Alaska and Delta to end partnership

by Steve Creedy - editor
December 20, 2016

US carriers Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines are getting divorced next year in a breakup that will surprise few in the aviation industry.

A deteriorating relationship between the two airlines, prompted largely by Delta moving in on Alaska’s Seattle hub, has resulted in the two ending their partnership from May 1 next year.

The move will see an end to codesharing and frequent flyer reciprocity but the carriers will retain an interline agreement that allows baggage and ticketing connectivity.

Delta said the two airlines now codeshare on only a small number of flights as a result of the bigger airline’s growth in Seattle.

It also vowed to continue investment and growth in the Pacific Northwest after more than tripling flights to Seattle-Tacoma International Airport  (Sea-Tac) since 2013.

Delta pitched the decision as “a  positive milestone for both airlines’ that would allow Alaska to focus on its merger Virgin America and Delta to concentrate on creating more customer choice at its Seattle-Tacoma International Airport hub, where it now operates more than 150 peak-day flights to more than 40 destinations.

 “We view Seattle and the Pacific Northwest as one of the most important markets in the country, with strong economic growth, cultural diversity and some of the world’s most innovative brands and minds,” Mike Medeiros, Delta’s vice president – Seattle, said in a statement. “As a result, we have invested heavily in our product, services, facilities and the community. 

“Our focus now is earning the long-term trust of Pacific Northwest customers by demonstrating the value of partnering with a global airline and the benefits of being a Delta SkyMiles Member.”

Delta SkyMiles members will able to redeem miles on flights operated by Alaska until April 30 but after May 1 will be only able to do so on tickets bought before December 19. Medallion benefits will not be available on flights operated by Alaska Airlines.

In an online post, Alaska managing director of alliances Charles Breer said the breakup should come as no surprise as the relationship between the two airlines had become increasingly competitive over the last few years. 

“Given our own growth and expansion, Alaska Airlines now can take people virtually anywhere they need to go,’’ he said. “We’ve grown tremendously and with the recent acquisition of Virgin America, we’re now the fifth largest airline in the US.

“We offer more nonstop West Coast departures than any other airline. And, along with our extensive global partner network, you can seamlessly travel to more than 900 destinations worldwide, including on American Airlines, which is the world’s largest airline.”

Alaska closed its acquisition of Virgin America earlier this month and is still deciding whether to keep Sir Richard Branson’s iconic brand.

 The deal gives the airline an expanded route network with almost  1,200 daily flights to 118 destinations across the United States, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and Cuba.

Alaska also announced Monday it was making its Mileage Plan more generous by allowing members to book award flights using fewer miles and earn more miles when they fly on some flights.

Alaska Global Partners and elite members are now eligible for complimentary upgrades on award travel when they book main cabin tickets and can also earn miles on Virgin America flights.