And Now an Update on Delta’s Efforts to Push Alaska Away

With yesterday’s post being about JetBlue and American breaking up, I figured I’d keep the theme going today with a discussion at the other end of the country. Delta and Alaska have been heading toward a break-up for months now, and while it hasn’t happened, it really should. If I were Alaska, I’d be out the door. But until then, Delta will just keep pushing, trying to entice loyal Alaska fliers to make the switch while it continues to grow.

Delta Deals SkyMiles in Seattle

I last checked in on the deteriorating relationship between Delta and Alaska at the end of last year. At the time, Delta had built up its presence substantially in Seattle, saying (disingenuously) it needed more feed than Alaska could provide for its international network. Alaska had retaliated with some extra flying in Salt Lake City and a strengthening of international partnerships, but that was about it. Now what’s happening?

Well, there have been smaller skirmishes, like the War of 2014, Super Bowl Edition. (Delta became the official airlines of the Seahawks last September so what did Alaska do? It responded by naming star Quarterback Russell Wilson as the Chief Football Officer for the airline.) But the real news is that Delta is really digging in its heels and aggressively trying to switch flier loyalty.

We’ve seen more Delta service rolled out since that post, including Seattle to Palm Springs, Phoenix, Tucson, and Jackson Hole. Oh, and Delta has beefed up Seattle to both Honolulu and Anchorage with more frequency as well. Not enough? Well Delta has also pulled its code from Alaska flights on competing routes. That means you will no longer see Alaska flights sold under the Delta codeshare between Seattle and Anchorage, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, and Vancouver. Wait, Houston? I thought that was weird as well. Not sure what that’s all about, but maybe Houston-Seattle is the airline’s next route.

With all this happening, what is Alaska doing? It seems to be quietly making plans for the future. In its last earnings call, Alaska said it was planning for revenues from Delta to drop. Andrew Harrison, VP of Planning and Revenue Management for Alaska, said this:

[There is] about $230-or-so million that Delta puts on our metal. What I would tell you is that the nature of the contract is changing, and at the end of the day, we are operating way upside, where the strict contractual terms are. So I think as I shared in Investor Day, you’re going to see and continue to see a reduction in the amount of traffic that Delta is putting on our metal, and that’s not surprising to us.

Alaska gets about 3.5 percent of its revenue from Delta but it sees that number dropping, as it should. Meanwhile, American generates about 2.5 percent of revenue. I would bet we’ll see that number rise over time.

So what happens now? If I’m Delta, I clearly have a plan to build my own hub in Seattle regardless of who else is there. So I will keep building and building while maintaining the partnership with Alaska as long as I can. After all, if they can use the Alaska loyalty in the local area to help build up their hub, then they can entice people to come over when they’ve reached critical mass. (They’re already doing all kinds of double miles and other promotions to steal Alaska loyalists.)

If I’m Alaska, I’d want out as soon as possible. It seems to me that Delta underestimates the strength of Alaska’s loyalty in the region. If Alaska pulls away now, it will hurt Delta. But can Delta be replaced within the Alaska network? Sure.

Alaska already took the first step by giving elite qualifying miles to travelers on every partner. So you can fly Korean to Seoul or BA to London and you’ll get your elite miles. On the redemption side, it’s interesting to note that while Delta gets 4 percent of Alaska redemptions, American get a much larger 8.5 percent. So clearly American provides more utility in that area and a tighter relationship might help grow that, providing more options.

I know many of you think this is a plot by Delta to take over Alaska, but I don’t see how it works out well. As has been pointed out by many, the more Delta adds now, the more competition it would take away in a merger. That means the Department of Justice will throw a hissy fit. And with Alaska’s market cap at over 20 percent of Delta’s, Delta would have to pay quite a premium to even try to take them over. Alaska is an extremely healthy airline financially so even Delta shenanigans aren’t going to do more than dent the airlines revenue. I don’t see how a merger comes together..

If I’m Alaska, I’m planning for a future without Delta, and the same goes if I’m an Alaska Airlines flier. If I’m Delta, I’ve already planned for that future alone. It’s just a matter of executing.

[Original drug dealer photo via Shutterstock]


42 Responses to And Now an Update on Delta’s Efforts to Push Alaska Away

  1. Jared says:

    My question is, why hasn’t Alaska terminated its relationship with Delta already? It seems that Delta is expanding every day, cutting code shares and just “using” Alaska where it needs it, until they add new routes. Alaska is helping Delta take over their routes.

    • CF says:

      Jared – It’s a good question. Part of it is, I’m sure, the face that Delta is still responsible for a little chunk of Alaska’s revenue. It’s hard to walk away from that. Another part of me wonders if Alaska even has the ability to walk away on its own. I wonder if there’s some kind of cause required for termination that hasn’t been met.

  2. Noah says:

    @Jared, Sure, AS could cut ties with DL now as Cranky has indicated. And yes, it will hurt Delta. But AS has a responsibility to be the best it can be, not to hurt delta more than it hurts itself. As long as the partnership generates profit, its hard to cut it off unless you can show more profit in the future.

    Maybe there is a strategic argument about losing less fliers to DL, and offering a stronger independent network than DL’s independent network. But DL has already said they will turn SEA into a hub. I think cutting ties only hastens the inevitable, but leaves AS with ~$300 million less revenue

  3. A says:

    I’ve flown Alaska a couple times and never understood the loyalty over any other airline, then again I’m not from Seattle. Of all the places I’ve lived the locals all had a certain disdain for the dominant local carrier. My guess is that Delta is trying to tap that market. I mean, I’m sure they know people in Atlanta loathe them but fly DL anyway because it’s basically the only option for most routes. Are there people in SEA that are disgusted with an Alaska near-monopoly that will switch just to spite them? I’ve got to imagine there are some, maybe I should query my friends out there. And never forget that a lot of people will buy the cheapest fare regardless of airline.

    • “near-monopoly”?

      AS has 50% market share in SEA when you combine their mainline and regional (QX) traffic. AS almost always has a competitor on a route unless it’s to small towns in the Pacific Northwest like PUW or BLI. For example: LAX is served by AS, VX, UA and DL. DEN is served by AS, WN, F9 and UA.

      SEA isn’t MSP or DTW.

      • Randall says:

        As a very loyal Alaska flier (Gold status) and shareholder, I can tell you that the biggest reason AS has loyal customers is they treat us like real people. They have happy employees–and it shows on almost ever flight. They have a corporate culture that has earned employee love/loyalty along with customer endearment.

        I am willing to spend a few extra bucks to keep my loyalty with AS, even when DL or Virgin A or someone else may have a lower fare on a route. Mind you: AS can’t gouge me and keep my loyalty, but I rarely feel like they are out to gouge me, while yes they do want to make money (and I want them to, too).

  4. David SF eastbay says:

    Interesting to see what locals think of DL. Will it be the home town feeling that hey AS is our airline so DL stay out, or favoring the little guy AS against the big bad DL, or remembering that because of DL, Western and Northwest are no longer around which were both big in the area, or thinking I can travel to more places beyond the west on DL then AS.

    DL has a lot of building to do to make SEA a hub. Will they start taking flights away from SLC to use the aircraft to build up more point-to-point flights from SEA?

    • Noah says:

      dont over-analyze. Most locals think of destination-price-schedule. If DL builds fast enough, they will steal significant traffic. AS has a loyal following, to be sure, but the product is not necessarily vastly different like a VX of B6.

  5. Southeasterner says:

    “Alaska had retaliated with some extra flying in Salt Lake City ”

    I think this is an understatement. Looking at the Alaska route map in the inflight magazine yesterday it looks like Salt Lake is the focus of some major expansion, specifically into CA and TX, key routes for Delta. I’m guessing traffic and profits on these routes are just as good if not better than the seasonal and leisure focused flights to AK and HI respectively.

    It seems like we are painting the picture of Alaska as the victim but I’m getting more of sense that they are the antagonist in the now dysfunctional relationship with Delta.

    As a resident of Seattle I look forward to the competition, Alaska excels at customer service so hopefully Delta will feel like they have to up their game to be competitive and win passengers (assuming equal fares).

    • CF says:

      Southeasterner – It looks bigger on the route map than it actually is. San Diego and Vegas are twice a day. LA, Boise, San Francisco and San Jose are once a day. If you see Texas, then that must be an American codeshare because Alaska isn’t flying that.

      What is it about Alaska that makes you think they are being the antagonist? All of these Salt Lake moves were in direct response to Delta’s incursion into Seattle.

  6. Southeasterner says:

    Speaking of Seattle….

    http://blogs.seattletimes.com/today/2014/03/helicopter-crashes-near-fisher-plaza-and-komo-tv/

    News helicopter just crashed near the Space Needle killing at least 2 but others in critical condition.

  7. I will throw-out this for consideration.

    Delta thought it needed to act on a west coast gateway before United and American hit their stride. They selected SEA given that overall, for them, it may provide better Pacific operating margins than LAX, SFO, PDX. Yes, LAX and SFO may have higher local traffic which tends to be higher yielding, but it also means a tough margin fight against AA and UA, specifically UA.

    They acted on the strategy of getting close to AS so AS would be comfortable selling itself (AS meet our mgt. and our money that can be made as one airline); At some financial point in time, when AS did not respond as if they would accept a purchase offer, then they would set-up their own hub.

    In the end it is what is in it for DL. What is in it is a west coast hub with the best margin, for DL.

    • James says:

      SFO for DL has two main problems: the weather and United.

      Most people in the Bay Area can fly out of more than one of the three local co-terminals easily(SFO, SJC, OAK). Strategically for domestic flying, I think San Jose would be the better bet for a NorCal hub. It seems to have capacity and is close to all the major tech companies in the South Bay/Peninsula and routinely is cheaper and easier to fly through than SFO.

      Re: LAX, we already tried that and de-hubbed them about the same time that DFW and MEM were dehubbed.

  8. David says:

    If you need more proof of the breakup, In the past few weeks, Alaska has moved out of the South Terminal at Atlanta Airport into the North Terminal with all the other airlines. This leaves Delta all alone in the South Terminal.

  9. Carl says:

    Here are a few comments as a Seattle resident who is a frequent flyer, with elite status on AS, DL & UA.

    First off is that in my opinion DL has by far the weakest frequent flyer program, and they are about to make it weaker. Redeeming on DL is a major PITA with both extremely limited availability, crappy web tools, and no one way awards. While they promise to fix the latter two, I’ll wait to see about the tools. And there almost certainly another devaluation built into the move to five tiers. Meanwhile they are about to cut earnings in half for the vast majority of travelers.

    So, if the price of the ticket is the same, and the schedules are comparable, I’m never going to pick Delta. The award program benefits on Alaska and United are better, and I’ll stick with them, maybe even with a worse schedule. I also get better free same day change on AS & UA, and free changes on AS. It’s simply a better offering.

    So DL has made it kind of tough on themselves to try to win the loyalty of SEA-based frequent travelers who care about the mileage program. Maybe they can get the infrequent travelers who don’t care, but most business travelers buy the cheapest logical fare, and will earn less on DL.

    I have never understood why many Seattleites love AS so passionately. Maybe in the 80’s and 90’s they had a premium offering, but AS is far from a premium experience. They offer no extra legroom seating (Economy Plus), transcon upgrades are pretty much impossible, no in-flight entertainment or power (power will be coming but I’ve not seen it yet), and a pretty crappy first class when you get (almost no recline, tight legroom, cheap food.). Are their employees better on average? I think they are pretty average and you get good crews and bad crews.

    But AS does generally have a strong route system out of SEA, so there are times when it just makes sense to fly them, particularly on the west coast including California, PHX, LAS, Mexico, Hawaii and of course Alaska. They have been running a pretty reliable operation on-time-wise and low cancellations.

    United has pulled back a lot of service from SEA but for international itineraries UA and Star Alliance have been my go to, and generally I have better transcon upgrade luck with UA.

    I understand DL’s strategic need to build the SEA hub. They are reducing use of NRT, and can only reach NRT from a limited number of USA gateways. They need a hub to fly deeper into Asia, UA controls SFO, LAX both has too much foreign competition, and isn’t geographically well located. MSP & SLC just don’t have enough O/D traffic to work well, DTW is too far east, ATL is really poorly located…. so SEA is their obvious choice (and if DL hadn’t made that move, the new AA ought to have done so, maybe more strongly in partnership with AS.) And it just so happens that due to polar routes, SEA isn’t badly located for Europe service from the West Coast, either, so DL really does have a nice strategic opportunity in developing SEA as an international hub. Too bad that pesky AS is hubbed there.

    If DL had a frequent flyer program as strong as AS or UA, I would consider jumping ship to DL, but my frequent flyer program, from elite privileges to earning to award redemption is valuable to me. It’s hard to quantify precisely but I think it has 25%-50% in value, and DL just doesn’t measure up in that regard.

  10. Consumer Mike says:

    DELTA is the master of “Bait N’ Switch” when it comes to Customer Service and the SKY MILES Frequent Flyer Program. Most folks that try and gather and use FF miles for use on a flight have found it VERY difficult, if not impossible to ever “cash-in” on a useful flight to their destination. Reasonable FF seat availability has always been a mirage on the DELTA loyalty program. Recently we have seen a major devaluation of SKY MILES by DELTA – except for those willing and able to pay for Business and First Class travel. Basically, DELTA is saying “We don’t care about or need” Main Cabin loyalty customers. AND to prove it, they cut loyalty miles. So, if a good FF program is important to you go to or stay with ALASKA. Additionally, there is no comparison between the Customer Service at ALASKA (Very high marks) and the fantasy of a good level at DELTA.

    ALSO; If I were ALASKA I would immediately cut all ties with DELTA and let them sink or swim on their own merits. It appears to me that at this point in business they are a parasite hanging on to ALASKA, trying to suck as much out of the current relationship as possible. How much abuse is ALASKA management going to allow???

    In the end, I think that DELTA has picked a fight with the wrong airline. ALASKA has truly earned the loyalty of the flying public in Alaska and the North West of the U.S. They know how to run a good and friendly airline and no publicity or marketing stunts by DELTA will undermine that loyalty. Last, but not least, you can actually use ALASKA FF seat awards at a reasonable level when you want to from their program, unlike the illusive Sky Miles scam.

  11. Robert says:

    DESPITE WHAT HAS BEEN SAID, AND IT HAS ALL BEEN SOOOO GOOD AND INTELLIGENT, maybe I AM CRAZY,BUT I AND WALL ST. ,STLL THINK DL IS GOING AFTER ALASKAN AIRLINES TO TAKE THEM OVER AND HAVE A MEGA HUB AT SEA , GROWING ON THE WEST COAST,THUS HELPING TO STRENGTHAN THEIR LAX HUB AND COMPETE BETTER WITH UA AND TRY TO LOCKOUT AA FROM GETTING A GOOD CITY FOR A 2ND HUB / IF DL IS SUCCESSFUL ,they will drop the overlap to satisfy the Justice Dpt and maybe even drop PDX A SECOND TIME TO CUT COST / SAFE TRAVELS TO ALL

    • Consumer Mike says:

      Robert, DELTA does not really need AS to meet its growth plan in the selected target areas. It also appears that I am not alone in thinking that AS is really not interested in hanging a 4-sale sign on their window. I, personally, do not see a union of the two airlines at this time. DELTA, as any other airline, is entitled to dip their toe in the water and test new markets. Being successful is another matter. The new (Parker run) AA will be positioning itself in the near future, which should add pressure to the new DELTA moves. DELTA may be running into turbulance soon.

      As for relying of the strength or integrity of any investment opinions from Wall St, you would enjoy losing your money more in Las Vegas. Many a foreclosure and bankruptsy were based on the source you feel comfortable to reference.

    • BF12 says:

      Who is Alaskan Airlines?

  12. MeanMeosh says:

    One of the more specific merger conspiracies I’ve read concerning AS & DL is that DL is intentionally trying to cut AS’s legs out from under it so that it can depress AS’s stock price, and then swoop in and do a hostile takeover. I personally find that theory rather unlikely, though I suppose anything’s possible. To me, this smells more like a situation of: DL asked AS to do a JV agreement (like what they wanted to do with KE), AS refused, and so DL decided to play hardball. I think Noah summed it up pretty well, though, as to why AS hasn’t just pulled the plug on the relationship altogether. I have to guess that AS is still getting some marginal profit out of the deal, albeit probably not as much as before, and it wouldn’t be wise to just give that up without a replacement profit stream. I suspect AS does have something in the works – my guess is a closer tie-up with AA – but it’s just not far enough along yet to cut the cord with DL.

  13. JayB says:

    Fascinating stuff, as usual. Doesn’t affect me directly here in the DC area, but indirectly, of course.

    I believe the primary, I say primary purpose of every airline is to figure out how to kill off its competition, that is without getting DOJ and guy named Cranky all up in arms. Secondarily, there is this selling tickets to prospective customers. This is so messy and why bother. I do believe an acutal sale of a ticket is an admission of a failure: “We got ourselves in a jam and just had to dump some inventory as we work to kill off our competition.” Hint at something is OK, but don’t actually sell anything unless you are 99.9 percent sure that darn seat is going to go out empty.

    So DL, have at AS. It’s the airlines’ way in this day and age.

    Anyway, in the DC area (IAD, DCA, and BWI) there are 4 non-stops to/from SEA. Two by UA out of IAD and 2 by AS out of DCA Surprising to me, DL won the IAD to/from SEA contract (all via connecting service) for government travellers and govermnet contractors this current fiscal year. ($553, last seat availability, $176 capacity-controlled). Mandatory usage. AS has the DCA contract at $239/172, and WN, the BWI contract at $274. (UA had the contract last year at $651. The biggest complaint airlines seem to have about these contracts (there are about 5,000 of them) is that the governement too often makes a booking, then cancels at the last minute, with no penalty.

  14. Its been a bit fun watching all the Alaska Air and Delta emails fly by my inbox, but I’ve unsubscribed from them.. (As part of a general cleaning up my inbox.)

    As a local, Alaska provides consistent service to where I need to go. (Well.. except for flights to the Midwest.. Which I recently managed to get a US Airways ticket for, but not fly a single flight I was originally ticketed for. As a result I got UA and AA.. (US got a bit crazy tight on their connections.))

    Although, I’ll admit I’m a pretty consistent price shopper, I’m flying DL down to LAX in the summer, although I switched my FF plan on that from DL to AS once DL came out with their new and “improved” plan..

    I really wish as a parting shot to DL that AS sues them over their blatant copying of DL’s blatant copying of AS’s patented Airport of the Future concept. That is some real innovation that DL has ripped off wholesale.

  15. JeffinMass says:

    Unfortunately worldwide DL has a much stronger presence. Unless AS joins forces with many international airlines or joins an alliance they will lose international feeder traffic if they have any now. It is obvious that DL needs another west coast hub to fly west and they chose Seattle. I personally would hate to see any demise of AS by either AA or DL. On the other hand I miss Empire and Piedmont airlines terribly.

  16. Don says:

    I’m just an interested bystander in all this but I’ve never really understood why people would question Delta’s decision to build a hub in Seattle using its own metal. DL is investing in some international service out of SEA and, in my opinion, it would be foolish to depend on another airline, in this case Alaska, to essentially operate the hub for them. AS could pull out of the agreement at any time and DL would be stranded with virtually no domestic feed.

    When AA filed bankruptcy, I assumed DL would pursue AS at that time. As many people have indicated, AS chooses to stand alone. Therefore, it just makes sense for DL to be able to feed its own flights.

  17. haloastro says:

    How do you know that DL’s statement(s) that AS cannot provide enough feed for their connections in SEA is(are) “disingenuous”?

    • CF says:

      haloastro – Because a lot of the flights they’re adding don’t connect up with their international flights. So it’s not necessarily a problem for them to say that they need more feed than Alaska can provide. I buy that. But then to say that they’re building up all these domestic flights just to feed their international flights can’t be true.

  18. Daisy says:

    Oh man, I can’t stand Delta. I have flown with them a few times and their customer service is consistently sub par. They’ve “lost” my bags more than once, only for the bags to be found somewhere, and they have cancelled flights more than other airlines. If I were Alaska, I would be definitely preparing for a future (and a much better one) without Delta.

  19. Now if DL starts flying SEA-ABQ or SEA-some other non Alaska City I would say they are truly trying to turn SEA into a Large DL hub as the are then going to fight SWA or another AAirline but right now it just looks like they are saying go away AS we want to be #1 in SEA on routes you fly don’t make us buy you

    • Carl says:

      DL is starting service on plenty of non-hub routes out of SEA, and they will be creating plenty of connecting North American opportunities using SEA as a hub, particularly to/from YVR, ANC, JNU, PDX. The cities they’ve picked to add service so far were picked to maximize connecting traffic for their international traffic to/from Asia and Europe, plus those with the highest O/D traffic from SEA. Really it all makes sense if they are trying to create a hub in SEA – not a hub that competes with ATL or DTW, but one that makes sense in this corner of the country, and one that supports their international network ambitions. Should AS terminate the partnership with DL, I would be surprised to find DL adding some RJ service to cities like YYJ, GEG, BOI, maybe even YYC and YEG and SMF – all cities that can flow traffic via SEA.

  20. John says:

    My girlfriend and I live in AK, fly AS pretty much everywhere, and ‘buy’ mileage tickets to Europe every year or two. DL has been great for this – we use our AS miles to get a DL flight out of SEA, MSP, and even once out of LAX (ouch!). With the KL/AF/DL JV over the Atlantic, we’ve flown on all three airlines in each direction.

    My question is – what happens when AS and DL cut ties and we can no longer redeem our miles on DL? We (hopefully) will still be able to redeem miles for tickets on KL/AF, as AS is partners with them as well as DL. But does the JV mean that we’ll still be on DL planes to Europe sometimes? So maybe we’ll lose the 50k mileage award to Europe on DL, and have to pay 60k for KL/AF tickets (which we’ve already had to do sometimes due to availability) but still be on the same flights operated by DL?

    • CF says:

      John – This is all hypothetical of course, since the partnership with Delta isn’t ending… that we know of. But if it ends with Delta, then I would expect that the Air France/KLM partnership would not be impacted by that. Of course, Air France/KLM could decide to end their agreement separately but that would be a different issue.

      • Consumer Mike says:

        John, All is not lost. AS is also teamed with AA (ONE WORLD). AA as well as IB, BA, AB will connect to to Europe and beyond as good as or better than your current method. PLUS, you get to avoid the continious weather problems at ATL! That is enogh of a reason to switch NOW.

  21. JuliaZ says:

    SEA is my home airport and I’m AS and DL Elite. I strongly prefer AS and consider DL as my fallback if AS doesn’t have the schedule and route I want, but not otherwise. AS MVP benefits are better and more consistently available; customer service is always outstanding; even the food you have to pay for is pretty good. DL just sucks on every point, by comparison, especially trying to redeem miles to go anywhere, ever.

    I often pay the premium price for the AS 2/3 flights to/from DCA as the public transit options from IAD and BWI are appalling; I don’t rent a car while I work in DC and the increase in the fare is more than offset by my rental-car and parking savings, never mind how much less time I waste on the road by taking Metro everywhere.

    When we fly to DFW, we do often end up on AA because of schedule but last year we were able to make AS work and it was worth it for the MVP free baggage allowance (we were going to a conference and had a lot of stuff to haul both ways). SFO, PHX, and ATL have all also worked out just fine for me via AS.

    To me, DL is on the way down in SEA. I don’t care if they add more flights… that might be good for me anyway because then my preferred AS flights won’t be as full.

  22. stonyb says:

    I always like your cover art/photos Cranky, but this one is the funniest yet. I dig the right hand drive little car, and the dealer/delta guys outfit. You have a great sense of humor. Fly On.

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  24. Dale says:

    Two things:

    Regarding Northern California AA had a hub at SJC but that was de-hubbed.

    Regarding SEA it is Seattle/Tacoma, not just Seattle.

  25. SEA FF says:

    As a former top tier FF on BA, UA & AA – and now a Gold status AS flyer (having relocated to Seattle years back) – I have all but terminated (other than the heaps of miles on UA and BA) my relationship with UA/AA/BA/DL because AS offers (a) much better scheduling for Seattle direct flights and (b) their FF program and customer service completely annihilate the “service” I received from BA/UA/AA (Note: As a Platinum BA, they used to be really good back a decade or so ago but have declined to be almost rock bottom).

    A few years back, SEA had a number of airline options to Europe (Asian routes have always been pretty much the land of UA and DL or code shares on other foreign carriers) – SK/KL/AF/BA (albeit $$$$) and of course LH. Those European routes were all flown by the respective carriers and were loaded with code shares. Now, however, SK is out and the AF and KL routes are Delta flights with AF/KL code shares. Only LH and BA remain as Euro direct flights from SEA.

    As a Seattle based traveler, the impact of the slow but surely coming break up between AS & Delta (today AS announced the end of elite tier benefits on Delta) is not so much that intra US routes, but the collateral damage to AS FF’s in sourcing good international options. As it stands, BA is really the only non-Delta flight to Europe that has a relationship with AS. As a former member of BA’s program, I already know that BA is AWFUL for redemption on things to Europe (as they all must go to London and incur RIDICULOUS fees – better to use the points elsewhere – sadly). While once upon a time AS FF’s did not pay the fees that BA charges their own FF’s, but with integration and web booking come the same super high fee redemption options.

    LH still flies but as it is a UA affiliate there is no redemption here. FI (Iceland) still flies connections to Europe from Reykjavik, but AS has terminated all FF relations with them. While it was not a stellar air experience, it was more convenient than nearly doubling your trip time by stopping in a US based hub (ORD, ATL, JFK, DEN, etc).

    In any case, the inventory available to redeem on international partners has gotten far worse with fuller planes and now a poor relationship with Delta. (I recently tried to redeem AS points on DL to CDG/AMS and could only get raked over the coals for flights stopping at other DL hubs adding 50-100% travel time even though the direct DL flights from SEA were at the time almost completely empty).

    As for Asia, KE is the only partner flying direct from SEA to Asia

    IMHO, AS is going to have to act quick to solidify partnerships with the current SEA international tenants in order to continue providing their FF’s with European/Asian redemption options for their accrued miles otherwise they may in fact find themselves losing valuable loyal members. Even by partnering closely with AA, AS does not generate any additional direct flight options internationally as AA in SEA only gets you to a connecting flight from an AA hub.

    Previously, it was a no-brainer to concentrate all travel on AS and its code shares to secure premium benefits – in a world with Delta out of the picture – that is no longer the case.

    • Carl says:

      With Delta’s ridiculously difficult award availability, it is not clear that putting flying on Delta is any more rewarding than collecting Alaska miles. However, what if, when the DL-AS partnership ends, which it almost certainly will, what if AS approaches UA to replace DL as AS’s second domestic partner? It’s not as if AS & UA are more competitive than AS & DL are, or even were before the split. Given UA’s reductions in SEA, AS might complement UA quite nicely on the west coast. And if that partnership were to include Star Alliance redemptions, that might be quite nice. NH, OZ and BR all fly from SEA to Asia, and LH to Europe. Not only could that create award opportunities for AS members, but AS could also offer connections for their flights at SEA.

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  27. renhelm says:

    I am Portland based and have been loyal to Delta and before to Northwest (Platinum for 15 years). I was very unhappy with Delta when it merged with Northwest and considered going somewhere else. I stayed with Delta program and flew Aeroflot, KLM, Air France and Aero Mexico and Alaska collecting MQMs with Delta. Then Delta cut FF-miles with many SkyTeam members so I booked some Alaska and some KLM flights and some Delta. This year I am going to fly Delta only, get my Delta-Amex extra MQMs, collect as many miles as possible. Delta’s devaluating miles even more in 2015 and cutting benefits with Alaska Airlines I will make me cut my ties with Delta. I hope Alaska Airlines gives me their equivalent status for 2015, then I will get rid of the Delta AMEX and get Alaska’s CC. I am done with Delta…

    and to the question of a new INTL. HUB …there is Portland….big enough to go anywhere and small enough to have oversight , there are few winter or summer delays, they are already set up for Intl. because of Delta’s Amsterdam and Narita flight…Maybe AA will come to PDX for their Asia connection and strengthen their partnership with AS.

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