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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Nicon Andritsakis

A Match Made in Airline Heaven

Back in January 2015, on my FL310 blog (Has The Eskimo Had It?),

I wrote that things were heating up in Seattle. Well, today, things heated up just a bit more, in a way very few in the industry speculated. It was announced today that hometown carrier Alaska Airlines and global megacarrier American Airlines are further intensifying their long-standing (if sometimes shaky) code-share agreement, turning it into the West Coast International Alliance (American's own wording, not mine). Benefits with the enhanced agreement include:

photo credit Joe Pries

- Alaska Airlines intends to join the oneworld® alliance, the world's fastest-growing and most highly rated global airline alliance, by summer 2021, which will connect Alaska guests to more than 1,200 destinations worldwide.

- American will launch the first service from Seattle (SEA) to Bangalore, India (BLR) beginning October 2020. A new American route from SEA to the global business hub London Heathrow (LHR) will begin flying in March 2021.

- The airlines will continue their domestic codeshare that offers customers hassle-free booking and travel between the two networks. The codeshare will expand to include international routes from Los Angeles (LAX) and SEA.

- Alaska and American loyalty members will enjoy benefits across both airlines, including the ability to earn and use miles on both airlines’ full networks, elite status reciprocity and lounge access to nearly 50 American Admirals Club lounges worldwide and seven Alaska Lounges in the U.S.

Those new routes intrigue me a bit. I can definitely see the link to London/Heathrow doing gang-busters, adding to American's already powerful Heathrow offerings from Phoenix and Los Angeles, and with Alaska's huge operation at Seattle, it's a win/win and definitely strong contender against Delta's offering (even more so when you consider British Airways' twice-daily offerings as well). The flight to Bangalore intrigues me as well, and with just how much corporate demand there is between the Pacific Northwest and India (Bangalore and Hyderabad have the most demand), it surprises me there hasn't already been service initiated. The closest flight from Seattle is Air Canada's service to New Delhi from Vancouver, and yields, fares, and passenger loads are consistently high. This will definitely shave off hours of travel time over Emirates and Singapore Airlines connecting offerings (which are the two largest carriers connecting the two areas).

With all the news about the dreaded coronavirus, American has suspended all flights to Beijing and Shanghai, leaving some gaping holes at their cornerstone hub down the coast at LAX. If American does make the suspension permanent at LAX, you could see new offerings eventually open up from Seattle, and leave LAX to more European destinations. Just my two cents on that end. The Seattle - London leg will be operated with the Boeing 777, and the new Bangalore flight will begin with the Boeing 787-9 widebody.

As most of us frequent travelers and most West Coast flyers know, Alaska Airlines has never been one of the jump in bed with an alliance type of airline, preferring to handpick its partners where it sees fit. Well, it seems the split from a massive codeshare with Delta Air Lines a few years back (perpetuated by Delta's "invasion" of Seattle and making it a hub), has kind of made Alaska rethink it's position. With the announcement today, it was also announced that Alaska will formally join the oneworld Alliance (that American Airlines is a founding member of) in Spring 2021. Now, Alaska will still keep the partners it has, but Alaska's core flyer membership will now have access to the rest of the oneworld carriers, as well as a vastly expanded domestic codesharing with American (how this plays out with the Federal regulatory caveat of Alaska being tied to not code-sharing with American on flights that used to be operated by Virgin America before it's merger with Alaska in 2016 still remains to be seen). The domestic codesharing will require federal approval before it begins.

Photo Credit Joe Pries

The Travel Genius opinion: This new, expanded deal and access into oneworld is a boon to Alaska Airlines' frequent flyer offerings, and solidifies them in the very hotly contested Seattle area against Delta Air Lines (who has also been making moves outside it's SkyTeam partners, like their recent purchase and codeshare agreement with LATAM Airlines of South America). I myself frequently fly both Alaska and American, as well as Delta, and I am a big fan of Alaska's inflight product both in Economy and First Class. I'm also a fan of American Airlines as well, even though they have their glaring operational issues as of late, they've always been amazing to me, and I've never had much of a problem on them. Just my two cents.

As always, if you'd like to add something to this, or let me know what you think, just drop me a line here, or on social media! Enjoy!

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