Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Alaska Buys Hawaiian: What's in It for Us?

We've already been asked what we think about Alaska's proposed purchase of Hawaiian. The Alaska Forum in FlyerTalk has a thread going that's already gathered well over 300 comments:

Alaska Nears Deal to Acquire Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian is an airline with a non-contiguous (50th) state name, loyal customer base, and a generally good reputation. Alaska is an airline with a  non-contiguous (49th) state name, loyal customer base, and a generally good reputation. We've never flown HA ourselves, but we have a vaguely positive impression of it, based on what we've read over the years.

HA has fallen on recent hard times, with the Covid-era restrictions apparently being a significant factor in its financial problems.

Gary Leff claims the proposed deal is neutral to good for customers, but a bad idea for Alaska, which is offering to buy Hawaiian's shares at a huge bonus.

The Cranky Flier, on the other hand, argues non-crankily that the purchase is a good deal for both airlines

It's also worth reading Alaska's statement

The agreed-upon purchase plan apparently is to combine operations as feasible, while maintaining separate branding as Alaska and Hawaiian respectively. 

We'll leave it to others with more knowledge to argue the relative merits of the transaction. In trying to figure whether it's good or bad for us, we see that Alaska says it intends to combine the mileage programs of the two airlines. 

We are fly-on-our-own-dime travelers who moved from United after they merged with Continental and changed or removed a number of previously promised "lifetime" benefits, while moving to a "spend" requirement to earn status.

We therefore read with particular interest one line in the HawaiianMiles mileage program: "Earn miles on how far you fly, not how much you spend..." That's been a keystone of the AS program, much to our benefit.

Combining programs with Alaska would remove the major drawbacks in Hawaiian's program that are highlighted in the US News & World Report's 8th-place rating (Alaska ranks in 1st place): 

  •  Basic membership does not offer many advantages
  • Elite status cannot be earned by booking flights with partner airlines

  • Elite membership benefits are only available on Hawaiian Airlines flights

Oddly enough to us, this poll makes no mention of the lack of a spend requirement for either program. 

We're hoping we can count on the combined mileage programs to maintain this key feature shared by both programs. That's because we earn our miles the old-fashioned way by BIS (Butt in Seat) flying. We've been burned before, so this is a hope rather than a prediction.

Time will tell.

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