Alaska Airlines Delays Joining Oneworld Alliance to 2021

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Once again, the date that Alaska Airlines plans to join the Oneworld alliance has been changed. During a presentation this Wednesday, Alaska Airlines president Ben Minicucci shared a new target for when the airline plans to fully integrate into the Oneworld alliance. Instead of the most recently announced timeline of joining Oneworld by the end of 2020, Alaska now aims to join by the end of March 2021.

Alaska Airlines Oneworld Timeline

It was only February 2020 when Alaska Airlines announced its plan to join the Oneworld alliance. This announcement was made as Alaska strengthened its ties with American Airlines. At that time, the target was to join the alliance by summer 2021:

Alaska Airlines Oneworld timeline

Of course, a lot has changed in the travel ecosystem since this announcement was made. The coronavirus pandemic has crippled the airline industry and led to drastic reductions in staffing and expansions. For example, American Airlines delayed the launch of the new routes teased in the timeline above.

Despite these setbacks, Alaska announced in July that it aimed to join Oneworld alliance by the end of 2020. Now, Alaska blames technology integrations for having to push its entry into Oneworld back a couple of months.

Alaska will bring the number of airlines in the Oneworld alliance back up to 14. LATAM dropped out of the alliance in May 2020.

What Does This Mean for Travelers

Alaska's joining of the Oneworld alliance offers known positives but unknown downsides.

Oneworld Alliance Benefits

I think it's safe to say that the biggest benefit will be the ability to use your Alaska Mileage Plan miles across all airlines within the Oneworld alliance. You will also earn Alaska Mileage Plan miles when flying with any Oneworld alliance airline.

However, some details are still unknown. For example, we don't yet know yet how Alaska's elite statuses (MVP, MVP Gold, and MVP Gold 75K) will be assigned to Oneworld elite tiers (Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald).

Will Alaska Change Its Award Chart?

Alaska Mileage Plan offers one of the most valuable and generous airline loyalty programs around. Mileage Plan is already a partner of several Oneworld airlines. For example, you can currently pay just 50,000 Alaska miles to fly Cathay Pacific business class one-way from the U.S. to Asia (including a free stopover). An award in Cathay Pacific First Class costs just 70,000 miles one-way.

For comparison, American Airlines also partners with Cathay Pacific. American AAdvantage members have to pay 70,000 and 110,000 miles, respectively, for the same awards. And it's no mistake that Alaska Mileage Plan charges the same exact award prices for American Airlines flights on the same route:

Mileage Plan fans are concerned that Alaska will reassess its award charts as part of its entry into Oneworld. As part of this, Alaska could standardize award charts across its partner airlines, eliminating many of the current sweet spots.

Final Thoughts

Alaska joining the Oneworld alliance will give Alaska flyers more access to international routes and elite benefits on more airlines. That's going to be great once the world comes out of lockdown and travel restrictions are lifted. Hopefully, Alaska will be able to work through the technical issues and there won't be any more changes to the target date of Q1 2021.

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