Alliance-wide redemptions delayed: The latest on Alaska’s Oneworld partnership

Oct 28, 2021

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On March 31, 2021, Alaska Airlines officially joined the Oneworld alliance. This was a major change for the Seattle-based carrier, which historically had resisted joining a major airline alliance and instead preferred individual airline partnerships.

Alaska’s entrance into Oneworld meant more ways to earn and redeem miles, reciprocal elite benefits — including access to the alliance’s more than 650 lounges globally for those who are eligible — and more.

But now, seven months in, some details still remain scant. Although Alaska is officially a part of the alliance, not all benefits are live yet — specifically, the ability to redeem miles on all partners. Below, we’ve answered the most common questions you might have.

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In This Post

Earning miles

When can I credit Oneworld flights to Alaska Mileage Plan?

You can now accrue Alaska Mileage Plan miles on all Oneworld airlines. Just note that earning rates vary by airline and fare class. Also, not all fares earn miles. For instance, American Airlines basic economy (B) fares don’t earn Alaska miles.

Alaska American Earning Chart
Alaska Airlines’ earning chart for American flights. (Screenshot courtesy of alaskaair.com)

Keep in mind that there were also some changes to how you earn miles when flying on Alaska. The biggest change is that full-fare economy and first-class tickets now earn more miles, while some other fare classes earn slightly less. At a minimum, you’ll always earn 100% of the base miles flown on Alaska-operated flights.

Related: How to earn miles with the Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan program

When can I credit Alaska flights to Oneworld partner programs?

Likewise, you can credit Alaska flights to Oneworld partners. Again, earning rates vary by the program you’re crediting to and by fare class. For instance, Alaska’s basic economy (X) may not earn miles with some partner programs.

Alaska Airlines Airbus Interior
(Photo courtesy of Alaska Airlines)

Will Alaska eventually shift to a revenue-based model for accruing miles?

As of now, there’s no plan for Alaska to shift to a revenue-based model for accruing miles. TPG previously asked Alaska about this and we were told there are “no changes to our award value proposition.”

It’s notable that Alaska Mileage Plan is the last holdout among major full-service U.S. carriers for awarding miles based on distance flown (rather than ticket price). While the program did launch a survey about revenue-based mileage accrual in 2014, it then reiterated that it wouldn’t go revenue-based a couple of years later. Hopefully, this will remain intact as the carrier expands the number of ways that members can earn miles, especially on domestic flights.

Related: From battling ‘frenemy’ Delta to Oneworld to Virgin America, outgoing Alaska Air CEO leaves his mark

Redeeming miles

When will Alaska members be able to redeem Mileage Plan miles across all of Oneworld?

When Alaska first joined the alliance, it planned on introducing redemptions across all Oneworld airlines in summer 2021. However, at the time of writing this article, the only new Oneworld partner you can redeem with is Qatar Airways.

In October 2021, Alaska confirmed to TPG that beyond the ones already announced, alliance-wide redemptions are being delayed until early 2022 due to “technical challenges with implementation.”

Luckily, Alaska already offers redemptions with many Oneworld alliance carriers:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways

Alaska also partners with Fiji Airways (a Oneworld connect airline). In other words, Alaska already has integrations with half of the 14 Oneworld members, so you can utilize these existing relationships to book some award flights now.

Related: Best ways to redeem Alaska miles

Will Alaska keep separate award charts for each partner?

Right now, your ability to use Alaska miles on partner airlines isn’t all-encompassing, nor is it consistent from carrier to carrier.

Instead, you’ll see individual award rates for a given partner airline when you select your departure and arrival region on this page. In some cases, there’s no chart at all, which means that you can’t book an award on that partner, even if it operates a flight.

Alaska told TPG that it would announce award pricing for new Oneworld partners as redemptions become available. The airline also told us it would strive to give at least 90 days’ notice if changes are coming to any current partner awards. As such, we shouldn’t expect any major no-notice devaluations for the time being.

Related: Best sweet spots with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Will Alaska stop restricting awards to a single partner airline?

Under Alaska’s current award routing rules, you’re limited to a single partner airline when redeeming miles — though you can include connecting Alaska flights within the U.S.

As a result, you can’t fly Japan Airlines to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) and then connect to a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong (HKG). You’d need to fly a single partner airline all the way there or connect to a single partner via Alaska Airlines. At this point, it’s unclear whether this will change when Oneworld redemptions become fully available.

Alaska and American planes on the runway at LAX
(Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

Will there be any changes to Alaska’s free stopover policy on award tickets?

One of the best parts of Mileage Plan is the ability to add a free stopover to all award tickets, even on one-way flights. This is a great way to maximize your rewards further, and savvy travelers are curious about whether this will be changing.

Right now, it’s business as usual, so you can still utilize this policy when redeeming Alaska miles. The airline has told TPG that there are “no planned changes to the award value proposition” at this time, so hopefully, this benefit remains.

Related: 5 things to know about Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Elite status

When will we see elite travelers start to enjoy reciprocal perks?

Since March 31, Mileage Plan elites have had Oneworld status. The status tiers break down as follows:

  • MVP = Oneworld Ruby
  • MVP Gold = Oneworld Sapphire
  • MVP Gold 75K = Oneworld Emerald

Alaska will launch a new top status tier – MVP Gold 100K — early next year. These members will be Oneworld Emerald members and have nearly the same reciprocal benefits as MVP Gold 75K members on partner flights.

What do these reciprocal perks look like?

In addition to the usual perks when flying Alaska, elites now enjoy a subset of benefits when flying on one of the 13 other member airlines. Here’s how the benefits break down:

oneworld Priority MVP / oneworld Ruby MVP Gold / oneworld Sapphire MVP Gold 75K and MVP GOld 100K /
oneworld Emerald
Earn and redeem miles on all Oneworld flights
Earn elite points on all eligible Oneworld flights
Access to Priority check-in
Access to preferred or pre-reserved seating
Priority on waitlists and when on standby
Priority boarding
Access to Business Class check-in
Access to Business Class lounges
Extra baggage allowance
Priority baggage handling
Access to First Class check-in
Access to First Class lounges
Fast track at security lanes

In addition to the standard Oneworld benefits, Alaska and American Airlines have already unveiled an even deeper integration of their elite status perks.

Alaska’s top-tier MVP Gold 75K members are eligible for free domestic upgrades on American Airlines and even get confirmed upgrade certificates valid on eligible AA long-haul international routes. Additionally, MVP Gold 75K and mid-tier Gold members enjoy complimentary extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra seats for free at booking.

Related: American, Alaska Airlines detail reciprocal elite benefits, upgrades

What lounges do elites have access to?

As stated above, MVP Gold members now have access to Oneworld business class lounges, while MVP Gold 75K have access to first class lounges. Typically, this is applicable when flying any Oneworld airline in any class of service. However, as is the case for American Airlines AAdvantage elites, there’s a big caveat.

Alaska elites don’t get lounge benefits when traveling solely on North American flights within or between the U.S., Canada, Mexico (except Mexico City), the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean. The one exception is for three-cabin premium transcontinental flights operated by American Airlines. In other words, in the U.S., Alaska elites are usually only guaranteed lounge access when flying long-haul international routes.

Also, note that Alaska elites don’t get Flagship First Check-in privileges.

Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

Alaska lounge LAX
Alaska lounge LAX. (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Alaska’s partners

What airlines are in the Oneworld alliance?

There 14 airlines in the Oneworld alliance, including Alaska. Here are the other members:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7 Airlines
  • SriLankan Airlines

There’s also Fiji Airways, which is a partial Oneworld “Connect” member, and recognizes some elite benefits, though isn’t a full-fledged Oneworld airline.

Related: What are airline alliances, and who’s in them?

What will happen to Alaska’s non-Oneworld partners?

One of the major reasons we value Alaska miles so highly here at TPG is the wide variety of partners across all major alliances. So what will happen to these partner airlines that aren’t full members of Oneworld? When originally asked, we were given the following statement from Alaska:

“Our current Global Partner portfolio remains unchanged.”

Unfortunately, at the end of July 2021, Alaska did cut ties with its longstanding partner Emirates. You’re no longer able to earn or redeem miles on the Dubai-based carrier.

On the flip side, there haven’t been any changes to other non-Oneworld partners like Condor, El Al, Icelandair and Singapore Airlines. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be more changes down the road. But, for now, it’s status quo.

Related: Your complete guide to Alaska Airlines partners

Bottom line

It’s now been seven months since Alaska Airlines officially became a part of the Oneworld alliance. While you can now earn Alaska miles across all Oneworld flights, alliance-wide redemptions won’t become available for at least another few months. Alaska elites do now get a slew of perks when flying on Oneworld partners. However, there are some restrictions to be aware of, specifically pertaining to lounge access on domestic itineraries.

Additional reporting by Nick Ewen.

Featured image by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy

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