As of March 31, 2021, Alaska Airlines has officially become a full member in the Oneworld airline alliance.
We’ll cover some of the key developments that have already occurred as of Alaska joining Oneworld today, although it appears that we’ll have to wait a while longer for the details that we’ve been most anxiously awaiting: the award redemption rules and charts for redeeming Alaska miles on Oneworld partner flights.
Earn Alaska Miles When Flying with Oneworld Airlines
As of today, it’s now possible for passengers travelling on all Oneworld airlines to earn miles in Alaska Mileage Plan by entering their Mileage Plan frequent flyer number on the ticket.
Likewise, it’s possible for passengers travelling on Alaska Airlines to earn miles with any Oneworld partner program.
Note that, before today, Alaska had already built partnerships with six of Oneworld’s full members (British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Japan Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Qantas) and a single Oneworld Connect partner (Fiji Airways). Nothing has changed about the reciprocal points-earning ability on these airlines.
However, reciprocal mileage earning is now live on the new Oneworld partners: Iberia, Malaysia Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, and SriLankan Airlines. Alaska has now published earning charts for all of these partners on each partner’s page on the Alaska website.
Alaska MVP Status Gives You Oneworld Status
As I had covered last week, Alaska’s own MVP Status program will now translate into Oneworld status as follows:
- Alaska MVP status will be equivalent to Oneworld Ruby status
- Alaska MVP Gold status will be equivalent to Oneworld Sapphire status
- Alaska MVP Gold 75K status will be equivalent to Oneworld Emerald status
For Alaska MVP status members who are travelling shortly, your Oneworld status should already be live, allowing you to take advantage of priority airport services with all of the Oneworld partner airlines.
If you’re interested in earning Alaska MVP status (and thereby Oneworld status), don’t forget that there’s concurrent Status Match and Status Challenge offers going on that can help you leverage an existing airline status towards MVP status.
What About Alaska Mileage Plan Redemptions?
Now let’s talk about what concerns us most as travellers who primarily redeem points for travel, and who place a particularly high value on the versatility of the current Alaska Mileage Plan program: what does full membership in the Oneworld alliance mean for Mileage Plan award redemptions going forward?
There appears to be limited movement on the redemption side as of Alaska’s official entry into Oneworld this week – although there are still a couple of interesting developments to note.
New Redemption Charts Coming Summer 2021
Earlier this year, Alaska had indicated that partner redemptions on all Oneworld airlines (outside of their existing partnerships) won’t be fully online until the summer of 2021.
At the same time, Alaska has also committed to making no alterations to their existing partner award charts (including fellow Oneworld members like Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines) as of March 31, as well as offering members at least 90 days’ notice of any changes to existing award charts.
Indeed, we reached out to Alaska Airlines about upcoming changes to Mileage Plan in the context of their new Oneworld membership, and were told the following:
For the six member airlines we already had existing partnerships with prior to oneworld, our guests can still redeem miles for flights: American Airlines, British Airways, Qantas, Finnair, Cathay Pacific and Japan Airlines (plus oneworld connect partner Fiji Airways).
Redemptions on all remaining alliance airlines will go live this summer. We’ll announce award pricing for new oneworld partners as redemptions are launched, and as always, we’ll strive to give at least 90 days’ notice if changes are coming to any current partner awards.
My impression here is that the redemption rates on the remaining Oneworld airlines (Iberia, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, and SriLankan Airlines) may not all be launched at once.
In fact, if I had to speculate, I’d say it’s more likely that we continue to see partner-by-partner redemption charts (similar to what we have now) rather than a unified award chart across all Oneworld airlines.
Qatar Airways Partner Awards Delayed
Separately from Alaska’s entry into Oneworld, Alaska and Qatar Airways had launched a bilateral partnership of their own back in December 2020.
At the time, it was reported that the ability to redeem Alaska miles on Qatar Airways flights (including Qatar Airways Qsuites business class, widely regarded as one of the world’s leading business class products) would go live as of Alaska’s entry into Oneworld on March 31.
However, that development now appears to be delayed – the Qatar Airways partner page on the Alaska website now indicates that “award booking will be available starting in the fall of 2021”.
This means that we’ll likely have to wait quite a while longer before finding out how many Alaska miles will be required to book an aspirational Qatar Airways Qsuites redemption.
There’s Still Time to Book Alaska’s Best Sweet Spots
While we’ll have to wait a bit longer before finding out the award charts for the new Oneworld partners, the award charts for the existing Oneworld partners have not changed as of March 31, giving us some more time to book Alaska’s best sweet spots before they possibly undergo changes.
Alaska Mileage Plan is known for offering some excellent award chart sweet spots for travelling on some of the world’s best airlines, such as:
70,000 Alaska miles for Cathay Pacific First Class between North American and Hong Kong, followed by a stopover, and then a Cathay Pacific business class flight to South Africa or the Middle East
70,000–75,000 Alaska miles for Japan Airlines First Class between North America and Tokyo, followed by a stopover, and then a Japan Airlines business class flight to the rest of Asia
50,000 Alaska miles for Cathay Pacific business class between North America and Asia
60,000–65,000 Alaska miles for Japan Airlines business class between North America and Asia
55,000 Alaska miles for Qantas business class between North America and Australia
80,000–100,000 Alaska miles for Singapore Airlines business class between North America and Singapore
Those are just a few examples of the exceptionally low rates that Alaska charges for premium class travel, and the excellent value that results. And since these redemption rates are relatively low compared to the rest of the market, most observers feel that the award prices are most likely to increase rather than decrease or stay the same.
On top of that, Alaska also offers very generous stopover and routing policies – the ability to add a stopover on a one-way award is extremely valuable, and so too is the opportunity to book creative routings via the Alaska search engine.
At the moment, it’s unclear whether there are any changes planned to Alaska’s best award chart sweet spots, although I’m pleased to see that they remain bookable for the time being, and that we’ll be given at least 90 days’ notice if there are any changes coming later in 2021.
What About Alaska’s Non-Oneworld Partnerships?
Another question relating to Alaska Mileage Plan redemptions is whether Oneworld membership will have any effect on some of Alaska’s more unique partnerships with airlines outside of Oneworld, such as Emirates, El Al, or Singapore Airlines.
In a 2020 press release, Alaska had stated the following:
Also, you might be wondering about our partnerships with our current Global Partners that are not a part of oneworld. We value the benefits those partnerships provide our guests, and we’ll continue to maintain them as long as it’s mutually beneficial to do so.
I do believe that Alaska will be doing their utmost to keep their partnerships around as long as it’s viable to do so.
However, some of Alaska’s key Oneworld partners are naturally at odds with their non-Oneworld partners (like Qatar Airways and Emirates, who are both vying to offer service to the Middle East from Alaska’s hub of Seattle), so I do believe that some of Alaska’s non-Oneworld partnerships may end up on the chopping block in the long run.
Oneworld Programs Can Now Book Alaska Airlines Flights
There’s one final interesting wrinkle to Alaska officially joining Oneworld: redeeming miles for Alaska flights in other Oneworld loyalty programs is now a more streamlined experience
Before today, it was already possible to redeem British Airways Avios on Alaska Airlines flights, but you couldn’t book through the online search engine; you had to call in.
Now, Alaska flights are live on the Avios online search engine, and the pricing follows the same standard pricing for all Oneworld partners. It’ll be a lot easier for West Coast Canadians to redeem their Avios for short-haul flights down to the US onboard Alaska Airlines.
If you’re planning a high-value round-the-world trip using one of these elaborate booking methods, you now have the luxury of adding Alaska Airlines’s route network into your overall trip-planning process, which may be very useful for flying from your Canadian origin to a US gateway airport to catch a premium flight.
Alaska Airlines has officially joined Oneworld as of March 31, 2021. Reciprocal mileage earning and elite status have already launched among Alaska Airlines and the other Oneworld airlines.
Alaska has committed to providing at least 90 days’ notice about award redemption changes, and with a Summer 2021 timeframe for these new redemption options to kick in, I’m sure there will be a lot more details filtering through in the coming months about Alaska Mileage Plan award redemptions.
With that in mind, you should definitely be looking to aggressively earn and burn Alaska miles throughout the rest of the year and take advantage of the killer sweet spots in the current program for as long as they last in their current form.