworld membership. Then, in September, the airline targeted an early 2021 join date. Now, March 31st will be the date the airline joins the alliance.

Why does it take time to join an alliance?

Joining an airline alliance is not as easy as signing a handshake. First and foremost, the alliance has to smooth over any issues existing member alliances might have– something that Alaska likely did not have to contend with since the largest potential source of opposition, American Airlines, was hugely supportive of the airline’s plan to join the alliance.

Aside from that, there are legal issues to work out, network plans to discuss, and, behind the scenes, Alaska Airlines has to alter its computer systems to cooperate deeper with oneworld alliance airlines. It also needs to work out its frequent flyer program to provide enhanced benefits for other oneworld elite members and allow its own Mileage Plan members to receive enhanced benefits on partner airlines such as lounge access, priority check-in, priority boarding, and others.

Alaska Airlines Embraer E175
oneworld passengers will be able to access Alaska’s extensive western US regional network. Photo: Getty Images

Then, there is also branding to note. Alaska Airlines is working on getting the oneworld orb on its aircraft, its employee name tags, in emails, gate areas, ticket stands, advertisements, and more.

What about existing partners?

Mileage Plan is a favorite for many fliers in the United States due to its intense flexibility. While already partnering with oneworld members like American, Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Qantas, and others, Mileage Plan also has partnerships in place with Emirates, Hainan, Singapore Airlines, LATAM, Condor, El Al, Japan Airlines, and others.

Alaska Airlines plans to maintain those partnerships for as long as it is “mutually beneficial.” Some alliance members may have concerns with Alaska Airlines maintaining partnerships outside the alliance, though that remains to be seen. It is not unheard of for airlines to have limited partnerships with airlines outside of an alliance. For example, Korean Air (a SkyTeam carrier) has a limited partnership with American Airlines.

Alaska Airlines Getty LAX
Alaska Airlines will expand its partnerships after joining oneworld, but some existing partnerships may not exist this time next year. Photo: Getty Images

For now, Alaska Airlines plans to keep its partnerships, but that could easily change in the future– especially if some oneworld airlines have problems with Alaska’s partnerships and put pressure on the airline, or if Alaska itself does not find any benefits with other partners.

Alaska Airlines will also most likely be adding new partners like Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, and more that are part of the oneworld alliance but do not currently partner with Alaska Airlines.

Are you excited to see Alaska Airlines join the oneworld alliance? Let us know in the comments!