Its not me; its you: Delta and Alaska Airlines divorce date set


In a move that should come as a shock to no one Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines will end their code share and frequent flyer partnership on 1 May 2017. The two “frenemies” have seen their relationship deteriorate since Delta chose Alaska’s Seattle home as its trans-Pacific gateway and began dramatic growth at the airport. Delta’s rapid expansion brought it into competition with Alaska Airlines on many routes, reducing the value of the code share operation. The ending of the partnership will be bad news for some travelers with broader flying patterns but, for the core customers of each side, should have minimal impact.

Most significant is that mileage earning and other frequent flyer reciprocity will mostly not be valid for flights after 30 April 2017, even if booked prior to the divorce date. Indeed, flights currently booked for travel in May 2017 crediting and beyond crediting to Delta will not have those options or benefits. If crediting to Alaska Airlines and booked prior to the announced change the flights can still earn points. Given typical advance booking trends that should not affect too many customers, but some may be impacted.

From Delta’s release on the news:

Effective May 1, 2017, Delta and Alaska will no longer have a codeshare agreement, and sales of flights under DL- and AS-coded flight numbers flown on Alaska and Delta aircraft respectively will cease. Additionally, customers of each airline will no longer be able to earn and redeem Delta miles or Mileage Plan miles on flights operated by the other carrier. The carriers will retain an interline agreement, allowing them to continue offering customers ticketing and baggage connectivity. Delta and Alaska today codeshare on only a small number of flights as Delta’s growth in Seattle has reduced the need for codeshare flying.

On Alaska’s post about the change MD Alliances Charles Breer offers his color on the change:

This should come as no surprise as our relationship has 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. We’ve grown tremendously and with the recent acquisition of Virgin America, we’re now the fifth largest airline in the U.S. 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.

It is worth noting that Alaska’s partnership with American Airlines was slightly weakened with the Virgin America merger. The carrier must halt codeshare flights on some hub-to-hub routes and other overlapping operations. But the loyalty reciprocity remains.

Not especially surprising that any of this is happening; we’ve been expecting it for a while. And now we know the date the party ends. Expect a renewed level of marketing fun in the push to win over the Seattle market as the divorce date approaches. Because both are still going to fight for those customers. Seattle is likely to be one of the more competitive air travel markets for 2017.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

14 Comments

  1. Great headline. Yeah, the only surprise is that it lasted as long as it did. HA, WS and KE are going to miss this fellow member of the “Group 4” SkyMiles caste of untouchable partner airlines.

    1. Though, to be fair, Delta has been pretty demanding on what that partnership would look like and only with the slight liberalization of Haneda is finally being forced to concede that running its own hub in Asia is a terrible business plan.

    2. Oh, absolutely… In this case as in others, DL hasn’t helped itself in terms of not knowing when to back off and let someone feel like they are making their own decision and not being bullied into something. I just mean that conceptually, DL has been correct that this would be good for both of them, and KE has been silly to be so dismissive.

  2. Yeah, the writing was on the wall for this for years. Perhaps more impactful for travelers like me is the updated award redemption levels in the US, which look fantastic on first glance, but I’d love to see if it bears out in the future.

  3. This is kind of a perfect solution since BA increased one way coach awards in North America. We can selectively use AS for short North America hops and BA avios for short hops in Europe and Asia.

    1. Yes, though AS miles are not nearly as easy to come by from multiple sources as Avios are. But it does look like I need to build up a new version of my award calculator tools for the new MileagePlan rates.

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