Further Rift In The Alaska & Delta Partnership As Of April 1, 2015

Yesterday Delta announced some mostly positive 2015 Delta SkyMiles changes. Much of the announcement was just recapping changes they’ve already made, though there were some positive “new” changes. The most significant were as follows:

  • The introduction of 10,000 mile one-way shorthaul award tickets
  • The ability to earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) for travel on most of Delta’s partner airlines

But one thing I didn’t initially pick up on is how these changes are another slap in the face to the Alaska and Delta partnership.

I’ve written in the past about the “battle in Seattle” between Alaska and Delta, whereby the two airlines are possibly the most hostile partners ever. We’ve seen them cut reciprocal benefit after benefit, though at the same time they continue their relationship since they’re better off with one another than without one another.

Alaska-737

Anyway, it seems that Delta SkyMiles made a very quiet change yesterday with Alaska Mileage Plan. As part of that, Alaska was demoted from a “Group 1” (highest) Delta partner to a “Group 4” (lowest) Delta partner, putting them in the company of global, world class airlines like Great Lakes Airlines. ­čśë

Alaska-Delta-3

Under the current system, SkyMiles members earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars when traveling on Alaska, as long as the ticket was booked on Delta ticket stock. Here’s the current SkyMiles earnings chart for travel on Alaska:

Alaska-Delta-2

However, as of April 1, 2015, Delta SkyMiles members can no longer earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars for travel on Alaska:

Alaska-Delta-1

Now, this wouldn’t have surprised me if the change were made independently of all the other partner carriers, but it’s kind of funny that they literally removed MQD earning for Alaska flights while adding MQD earning for a vast majority of their other partners.

Bottom line

If I’m not mistaken the Alaska & Delta frequent flyer program contract is up for renewal soon, so I’m curious to see what happens. While the two airlines are doing everything in their power to spite one another, it’s clear that as of now they’re still better off with one another than without one another.

Unless American wants to step up their partnership with Alaska, this love/hate relationship may just continue.

What do you think — at what point will Alaska and Delta just call it quits?

Comments

  1. Ben – you may want to clarify, after April 1 members can no longer earn Medallion Qualifying Dollars (your bolded statement says MQMs). The biggest change from an MQM perspective is that the earning rates were slashed as much as 50% at some fare classes.

  2. Drama. Drama. Drama.

    This relationship is really dysfunctional. If your friend was in a relationship this toxic, I’m sure you’d tell them to breakup and move on. Perhaps Alaska should strenghten its partnership with American. I don’t know. But these two are like “that couple” that has been together forever but they hate each other and fight constantly.

  3. To be clear, for DL-marketed AS flights, you still earn MQMs and MQDs based on the DL chart, which is true of all of their partners, even KE (with whom DL has also been feuding). So the only change is if you have a DL-ticketed, AS-marketed flight, which is going to be a fairly rare case since DL.com only sells DL-marketed flights; you would have had to call Delta to book a DL-ticketed, AS-marketed flight.

    That said, it is a weird exception for AS, since with other partners, DL-ticketed, partner-marketed flights earn MQDs. Indeed part of the upfront explanation of MQDs was that you earn them on all DL-ticketed flights … so removing them specifically for AS only makes MQDs that much more complicated.

    The only substantial change is the reduction in MQM earning for AS-marketed flights.

  4. @Ben, you earn MQM’s, you just don’t earn MQD’s.

    Interestingly, you come out even or ahead in 2015 if you fly an Alaska paid first fare (almost all of which are “F” anyway, but this now covers “P” fares) and you’ve got an incentive to fly paid premium cabin fares on Alaska over Delta as a Medallion member, since you would get 200% MQM’s on miles flown (on any Alaska flight) versus 150% MQM’s on miles flown on almost every Delta paid fare in First except for nonrefundable F.

  5. What this says to me is that Alaska is doing something right and Delta is running scared. They have to make it tougher for people to fly Alaska because they know that Alaska does a lot of things (not all) better.

  6. @Lucky- Question for you. Do you think all of this is Delta’s way of exerting force to show their market power, then they will buy AK in the end because then need the northwest traffic for their international hub, or that they really don’t like each other and will never merge.

    We were talking after that article came out where AK hinted they would be open for more consilidation and no other airline really makes sense from a merger perspective. If you had to bet that AK merged within the year, who would you pick?

  7. Speaking of AS, they are adding an additional flight from SEA-JFK soon. The schedule is interesting in the sense that on both directions they complement AA’s one daily flights while compete directly with DL

  8. Lucky, doesn’t look like it is “fixed” yet or am I just confused. Your sentence states, “Delta SkyMiles members can no longer earn Medallion Qualifying Miles for travel on Alaska”, but the chart you’ve provided indicates that Medallion Qualifying Miles are still earned.

  9. @ David — I can’t imagine that a further merger would be approved by the government. If it were, I think Delta would be the obvious choice. But I think the much more likely scenario is that Alaska strengthens their ties with American long term, and they have a similar relationship to what Alaska and Delta used to have. I just don’t see another merger being approved soon, but I could be wrong.

  10. I’m not convinced the DOJ would oppose a merger. If they were really concerned about competition, they wouldn’t have fallen for the “consolidation is better for consumer” logic. Frankly, I think we were better off with AA, UA, DL, US, CO, NW and HP, AS, B6, F9, HA, WN.

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