American And Alaska Move Closer To A Seamless Partnership

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American Airlines and Alaska Airlines are moving forward with a more seamless partnership. As the latter joins the oneworld alliance, the two will continue to deepen their ties with additional elite benefits. The goal here is to standardize the flying experience across Alaska and American so that no matter which airline is operating your flight, you can still receive your elite benefits.

Alaska and American
Alaska Airlines and American Airlines are extending elite benefits across both carriers. Photo: Getty Images

Targeting a March launch

Alaska Airlines is officially joining the oneworld alliance at the end of March in 2021. Starting then, the airline plans to offer priority check-in, lounge access, access to preferred seating or extra legroom seats, and reciprocal baggage allowances. On American, the latter is Main Cabin Extra and Premium Class on Alaska.

These are all the initial benefits that are pretty standard across airlines in the same alliance. American and Alaska already have a partnership in place. Now, it is time for the two to grow that.

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Alaska Airlines Getty LAX
Alaska Airlines is joining oneworld on March 31st, 2021.. Photo: Getty Images

Patience is key

Following the initial reciprocal benefits, the plan is to continue to grow the partnership. Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum members of AAdvantage will be eligible for free domestic upgrades on Alaska Airlines. Meanwhile, MVP Gold 75K members at Alaska will be eligible for free domestic upgrades on American Airlines.

With American Airlines planning a slew of new long-haul routes out of Seattle, Alaska’s hub, to London-Heathrow, Bengaluru, and Shanghai in 2021, the goal is to get MVP Gold 75K members the opportunity to access long-haul upgrades when traveling on American. These details will be revealed in due course.

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Getty American Airlines oneworld
American Airlines will be flying new long-haul routes out of Seattle in 2021. Photo: Getty Images

There are a lot of weeds to work through and plenty of complicated issues the two loyalty programs need to come to terms with in 2021. There are many elite benefits that, while they can be done one-off, it is not as efficient nor as rewarding as being patient and getting it done.

Simple Flying spoke exclusively with Rick Elieson, President of the AAdvantage loyalty program, who stated that his goal is to deliver benefits as quickly as possible and not waiting for it to be perfect. Essentially, the plan is to get what can be done completed first and then moving on to all the additional bells and whistles or further expansions.

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There is a lot the two airlines are also aspiring for. First and foremost, the airlines want to standardize the elite experience. This requires a lot of close coordination and cooperation.

How to view today’s announcement

If you are an American or Alaska Airlines elite member looking for more answers, the best idea is to be patient. There are a few reasons for this. First and foremost, the two airlines have a lot to work out. The second thing is that there is little precedent for a partnership of this magnitude.

Today’s announcement is more of American Airlines and Alaska Airlines telling its elite members that it will take care of them. It is the start of many more to come that will further explicate elite benefits across both airlines. Mr. Elieson was clear that it is very unlikely additional announcements come this year. Once implementation becomes closer, that is when the announcements will come out.

Alaska Airlines, Capacity, Flights Cut
Alaska Airlines elite members will have much better international benefits once the carrier joins the oneworld alliance. Photo: Getty Images

It is also a further commitment to ensuring a relatively seamless travel experience for elite members. In partnerships, elite members often face a complicated array of policies, terms, conditions, and varying products.

A more seamless experience

The name of the game right now is “seamless”. The two carriers want to create a seamless travel experience for its elite members, which is getting closer to a metal-neutral travel experience. That is, a passenger can get the same kind of benefits on either American or Alaska without necessarily caring about which airline is operating the route.

Are you glad to see this initial foundation between Alaska and American? Let us know in the comments!

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