There has been some notable news today in the airline world! While I generally don’t post on things like these, taken together, they represent a fairly significant set of developments in the global air network.
The most notable news is Qatar Airways will be joining OneWorld. The Doha-based carrier, one of the “Big Three” premium carriers in the Gulf, is the first of its group to link up with an alliance. There had been much speculation over the past three years as to which alliance would get the first partner of the “Big Three.” Looking at their market position (relative to Star), it was important for OneWorld to score first. Integration is expected to take 12 to 18 months, though I'd expect certain mileage reciprocity and interim codeshare arrangements to be announced in advance.
While some question the business effectiveness of these alliances, certainly from a customer perspective, they go a long way to making travel more seamless. And, if Etihad’s recent release is any indicator, they indeed generate a good bit of top-line revenue, too.
Also in the last day, another of the Gulf’s “Big Three,” Etihad, announced a codeshare and broader strategic relationship relationship with AirFranceKLM. This relationship will provide codeshare service to 321 destinations. As part of the announcement, Etihad disclosed that some 18% of its total US$1.3 billion of revenue came from codeshare and partner relationships (including their broad Virgin Australia relationship).
Interestingly, AirFranceKLM also entered into a codeshare agreement with OneWorld member Air Berlin covering all of their flights between Germany and France! Air Berlin, recall, is 30% owned by Etihad.
The most notable part of the Etihad / AirFranceKLM announcement was not the various codeshare schemes but the following:
The new strategic partners will work together on the proposed integration of frequent flyer programs which includes reciprocal ‘earn-and-burn’ privileges for 1.5 million Etihad Guest members and 21 million Air France-KLM Flying Blue frequent flyers across the combined networks.
Hopefully this foreshadows a broader link-up into SkyTeam for both Etihad and Air Berlin. At a minimum, when effective, American Express Membership Rewards points – already transferrable to AF/KLM, will now be easily usable on Etihad! This is great news for anyone with Membership Rewards points!
Finally, though perhaps overshadowed by all of this news, is the announcement by Delta and Alaska about improved Seattle service. Frankly, it seems like mainly Delta stepping up its game in Seattle – and Alaska merely attending the meeting. Looking at Alaska’s press release site, they don’t even have a press release up on the topic (as of 4pm eastern today!). Delta, on the other hand, sent their CEO!
- New Seattle-Shanghai service
- New Seattle-Haneda service
- Upgrading Seattle-Narita service to 747-400
- Upgraded service to Paris, Beijing and Osaka (on 767-300s with lie-flat seats)
- Including Seattle in their domestic “BusinessElite” service to JFK, alongside of LAX and SFO
- They also mention “Sea-Tac airport improvements including a new Delta Sky Club,” though I suspect that is just referring to the new lounge that opened about a year ago (See Review)
Rocky lays out more detail of Delta's announcement here.
Today was certainly a good day for Seattle flyers. For passengers looking to head across the Pacific using Delta miles, you should definitely consider Seattle as a logical connection point to check on (seeing as how Delta's search engine largely requires you to search segment-by-segment)! Sadly, there were no IT innovations announced by Delta today! ;)