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Alaska Airlines, Emirates Expand Ties

Building on their existing reciprocal frequent-flyer program relationship, Alaska Airlines and Emirates will begin codesharing as soon as the necessary government approvals have been secured.

At least to begin with, the codesharing will be unilateral: Up to 300 daily Alaska flights will be bookable under Emirates flight numbers, as connections to Emirates flights to or from Seattle. Codesharing typically works bilaterally, so it’s reasonable to expect that Alaska-Emirates connections will at some point be bookable under Alaska flight numbers as well.

Codeshare flights allow travelers to book a trip with connecting flights on two airlines as though it were a single-carrier flight, thereby simplifying booking, ticketing, check-in, and baggage transfers.

In addition to the codesharing, elite members of Alaska’s Mileage Plan program will be permitted access to Emirates’ business-class lounges at Dubai airport. And elite members of Emirates’ Skywards program will have access to Alaska’s lounges at Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, and Los Angeles airports when connecting between the two airlines.

Some time later, Alaska and Emirates elites will be entitled to priority check-in and boarding at Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Dubai airports.

Alaska’s deepening relationship with Emirates is another example of Alaska’s savvy use of marketing tie-ups to give the regional airline a near-global footprint. Its frequent-flyer program exemplifies the approach. Through its partnerships with a host of larger carriers, Alaska has built its Mileage Plan program into a scheme whose breadth and depth come close to equaling those of American, Delta, and United.

Of course, if there is a Goliath in this little-guy-versus-big-guy scenario, it is Delta, which has been aggressively encroaching on Alaska’s hometown airport, Seattle. Significantly, this week Delta announced that it would be terminate its flights between Atlanta and Dubai next year, citing an oversupply of seats in the marketplace operated by Gulf carriers, including Emirates, that Delta charges with receiving unfair government subsidies. Given the timing, one can’t help wondering whether Emirates’ expanding relationship with Alaska might not have played apart in Delta’s withdrawal from the route as well.

So far, in competing against Delta and other airlines, Alaska’s David strategy has served it well. Size may matter; but so do smarts.

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