Alaska Airlines executives said Tuesday it is considering a membership in the Oneworld airline alliance.
Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Harrison told analysts in New York City during the company’s annual Investor Day that Alaska Air is looking at joining Oneworld as a “connect” member.
Oneworld Connect is a secondary membership tier that offers airlines some — but not all — customer benefits provided through the alliance.
Fiji Airways is currently the only Oneworld Connect member. It joined in Summer 2018, when the membership tier was announced.
Harrison explained the move would help Alaska keep the domestic business of passengers who often travel internationally from straying to other airlines. That represents a pretty hefty sum of travelers who are based at Alaska’s four largest operations: Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
At SFO and especially at LAX, Alaska faces the fierce competition from United, Delta and American Airlines.
With a connect membership, elite Alaska fliers would receive priority check-in desk access and priority boarding when flying airlines across the entire Oneworld alliance.
Other more valuable perks, like lounge access, through-checking of bags and passengers, and award mileage redemptions would largely depend on which Oneworld airline the Alaska Mileage Plan member would be flying.
Under the current Oneworld Connect set-up, the more generous benefits would be offered by at least three of the airlines that had to sponsor Alaska’s entry into the alliance. Fiji Airways was sponsored by American, Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Qantas Airways.
The relationship between Alaska and Oneworld founding member American Airlines has grown more distant following the acquisition of Virgin America. For example, Alaska stopped awarding miles for American flights operating out of the West Coast, so it will interesting to see how the dynamics of that relationship evolve should Alaska join Oneworld.
Photo: OneWorld Alliance
In recent years, Alaska has forged deeper ties with foreign carriers, including many Oneworld carriers, to allow Mileage Plan members to use and earn miles on long-haul international flights, of which Alaska does not operate.
Some of those “Global Partners” include Aer Lingus, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Fiji Airways, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Qantas.
Harrison told investors the airline will begin selling tickets for some of those partner airlines through alaskair.com in 2019.
San Francisco Plans
Harrison also said Alaska Airlines might pursue more gates at SFO “if the conditions are right to continue our growth” in San Francisco.
San Francisco is the “crown jewel in Virgin America’s achievement,” he called the SFO operation.
Alaska shares SFO’s Terminal 2 with American Airlines, and it’s widely expected (though not yet confirmed) American will move its operation to Terminal 1 once that brand new facility opens in phases beginning next year.
Alaska operates 10 gates in Terminal 2. It also operates out of Terminal 1’s Concourse C (Delta side), the International Terminal, and has remote stands accessible by an airside shuttle bus.
Alaska also revealed it is in discussions with the airport to construct a new lounge that will be located on the mezzanine level of Terminal 2. That’s where the old air traffic control tower and former airport offices are located. With the demolition of the tower, there is now room available for a planned public observation deck — and an airline lounge. Alaska Air has hinted around about this space for two years, but revealed few concrete details.
Some observers have speculated Alaska might eventually build a lounge in the existing American Airlines Admirals Club space (In Terminal 2) once that is vacated for its SFO lounge, but that area may not be large enough to comfortably accommodate the large number of Alaska elite fliers.
What do you think about the possibility of Alaska Air joining Oneworld? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.
Chris McGinnis is the founder of TravelSkills.com. You can reach Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cjmcginnis.