Seattle-based Alaska Airlines has announced an extensive partnership with American Airlines, a departure from its long-standing “neutrality” strategy. Alaska and American had previously been planning to end various reciprocal frequent-flyer benefits and limit their codeshare beginning on March 1.
This partnership appears seems to be a strategic move as both airlines face challenges from competitor Delta Air Lines. In an article about the merger, Mack Institute executive director Saikat Chaudhuri comments, “Delta is clearly the most successful [U.S.] airline and they’re building up positions everywhere.” To keep up, Alaska and America are proceeding with an expansive international and domestic codeshare. However, the carriers need to be careful, given Alaska’s 2016 merge with Virgin America, to adhere to the codesharing conditions set by the U.S. Department of Justice. “The circumstances have changed from the situation then compared to the situation now,” says Chaudhuri.
Alaska also announced that they intend to join the Oneworld alliance by the middle of 2021. This will give their frequent flyers access to 1,200 destinations served by alliance partners, benefits, and access to lounges. “This really is a great move,” says Chaudhuri, referring to both the Oneworld membership and larger partnership between Alaska and American.