alaska

A plane takes off as Alaska Airlines jets sit at their gates at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in 2018.

Alaska Airlines and American Airlines are planning to expand their partnership, the airlines announced Thursday, and this will potentially offer travelers from Seattle and Washington state access to an extensive network of international flights.

Instead of carrying out existing plans to dial back their domestic code-share relationship this March, Alaska and American will expand that code-share to include West Coast international routes from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport. (Though this proposed change requires Department of Transportation approval before it can take effect.)

In addition, American Airlines has plans to launch two international routes from Seattle — to Bangalore, India, and London’s Heathrow Airport.

But perhaps the biggest news for Seattleites who frequently travel internationally is that Alaska plans to join the oneworld alliance, a network of 13 global airlines that includes the likes of Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Qantas and Japan Airlines. The goal is to offer international travelers ease of connection and allow them to benefit from shared services among the member airlines.

As international corporate interests in Seattle continue to grow with the expansion of companies like Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing, Alaska hopes this strengthened alliance with American will allow it to contend on an international level, said Nat Pieper, an Alaska Airlines vice president.

“As Alaska thinks about ‘how can we compete and get our fair share of business from those corporations?’ we have to have an international offering as well,” Pieper said. “It has to be hassle-free. It has to be effective from a mileage plan and from a flyer perspective.

“If these employees want to be able to fly anywhere in the world, we have to be able to offer them an effective and easy way to do that.”

For American, the partnership is an opportunity to increase its presence on the West Coast and start new international routes — such as one from Seattle to Bangalore, India, that is scheduled to begin in October.

“Many of (these services) are beyond the range of any airplanes in our traditional hubs in Chicago or Dallas-Fort Worth or Los Angeles,” said Vasu Raja, American’s senior vice president, network strategy. “Now with a one-stop, we’re able to get people as far as Bangalore, which is one of the fastest-growing global corporate markets.”

The route will be the first service from Seattle to Bangalore and the first and only nonstop flight from the U.S. directly to Bangalore.

American Airlines also plans to add a new route from Seattle to London Heathrow beginning in March 2021.

Last fall, American and Alaska announced plans to shrink their domestic code-share that allowed members of both mileage programs to earn and redeem miles between the two carriers. The changes were scheduled to take effect in March.

However, Thursday’s announcement of their expanded partnership means the code-share program will remain active, and will now include international routes from Los Angeles and Seattle, pending Department of Transportation approval.

When Alaska Airlines’ membership with oneworld alliance is finalized in summer 2021, Alaska Mileage Plan loyalty members will also be able to earn and redeem miles through more than 1,200 international destinations that the oneworld network serves. American Airlines is a founding member of oneworld alliance.

Copyright 2020 Tribune Content Agency.