Alaska-Hawaiian merger: What the deal would imply for frequent flyers

In case you missed it, Alaska Airways introduced on Sunday that it has reached an settlement to amass Hawaiian Airways for $1.9 billion.

The 2 carriers tout expanded entry throughout the U.S. (and the globe) as one of many key synergies of the merger. The mixed airline will probably be primarily based in Seattle and could be higher positioned to compete in opposition to the bigger U.S. airways, Alaska and Hawaiian mentioned.

Assuming that the merger goes via — a giant if, given the Justice Division’s present anti-consolidation stance — Alaska has plans to maintain the Hawaiian model separate however combine the service’s operations onto a single working certificates and merge the Mileage Plan and HawaiianMiles loyalty packages into one.

It is that final level that is maybe most attention-grabbing for frequent flyers — and here is why.

Hawaiian to hitch Oneworld alliance


As a part of the merger, Alaska plans to convey Hawaiian into the Oneworld airline alliance.

Till now, Hawaiian has partnered with particular person airways on a one-off foundation, with out formally becoming a member of any of the most important airline alliances.

However by becoming a member of Oneworld, many extra frequent flyers could have entry to perks on Hawaiian, in addition to the flexibility to earn and redeem miles with the service.

Oneworld membership signifies that vacationers with elite standing with any of the 13 Oneworld member airways will take pleasure in a (restricted) set of perks when flying with Hawaiian, akin to precedence check-in and safety.

Plus, elites within the HawaiianMiles program can even be matched to an equal tier within the mixed program. Not solely will these members take pleasure in expanded perks throughout each carriers, however they will even have entry to advantages when flying throughout the Oneworld alliance.

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“We will have a look at all of the tier statuses and … our statuses and we’ll match them,” mentioned Alaska CEO Ben Minicucci at a press convention on Sunday.

As a part of becoming a member of Oneworld, many extra vacationers could have entry to award seats on Hawaiian utilizing their respective miles. This needs to be significantly thrilling for American Airways flyers, who can already e book choose Hawaiian flights with AAdvantage miles. (The American-Hawaiian tie-up excludes award flights to the continental U.S.)

Assuming that the merger goes via, that restriction will possible be dropped. After all, there is not any telling what number of award seats Alaska will launch, however extra choices to e book flights with miles are definitely higher than fewer.

HawaiianMiles will get extra priceless

HawaiianMiles is a distinct segment frequent flyer program. Although HawiianMiles companions with Amex Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy for level transfers, most vacationers will solely discover worth in this system for a visit to Hawaii or maybe an improve to a premium cabin.

However with the merger, HawaiianMiles members could have many extra methods to redeem their miles (along with the expanded set of elite perks talked about above).

“Hawaiian’s member base consists of important loyalty amongst residents of Hawaii, all of whom will benefit from the elevated attractiveness and utility of our mixed community, in addition to your complete suite of our airline companions, together with entry to seamless journey and redemption throughout Oneworld,” mentioned Alaska chief monetary officer Shane Tackett on Sunday.

It is not instantly clear how Alaska will convert HawaiianMiles balances into the brand new, merged program, so I would not speculatively switch any factors (simply but) to Hawaiian within the hopes of getting extra worth from the factors sooner or later.

It additionally is not clear if Hawaiian will keep its partnerships with Amex, Bilt and Marriott if the merger goes via and a mixed loyalty program prevails, however one can definitely hope.

That mentioned, if there’s one group of loyalists that is likely to be disenchanted with the information, it is these primarily based in Hawaii who primarily fly and redeem miles with Hawaiian. Incomes top-tier Hawaiian Pualani Platinum elite standing requires simply 40,000 miles a 12 months — a far cry from the 100,000 required to hit Alaska’s MVP Gold 100K standing.

It stays to be seen how Alaska will map Pualani elite standing to the brand new program, however I might count on some perks, like upgrades, to be tougher to return by. (In spite of everything, the pool of elites will little question be bigger below the mixed program.)

Moreover, Pualani elites and Hawaiian cobranded bank card holders at present obtain a reduction on some mileage redemptions, so if the mixed program drops this perk, these vacationers would possibly obtain much less worth from their miles going ahead.

MileagePlan expands international attain


Over time, Alaska has tried to make use of its Mileage Plan loyalty program to woo vacationers into the airline’s ecosystem.

Regardless of being a primarily West Coast service, Mileage Plan at present has 29 companions worldwide, permitting you to earn and redeem miles (and luxuriate in perks) on a big group of airways.

Becoming a member of Oneworld in 2021 helped Alaska increase its international attain, and the Hawaiian acquisition would solely additional develop the airline’s enchantment to loyalty members past those that regularly journey with Alaska.

Alaska hasn’t mentioned if the Mileage Plan program will stay after the merger or whether or not the service will as a substitute change the identify of this system to raised mirror the mixed airways.

“We’ll have a twin model however the one platform that is going to be the identical loyalty program. So consider one thing like Marriott Bonvoy. You are a part of Marriott Bonvoy, however you possibly can keep in numerous accommodations below this home of manufacturers. In order that’s how we’re enthusiastic about it, that the loyalty program will probably be that widespread platform,” mentioned Minicucci.

No matter which choice Alaska chooses, Mileage Plan members could have entry to extra seats and advantages than earlier than. Let’s simply hope the airline does not intestine its award charts or change the worth of its factors as a part of the acquisition.

Backside line

The proposed Alaska-Hawaiian merger ought to convey a slew of advantages to loyalty members of each airways.

Hawaiian flyers will benefit from the perks of Oneworld membership and an extended record of latest airline companions for incomes and redeeming miles. Alaska vacationers will acquire entry to mileage incomes and redemption alternatives on Hawaiian flights.

And, after all, Alaska Airways will take pleasure in entry to a brand new phase of vacationers who is likely to be interested by signing up for a cobranded bank card within the mixed loyalty program. It is no shock then that these synergies are being touted as one of many key upsides of the acquisition.

“The second important synergy class is loyalty, the place we count on to realize $85 million in run-rate synergies,” mentioned Tackett on Sunday.

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