American and Alaska Airlines made significant announcements this week to counter the growth of Delta Air Lines in the Seattle market. The airlines took a two prong strategy to counter Delta’s recent international and domestic growth in the Pacific Northwest.
If you recall, Alaska Airlines used to have limited codeshares with both American and Delta Air Lines. Alaska leveraged the strength of its Seattle hub and Alaskan routes to play nice with both airlines. Alaska even fed Delta’s international service from Seattle, a remnant of Northwest Airlines international network focused on routes to Asia. Back in 2017 things started to change. Delta strategically pulled out of the codeshare with Alaska. Shortly after the Delta-led divorce, Delta introduced a host of routes that competed directly against Alaska. American largely stood silent…until now.
Alaska joins One World Alliance
On Thursday, Alaska Airlines announced that they intend to join the One World alliance. Beginning immediately, Alaska will allow members of their frequent flyer program to book reward travel on American Airlines, the principle airline of One World. Over the next 18 months, the airline will gradually become more entrenched in the alliance until they achieve full membership into One World in mid-2021. For Alaska, this is a definitive shot across the bow against Delta. Many had expected Alaska to make sure a move sooner but the merger with Virgin America was an impediment.
Alaska joining the One World alliance is also a clear win for both American and all of the other member airlines of One World. It will greatly expand Alaska’s access to international destinations and will give its frequent flyers access to one of the largest network of lounges in the world.
American Announces International Service From Seattle
As part of the announcement, American also announced its intentions to serve Bangalore, India non-stop from Seattle utilizing its Boeing 787-9 jets beginning in the fall of this year. American also announced intentions to serve London Heathrow non-stop from Seattle in 2021. Both routes will have Alaskan codeshare on the flights. While American isn’t matching Delta’s international presence, it is a clear shot across the bow to Delta that American and Alaska won’t allow Delta to grow unchecked in the region.
In addition to American’s new service, Alaskan flyers will be able to earn MVP miles on American’s domestic and international flights later this spring.
The announcement is good news for Alaska and American. It is also a well overdue step by both airlines to confront Delta’s growing Pacific Northwest network. The combined offering of American and Alaska will make them the largest presence in the region. The codeshare and routes are pending approval by regulators but aren’t expected to be denied in this more permissive regulatory environment.