Alaska Airlines' Alliance With Delta Evolves into 'Frenemies'

Oct 24, 2013

It’s a phrase typically used to discuss a messy relationship: "It's complicated."

Those are the words the president of Alaska and Horizon airlines used Thursday to describe the state of the alliance between the Seattle-based carriers and Delta Air Lines. You might also call these airlines "frenemies."

Alaska Air Group and Delta Air Lines signed a long-term partnership in 2008. Both sides agree it's been a profitable alliance. The carriers feed connecting traffic to each other, coordinate some schedules and offer reciprocal frequent flier benefits.

But Delta clearly ruffled some feathers at Alaska Airlines this fall. Delta added new flights from the Pacific Northwest to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. Alaska Air Group CEO Brad Tilden says his company will aggressively defend what it considers core markets.

"Alliances can be complicated. It's likely that in the future, there will be markets where it is in our interest to work together with Delta, and there will be markets where we will compete, because it is in the best interest of Alaska Air Group to do so,” said Tilden.

During a regular conference call to discuss earnings, Tilden said his airline is on track to book a record profit in 2013. Next week, Alaska and Horizon will raise fees for checked baggage and reservation changes.