Partnership between American Airlines and Alaska Airlines is Breaking Apart

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Alaska Airlines and American Airlines shared some sad news today. They will loosen their partnership beginning 1. January 2018. As Alaska is starting to grow its own network the partnership with American Airlines (AA) will take a hit. Alaska recently bought the West Coast-based Airline Virgin America and will dissolve the Virgin America brand completely into Alaska Airlines.

Alaska Airlines network grew largely since the addition of Virgin America and serves now many destinations where it used to make sense to fly on AA before. Alaska Airlines want you now to spend your money on Alaska and Virgin (as long as it exists as a separate brand) rather than sharing their profit with American Airlines.

It is a logical step and was foreseeable that something like this would happen as Alaska Airlines starts to grow. From Alaska Air’s standpoint, it makes absolute sense but for us passengers it’s a loss. Just not to long ago Alaska Airlines advertised their loyalty program “Milage Plan” as a program where one mile flown is a mile earned. For some people, it made sense to credit the miles from their AA flights to AS (Alaska Airlines) for a better value. American Airlines, as most of the legacy airlines, turned to a revenue-based loyalty program.

Beginning with 1. January of 2018 you won’t be able to credit domestic flights to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan if it’s not a codeshare and booked through Alaska Air. You still can credit international travel on AA to Mileage Plan.

America Airlines landing at LAX

Reciprocal elite benefits will be cut as well. You will no longer receive priority boarding, free bags, or preferred seating on any flights operated by American Airlines. Also the other way around. Alaska Airlines won’t allow you priority boarding anymore if you have status with American Airlines.

Here the changes as found on Alaska Airlines’ website.

Partnership changes:

Alaska has grown a lot recently, by acquiring Virgin America, expanding to 118 cities, and growing our global partner network. With growth comes change, and starting January 1, 2018, Alaska and American Airlines will be making important updates to our partnership, though a lot will remain the same

What’s not changing:

  • You’ll still earn miles on domestic American Airlines flights with an Alaska Airlines (AS) flight number, and on all American international flights.
  • You’ll still be able to redeem miles on American flights globally.
  • Alaska Lounge members can still access Admirals Club lounges when traveling on Alaska or American.

What is changing:

  • American Airlines domestic flights with an “AA” flight number will no longer earn Mileage Plan miles.
  • You’ll no longer receive elite benefits when traveling on American Airlines after December 31, 2017.
  • Some award levels will be changing for travel booked in 2018.

It is sad to see that these two airlines starting to split up. Earlier Alaska Airlines and Delta Airlines split up for good as Delta now increases its own network out of their hub in Seattle.

Alaska and American shouldn’t have discontinued their reciprocal elite member recognition. Since it makes now less and less sense to stay loyal to one airline. All they do is cutting your benefits but you spend extra just to stay loyal. That’s not how it should work.

Let’s see where this partnership goes and hopefully this is the last time we here about loosening the partnership. I am pretty certain there will be award chart changes in the future and pretty sure they will be negative for the customers.

I am a big fan of both Airlines and enjoyed my flights with them. The only benefit I ever used was the partner elite recognition but not even for the free bag, just for priority boarding.

However, with the growing integration of Virgin America into Alaska Airlines, benefits are raising on both airlines until Virgin ceases to exist.

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