The past few weeks have been very exciting for Alaska Airlines flyers. For better or worse, many changes are coming to Alaska Airlines, Virgin America, Delta Airlines and American Airlines. As was reported earlier, Alaska Airlines and Virgin America are to merge, with the condition that American and Alaska reduce their codeshare agreement routes. The biggest shocker (or least shocking, if you have been following Seattle routes) is that Delta and Alaska Airlines end their partnership on May 1st 2017.
Frenemies No More
After around three years of fierce competition, Delta and Alaska have filed for divorce. It was an uneasy relationship, especially as Seattle became ever more important in Delta’s route map. Over the past few years, Delta has grown its presence in Seattle. Recently, it unveiled a beautiful new lounge in its Sea-Tac terminal. The airlines has also added routes to compete with Alaska, such as regional routes.
Alaska reacted by adding routes to Delta’s hubs, such as Salt Lake City, and expanding its reach at LAX. In the past, Alaska would feed into Delta’s international routes out of Seattle. Though with the buildup of added partnerships, as well as Delta’s increase of domestic routes, the partnership became redundant.
The airlines have formally acknowledged the end of the partnership. Alaska responded by keeping their frequent flyer program mileage based throughout 2017, and reduce the cost of award tickets. The airline has a few partners across the alliance spectrum, such as British Airways, Emirates and Korean Air.
Delta responded by saying that they will continue to increase their route network in the Pacific Northwest, further competing with Alaska Airlines. They will probably expand at other Alaska strongholds such as Portland.
With the end of the partnership, we can expect to see further competition between Delta and Alaska. This competition will probably expand to further battlegrounds. With cities like San Jose, San Diego and Portland, Delta could choose to expand their route network.
Alaska will probably focus its energy on its merger with Virgin America and expanding its presence there. They have already expanded their route network out of San Francisco, a Virgin America hub. The airlines have few overlapping routes, and different fleets and cultures. Alaska’s management will need to focus on combining both cultures.
In my opinion, this breakup is long overdue. The airlines have been competing against each other for some time now. Delta has a strong network both outside the Pacific Northwest and throughout the country. Alaska is Seattle’s hometown airline, and with its many codeshare partners, they should not run into much issue with losing Delta. I am very happy with the changes to Mileage Plan redemptions and keeping the program distance based. I hope to see more routes and competition out of Seattle, and hopefully more partnerships on Alaska’s side.