Changes to Alaska-Delta partnership coming soon

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Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines are downshifting their partnership.

In terms of the medium and large frequent flyer programs, Alaska Airlines has one of the best ones out there.  It’s been a refuge for mileage junkies like me who have watched in dismay this year as United and Delta announced radical changes to their programs, greatly devaluing each in turn.

One of the benefits of Alaska’s program has been that they aren’t part of any of the major global airline alliances.  As one of the few independent U.S.-based airlines, they have been able to partner both with American Airlines and Delta (and many of their respective international partners).  This has had the effect of Alaska having one foot in the Oneworld Alliance and the other in SkyTeam.  Along with other independent partnerships, Alaska has a great variety of partners on which you can earn and use your miles, including Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, KLM, Qantas in addition to American and Delta.

As Delta has finished swallowing Northwest Airlines from their 2008 merger, it has begun expanding its presence out West, putting it into direct competition with Alaska, especially up-and-down the West Coast.  As such, their partnership is downgrading a bit.  Here are the details:

Benefits ending May 1

  • Baggage Fee Waivers for Delta flights ticketed after April 30, 2014
  • Sky Priority Boarding
  • Access to Delta’s Express Security Lanes
  • Priority Baggage Handling
  • 50% discount off Economy Comfort Seats

Benefits after May 1

  • Priority Check-In
  • 100% Elite Bonus Miles
  • Complimentary Upgrades in the continental U.S.
  • Preferred Seating
  • Zone 1 Priority Boarding

The biggest hits here are the loss of baggage fee waivers and the 50% discount off Economy Comfort seats.

But the real story isn’t what we’re losing after May 1, it’s that this is the shape of things to come between Alaska and Delta.  As you know, Delta’s recent frequent flyer program changes (effective January 1, 2015) mean that most travelers will earn less miles than before.  So far it hasn’t been announced how this will affect partners.  For example, if I fly Delta and post the miles to my Alaska account, how many will I receive?  I have a hard time believing that Delta will continue to award actual flown miles to partner program members while reducing mileage earning for its own members.  Therefore I expect that we Alaska Mileage Plan members will see our earnings of Delta miles reduced starting next year.  This puts into question the best benefit of the Alaska-Delta partnership, the 100% mileage bonus for MVP/Gold and Gold 75K members.

Look for more changes to be announced later this year about the Alaska-Delta partnership.  The trend is clear: These two airlines are growing farther apart, not closer together.


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Ryan has been a travel expert for more than ten years. His journeys have taken him to all six inhabited continents, including living in the Middle East and backpacking across Australia, Asia and Europe.

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