Delta, Northwest and Continental announced a far reaching code share agreement on Friday, August 23rd, which will further extend the “seamless” routes the three fly. Seen as a boon to travelers, the three airlines combined reach will be unsurpassed by any comparable agreement within North America.
Delta brings a strong presence in the southeast from Atlanta, and through its hub in Salt Lake City, adds coverage to the western United States presently provided to Continental and Northwest through their alliance with Alaska Airlines.
While Delta does compete on many former Western Airlines routes with Alaska, there appears to be room for Alaska in the alliance as well since Alaska`s hub is Seattle supports the vast majority of its operations in a north/south direction as opposed to Delta`s east/west operations from SLC.
Northwest will provide the trio excellent coverage in upper Midwest and south central U.S. with their hubs in Minneapolis, Detroit and Memphis. Additionally, NWA serves major east and west coast cities from each of their hubs. Continental further complements the agreement with strong service in the south central U.S. from their hub in Houston. Continental?fs Newark hub provides a good and growing position in the northeast.
While it is unclear at this point, certain international routes may be included in the mix and some foreign flag carriers common to two of the three partners may also participate. KLM for example is aligned with Continental and Northwest while Air France code shares with both Delta and Continental. Collectively, the three will be the dominant U.S. carriers to Asia and Europe and provide stiff competition to American Airlines into South America.
Frequent flyers will benefit tremendously from the union in terms of having to only use one of the three plans. What is unknown is the impact on the top elite members of WorldPerks and OnePass who currently achieve Platinum status at 75,000 miles while SkyMiles members must reach 100,000. When CO and NWA combined plans some four years ago; a compromise was reached which made the plans virtual mirror images of each other. A similar process is expected from this joint mileage merger. In addition to the mileage requirements for platinum status, top members of Delta`s program are offered complimentary Crown Room Club access while CO and NWA platinum members only receive a substantial discount on their annual or lifetime membership fees.
If approved by the Department of Transportation, the agreement is expected to cover a ten-year period. The DOT normally takes 30 days to process such requests but can take up to 6 months. The strongest objection is expected from American Airlines which could see its market share reduced significantly.