Lucky and this FT thread have the specifics of the most recent adjustment in the Delta-Alaska codeshare relationship covered. The cities dropped are by no means all of the two carriers’ codeshare markets. I do not think the end of this relationship is near, but that does not mean it isn’t coming.
A Few Speculative Thoughts
I’m fairly confident the idea of buying Alaska Airlines has circulated around Delta HQ for a while. Believe me, that idea has circulated around the offices of another airline I know too. I’m also pretty confident that there is not a snowball’s chance in hades that another big airline merger gets approved in this country anytime soon. Delta has made a point of building an operation in Seattle that meets most definitions of a hub airport, all the while piling into many of Alaska’s core markets. The frequent flyer poaching competition going on between the two is well documented. In what remains a relatively low margin business, each customer taken away from another airline has to hurt somewhere. Delta is a really big and well-run airline, but Alaska is no slouch. They are extremely well managed, and I expect enjoy some intense loyalty in the Seattle market. It’s an interesting dynamic to watch for this #AvGeek.
When Delta announced its changes to SkyClub membership options and access, many touted Alaska Boardroom membership as a way around increased fees since it still included guest access. Alaska MileagePlan is frequently mentioned as a solution to SkyMiles’ difficulties by many (even me). Whether a financially significant enough number of Sky Club and SkyMiles members would actually act on that or not remains to be seen. In the end, little things like a few club memberships and mileage credit may only add up to a rounding error in the value of the partnership. Airlines are now managing to make money by moving people between points on a map. (le gasp)
Apparently, Delta has concluded that they are better off financially by feeding themselves rather than paying Alaska to do so. In the end, Delta is going to do what it thinks is good for Delta. Does that mean this partnership is on the ropes? Time will tell. Things sure have changed since the good feelings of this October 2012 press release, huh?
-MJ, March 11, 2014