Alaska and Delta have kind of been like that old couple that constantly fights, but had somehow kept the marriage together a long time (arguably too long for everyone else’s sanity). This whole thing began when Delta tried to directly compete with Alaska, opening a hub in Seattle (the funny thing is that this actually began as an extension of the Alaska/Delta partnership, with Alaska having Delta provide international service from Seattle which AS would feed from its domestic network; this lasted until Delta decided it would be a better idea to operate the domestic flights themselves and began to compete with Alaska directly). Some minor frequent flier program cuts followed, with the end of reciprocal lounge access and Delta cutting Elite Qualifying Dollar accrual on Alaska. Many people considered it a matter of time before the whole partnership was ended, given the fact that it doesn’t really make sense to be partnering with the people trying to take over your hub.
Well, it seems like it was only a matter of time. Today, Alaska and Delta announced that they would be ending their partnership as of May 1, 2017, with the end of codesharing between the two airlines ending May 1 and frequent flier ties ending as of April 30, when one will no longer be able to earn or redeem miles for Alaska and Delta on the other’s frequent flier program. It get’s a little complex here, so here’s a breakdown of when you can earn or redeem miles on Delta or Alaska:
- Tickets booked before today: Will earn miles through December 17 of next year
- Tickets booked today or later for travel between today and April 30, 2017: Miles can be both earned and redeemed
- Tickets booked today or later for travel after May 1, 2017: miles can be redeemed, but not earned
- Tickets booked after May 1: no mileage earning or redeeming
As of May 1, Alaska or Delta elites won’t receive priority boarding or complimentary upgrades (though these were notoriously hard to get in the past) on the other airline. However, Alaska and Delta’s interlining agreement will continue.
While I can totally see where Alaska/Delta are coming from on this, it’s kind of unfortunate to see this partnership end. I’ve heard of many people who fly Delta for their awesome onboard product, but credit the miles they earn for these flights to Alaska (because SkyPesos), and this will no longer be an option for many people. So, if you’re travelling domestically and want to earn miles on Alaska, you’re going to have to fly Alaska or American, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Nobody can dispute that Delta had a better onboard hard product than Alaska (Delta has seatback TV’s on all aircraft, which AS doesn’t, even in first class, and has generally much more posh cabins), though I suspect this might change with the Alaska/Virgin merger which was finalized last week (Virgin aircraft are fitted with TV’s at every seat and have some of the best-looking interiors in the US, so I don’t know why Alaska would not try to build some consistency in their fleet by stepping up their own offerings). Additionally, I have never experienced truly bad service on Alaska, and I think the kind of downhome friendliness Alaska exudes is worth almost as much as seatback TV’s and mood lighting. Also, while there are far too many ex-US Airways aircraft out there which are straight out of 1997, American’s new cabins are sleek, stylish, and comfortable, with TV’s and power plugs at every seat. So it’s not like your only option right now is to ride in something like a Greyhound Bus.
So, what does somebody who used to fly Delta and credit to Alaska do now, or vise versa? I’ll be talking about this in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.
All in all, this is an unfortunate change, though one which I think a lot of people knew was going to happen. This airline breakup also raises a couple of interesting questions, like will Delta look for a new domestic partner to replace Alaska (almost certainly not), or, now that there’s no longer a pretense of friendship between the two carriers, will we see the Alaska/Delta fight in Seattle heat up (I’m not sure, though I don’t see Delta backing down anytime soon)? We’ll have to see.
I suppose Alaska and Delta are going to have to change their relationship status now…