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Opinion

Why Alaska’s Breakup With American Airlines Is Not a Terrible Thing

Why Alaska’s Breakup With American Airlines Is Not a Terrible Thing
Anya Kartashova

We knew this was coming, and the decision has been made at last. Alaska Airlines and American Airlines are going separate ways next year.

Effective March 1, members of neither loyalty program will be able to redeem miles for award flights on the other’s carrier. This is in part a direct result of the merger agreement with Virgin America that took place last year.

In recent years, Alaska has been losing partners at a steady pace, including Delta Air Lines, Air France/KLM, and Aeroméxico. All these changes hurt the Mileage Plan program significantly. However, in the grand scheme of things, losing this particular partnership isn’t the end of the world, and here’s why.

Limited Mileage Earning Opportunities

Right now, Alaska Airlines program members don’t earn redeemable Mileage Plan miles on domestic American Airlines-operated flights. As of March 1, international AA flights can’t be credited to Mileage Plan, either.

Already, the partnership has weakened enough to be less beneficial to Mileage Plan members, and the change doesn’t affect much in terms of loyalty. Making zero AA flights earn Alaska miles is like ripping off a Band-Aid that’s been hanging by a thread.

Not to mention, being able to earn credit on some flights and not the others has been confusing as you only get partial credit on multi-segment flights that include both a domestic and an international leg. To earn credit on all legs when flying with American Airlines in the future, choose a different program, be it American Airlines AAdvantage, British Airways Executive Club or Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.

You Get to Keep Airport Lounge Access

Alaska Lounge members can still access Admirals Clubs, and Admirals Club members can enter Alaska Lounges when flying with either airline…for now. The benefit isn’t going away in March. Many travelers rely on lounge access when they fly, and it’s nice to have options at an airport with fewer places to relax. At this point, it’s unclear whether the arrangement would continue for long, but at least it’s not being reduced just yet.

Less Competition for Award Seats

If you’ve ever tried to redeem AAdvantage miles, you know that award seats on American Airlines are notoriously hard to find. Take it with a grain of salt, but in theory, more award space should become available with less competition from Mileage Plan members booking up seats. Some of you might think I’m too naïve to think this way, but it sure does sound great on paper.

Do you see any positives in Alaska’s breakup from American Airlines?

View Comments (8)

8 Comments

  1. edgewood49

    October 3, 2019 at 6:18 am

    As a long time AS FF (MM) the American partnership was never a true one, award space on AA was slim to none in anything but coach that coupled with service on board and less than stellar planes made it an unusable alternative. Their lounges are packed which one would expect of a major.

  2. lalala

    October 3, 2019 at 8:32 am

    You have got to be kidding. I have no problem finding non-premium seats to Europe from Seattle on American even during high season. Losing American means that we have a huge hole in our redemption network to Europe and CANADA, our friends to the north. Also for those of who redeem our miles to get to places like Maine, upstate New York, anywhere other than Boston in the Northeast. We can no longer do that without paying through the nose on American or flying Delta etc.

    If you are looking for a premium seat, yeah you were disappointed, but so are tens of thousands of American flyers with the same problem.

    So, nope. I see no great upside to all of this.

  3. edgewood49

    October 3, 2019 at 10:06 am

    lalala,

    Yes I was referring to premium seats however the main cabin seat availability was not overwhelming either. I think AA flyers had a better chance at premium seating on AS than the reverse, just my opinion. Curious your comment about flying to Europe on American via SEA, that requires a stop in DFW or ORD I have no problems with premium seating without even considering AA to Europe ( most likely not anyway).

    At the end of the day it was never a true partnership, AA is in turmoil and AS is doing a great job of flight schedules within the US. Internationally I would like to maybe joining an Alliance as I do travel internationally several times a year.

    Anyway safe travel to all

  4. AanneSFO

    October 3, 2019 at 4:58 pm

    I will miss the opportunity to fly nonstop SFO-BOS, which AA ceased offering some years ago but AS offers now. The route was highly popular when AA offered it; unfortunately, it wasn’t compatible with AA’s new hub-based strategy.

  5. pmiranda

    October 4, 2019 at 5:32 am

    Losing the nonstop AUS-SJC will be bad. Maybe AA will return to this popular route?

  6. PDX Duck

    October 4, 2019 at 7:44 am

    While I haven’t made use of the American Airlines partnership with Alaska Airlines in several years, it is sad to see one less partner. Alaska had the best frequent flyer program for a number of years. Partnerships with both American Airlines and Northwest Airlines ( and later, Delta), meant being able to consolidate earned miles in one program, instead of having them spread out among multiple carriers.

    The good news is we can still redeem British Airways Avios on Alaska. For now.

  7. cplunk

    October 6, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    However you want to judge a “partnership”…
    As a former loyal Alaska Air customer, I’m out, have been so for over a year now.
    Too many trips to mid west and southern US (many to Memphis) that just aren’t serviced by Alaska or any partner they have. Unless your traveling only up the West coast or to a few of the major cities East, Alaska mileage plan just doesn’t work.
    Delta platinum medallion now, almost making it to diamond. Used to love Alaska Air… But they just don’t have the network available and stopped partnering with airlines that did extend that for them.
    (but still have 200k miles to use…)

  8. hoangtri1

    October 6, 2019 at 4:35 pm

    Why doesn’t Alaska hurry up and join Oneworld?

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