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Alaska Goes Global with Emirates Partnership

Strange bedfellows: Alaska Airlines and Emirates announced a frequent flyer partnership, including the usual features: reciprocal earning and use of frequent flyer miles, through-ticketing and baggage checking, and one-stop check-in for connecting flights.

The new partnership will work mainly by exchange of passengers on Emirates' new 777 nonstops between Seattle and Dubai. Seattle, of course, is Alaska's primary hub, and, at Dubai, Emirates offers lots of ongoing connections. Both lines are interesting exceptions to the current general trend among large lines. Instead of joining one of the big worldwide alliances, both are carving out independent niches with multiple partnerships:

  • Emirates seems to have developed a successful wayport operation at Dubai. A wayport is an airport located in a destination hardly anybody wants to visit but offering convenient connecting flights to/from lots of popular spots. Emirates works the deal by connecting Dubai with key European and North American points, on the one hand, and similar numbers of key spots in Asia and Australia. For routes unable to support nonstop service, Emirates has found that its modern fleet and comfortable Dubai airport can be quite competitive with one-stop itineraries on major North American, European. and Asian carriers. Although the wayport idea has long been rejected for long-haul flights within the U.S., Emirates seems to be making it quite successful between continents.
  • Although Alaska says it has no interest in joining any big alliance, it has partner agreements with lines from both the oneworld and Skyteam alliances, plus others, including AirFrance/KLM, American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Delta, Korean, and Qantas.
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