Alaska Airlines hosted a virtual celebration to mark its official welcome into the oneworld alliance a year after announcing its intention to join the group. The celebration featured well wishes from leaders at oneworld’s 13 other member airlines, who also joined in with a special “oneworld version” of the Alaska Safety Dance to round off the broadcast.
Opening the event, Alaska’s CEO Ben Minicucci said that being part of oneworld will give their customers access to 1,000 destinations across 170 countries. “Airlines have pivotal moments in their history … For Alaska Airlines, joining oneworld is one of those pivotal moments,” he explained. “As international travel begins to recover, securing our place in oneworld puts us in a much stronger position to grow and compete in the years ahead.”
Alan Joyce, Qantas’ CEO, said alliances would become more important than ever as a result of the pandemic, both for passengers wanting a safe, seamless journey and for airlines, particularly while large parts of their fleet remain grounded. “No single airline can fly to every destination on the map, but through oneworld we practically can,” he commented.
Particular focus was placed on Alaska becoming the second US-based oneworld carrier after founding member American Airlines, which oneworld’s CEO Rob Gurney said “strengthens oneworld’s position in [an] important global market for connectivity.”
American Airlines’ president, Robert Isom, elaborated on its special partnership with Alaska, which has been in place for 40 years. “By connecting America’s strength in long-haul international flying and Alaska’s presence across the West Coast … we will deliver more value, benefits and choice for customers across the US and around the globe. I’m happy to report, we’re already doing just that. This year, we will introduce new services from Seattle to London, Shanghai, and Bangalore. We recently announced a new integrated frequent flyer offering, and have signed new corporate contracts … We are excited to do even more now that Alaska is officially part of oneworld.”
When asked “why now?” during a Q&A session following the broadcast, Minicucci said it seemed like a good idea for Alaska Airlines to join oneworld during a global pandemic. Gurney elaborated by explaining that it is an exciting time for airline alliances: “All three global airline alliances are now more than 20 years old. In fact, two years ago we celebrated our 20th anniversary at oneworld. The challenge for us is ensuring that maturity doesn’t slip into obsolescence.”
Gurney believes that COVID-19 will certainly prevent this from happening in the short-term. “I think there’s a real sea change in terms of how our member airlines are looking at partnerships. It’s going well beyond the conventional things around schedule, network and customer benefits,” he said. “We’re looking at other, deeper synergies that can be driven, because all of our member airlines are undergoing significant transformation programs. The alliance has to transform at the same pace.”