When Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America — ultimately spending way too much, dragging down their operational and financial performance, and forcing the airline to make product changes in lock step with the rest of the industry (you only get to chart your own path when you’re performing well) — the government required the carrier to drop some of its codesharing with American Airlines.
This led to a further deterioriation of the partnership between Alaska and American, according to some Alaska Airlines executives this was at American’s behest. Outside of flying on the more limited codeshares between the two carriers there are no more reciprocal elite benefits or mileage-earning. There does remain, though, a lounge access agreement and a mileage redemption partnership.
Alaska has historically been a smaller player with operations focused in the Pacific Northwest, in Alaska, and to a lesser extent Los Angeles. Now with Virgin America they’ve picked up strength in the Bay Area especially and are a force in California overall. They’re still a regional West Coast airline, however.
Their strategy has been to partner broadly with airlines around the world. This was mostly concentrated inside of the oneworld and SkyTeam alliances. United and the Star Alliance were their competitors.
Delta though has built up a Seattle hub. Word on the street was that Alaska declined Delta’s overtures of an acquisition. Relations between the two carriers frayed, and with it their partnership. And once Delta left, the airlines heavily influenced by Delta left as well. Air France KLM and Aeromexico are gone as partners.
Alaska Airlines has built up several partners outside of traditional alliances such as Hainan Airlines, Icelandair, Condor, and Emirates. And they’ve deepened relationships with some carriers like Qantas as well.
What’s their path forward? It’s interesting to see the survey that reader Thomas W. shares about what their customers want in airport lounge partnerships.
The airline is having customers compare features and membership price points for combining an Alaska Lounge membership with access to United Clubs, American Airlines Admirals Clubs, and Delta SkyClubs as well as with an unnamed partner lounge network.
Here are 7 of the 8 questions asked: (Click on any of these to expand)
Companies survey things all the time. This doesn’t tell us what’s under consideration other than that Alaska Airlines is at a minimum trying to understand the unique value that their current American lounge relationship has compared to other alternatives, and understand the price members say they’re willing to pay for different options.
Though it’s nice to see them at least thinking outside the box in terms of providing things like premium drinks and paid meals when members access American’s lounges — something American’s own customers don’t get on their domestic travels.