As most of our readers already know, Alaska Airlines is joining the oneworld alliance this year. Originally slated for summer 2021, the carrier has brought forward its tie-up into the alliance to 31st March 2021, around three months earlier than first planned.
The ability to accrue Alaska miles on all oneworld carriers will commence from the date of joining, however the airline has confirmed that mileage redemption won’t be rolled out immediately and will only start from this summer, which is approximately in the June to August 2021 timescale.
What new options will be added?
Although Alaska will officially offer redemptions on all oneworld flights from summer 2021, the airline already has partnerships with several of these carriers, either across their entire network or on selected routes (typically, to and from the USA).
Alaska also offers mileage redemption on nine non-oneworld airlines, including Emirates, Korean Air and Singapore Airlines.
Here’s a breakdown of both the current and upcoming redemption options using Alaska Mileage Plan miles.
|Airline||Selected Routes||All Routes|
|British Airways||Now||From Summer 2021|
|Iberia||—||From Summer 2021|
|Japan Airlines||Now||From Summer 2021|
|Malaysia Airlines||—||From Summer 2021|
|Qantas||Now||From Summer 2021|
|Qatar Airways||From 31 Mar 2021*||From Summer 2021|
|Royal Air Maroc||—||From Summer 2021|
|Royal Jordanian||—||From Summer 2021|
|S7 Airlines||—||From Summer 2021|
|SriLankan Airlines||—||From Summer 2021|
|Other Partner Airlines|
|Airline||Selected Routes||All Routes|
* Initial route options TBC
New options from mid-2021 of most interest for our Singapore-based readers will include:
- Qantas redemptions to and from Australia and Europe (currently restricted to intra-Australia and Australia-USA routes)
- Malaysia Airlines redemptions
- SriLankan Airlines redemptions
- JAL redemptions to and from Europe (currently restricted to intra-Asia and Asia-USA routes)
- British Airways redemptions to and from Australia and Europe (currently restricted to intra-Europe and Europe-North America routes)
What we don’t know yet
While there are plenty of knowns there are still some significant unknowns when it comes to the changes we can expect once Alaska Airlines joins oneworld and redemption is then rolled out to these new partners.
- What redemption rates will be
It remains to be seen how attractive Alaska’s award charts will look for these new airlines and additional routing options, for the likes of Singapore to Sydney on BA or Qantas and Singapore to Japan on Malaysia Airlines. A oneworld award chart is likely to replace individual carrier arrangements, and it probably won’t be as attractively priced.
- Whether existing award rates will be changed
A big question is whether a general devaluation will result from Alaska’s oneworld entry, meaning we will probably be saying goodbye to some ‘sweet spots’ on the award chart like Cathay Pacific from Singapore to New York for 50,000 miles in Business Class.
- How much notice will be given for a devaluation
With a harmonised oneworld award chart likely to come into force from summer 2021, we anticipate (and hope) Alaska will give its Mileage Plan members sufficient time to book awards at existing rates.
- Whether all the non-oneworld partners will survive
It’s possible that Alaska’s entry into oneworld will make some existing partnerships with non-alliance carriers ‘incompatible’. That’s not necessarily certain though, since many alliance members have relationships with both non-alliance and ‘competing’ alliance partners. British Airways, for example, partners and codeshares with China Eastern, while Qantas partners with Air France-KLM and Cathay Pacific partners with Swiss on selected routes.
- Which airlines will support online redemption
Currently you have to call Alaska Airlines to check availability and book flights on Cathay Pacific and LATAM using Mileage Plan miles. It would be great if Alaska uses its oneworld entry as an opportunity to ‘fix’ those issues and incorporate as many of the oneworld partners into the online booking portal as possible in the process.
Ultimately what we all want to know is how the award charts will look for these newly added oneworld partners, and how the redemption rates change for existing ones, once the full suite of carriers is available for redemption.
Luckily the benefits we’ve become used to with Alaska Mileage Plan redemptions should hopefully still apply, including free stopovers and no fuel surcharges on award tickets (with selected partners).
Qatar Airways is next
Ahead of its entry into the oneworld alliance, in December 2020 Alaska Airlines formed a partnership with Qatar Airways. This now allows you to credit paid flights on the Middle East carrier into your Mileage Plan account (with some generous earn rates on offer).
For example, crediting a paid return Qatar Airways Business Class flight from Singapore to London and back to the Alaska Mileage Plan programme will net you a generous 32,000 miles, more than enough for a Business Class flight from Singapore to Japan with JAL or Cathay Pacific.
Redeeming Mileage Plan miles on Qatar Airways flights will be possible from 31st March 2021.
That’s around three months ahead of the other oneworld partners. It’s not yet known whether this will initially include access to all Qatar Airways routes, which will certainly be possible once full oneworld partner awards are made available, but will not necessarily be the case for this initial launch phase.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on redemption rates for these flights on routings like Singapore – Europe, Singapore – USA and Singapore – South Africa (assuming they are all possible from day one), since this will be a new way to redeem the excellent Qsuite with (we hope) no fuel surcharge applied.
To avoid hefty fuel surcharges on Qatar Airways redemptions, you are currently restricted to redeeming using the airline’s own (newly enhanced) Privilege Club miles, or American Airlines AAdvantage miles, but good news is that Alaska Mileage Plan also does not levy fuel surcharges on award tickets.
Crucially, the Qatar Airways award chart might be our first hint as to how Alaska’s oneworld awards are likely to be priced come summer 2021.
Still some ‘knowns and unknowns’ when it comes to redemption options using Alaska miles on oneworld carriers from mid-2021.
If you have a large Alaska miles balance it will be important to keep a close eye on developments this year, since we expect a new harmonised (and likely poorer value) redemption chart for oneworld carriers, hopefully revealed with sufficient notice to allow you to make redemptions with current partners at current rates.
Alaska Airlines doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges with most of its award tickets, which will hopefully save you a lot of money when redeeming with some airlines.
The addition of Alaska Mileage Plan’s Qatar Airways award charts next month might give us the first indication of what we can expect from the programme in the future, so stay tuned for the latest updates as we get them.
(Cover Photo: Alaska Airlines)