Alaska Airlines delays full Oneworld membership to early 2021

Sep 10, 2020

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Alaska Airlines is pushing back its timeline for becoming a full member of the Oneworld alliance by a few months.

The Seattle-based carrier hopes to complete the joining process by “sometime late Q1” — or first quarter — Alaska president Ben Minicucci said at the Cowen Global Transportation & Sustainable Mobility Conference on Wednesday. As recently as July, Alaska hoped to be a full alliance member by year-end.

The delay means Alaska frequent flyers will have to wait a little bit longer before they can receive Oneworld benefits. Those include earning and redeeming miles, and receiving reciprocal elite status benefits across the alliance’s 14 member carriers.

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Alaska’s case for joining Oneworld stands. The airline is betting that it can better sell a global travel portfolio to corporations along the West Coast — particularly in and around its Seattle base — as an alliance member rather than as an independent airline with a smattering of partnerships around the world.

As part of that bet on global relevance, Alaska has renewed its partnership with American Airlines. American has since unveiled plans to add flights to Bangalore (BLR), London Heathrow (LHR) and Shanghai Pudong (PVG) from Seattle. The airlines are codesharing on the international routes as well as on select domestic routes that touch the West Coast.

One of the challenges Alaska faces joining Oneworld is turning on all of necessary technology connections with the alliance, said Minicucci. He suggested that this, and other integration steps, are taking longer than initially thought.

However, even with the several-month delay, Alaska is still on track to join the alliance faster than it originally hoped. The airline’s membership target was “mid-2021” when it first unveiled plans to join Oneworld in February.

Related: Alaska Airlines officially invited to be the next Oneworld alliance member

Featured image by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.

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