Alaska Airlines relishes its Condor connection in Europe

Alaska Airlines gained a massive boost to its international partner portfolio when it joined the 13-airline Oneworld Alliance in 2021.

But Alaska is also bullish about its burgeoning partnership with small German carrier Condor. 

“The amount of passengers we see every day both earning miles flying Condor as well as redeeming Alaska miles to fly on Condor are at record levels,” said Nat Pieper, Alaska’s senior vice president of fleet, finance and alliances. The numbers, he added, have doubled since 2022. 

Last month, Condor began placing its code on more than 70 Alaska Airlines routes. The development followed the launch of the carriers’ codeshare partnership in June, when Alaska began placing its code on Condor flights to its hub in Frankfurt from 12 U.S. gateways. 

Codesharing represents a significant intensification of the relationship between Alaska and Condor, which had previously been interline partners. Alaska Mileage Plan members have also been able to earn and redeem miles on Condor flights since 2017. 

One driver of Alaska’s heightened interest is leisure-centric Condor’s recent growth in the U.S. During the third quarter of this year, Condor flew 47% more seats and 31% more flights to the U.S. than it did during the July through September period of 2019. Next summer Condor will add San Antonio and Miami as U.S. destinations. (The carrier will, however, be dropping its weekly service to Fairbanks, Alaska.)

Business class seats on a Condor A330neo plane.

But the key motivator for Alaska is the improved cabin products Condor began offering as it introduced Airbus A330neos early this year. The A330neos, which are replacing Condor’s older Boeing 767 planes, feature the carrier’s first lie-flat seats. By next summer, all of Condor’s transatlantic flying will be with the A330neo, each equipped with 30 business class seats and 65 premium economy seats. 

Pieper said that he flew on one of new candy-striped Condor aircraft in June, turning him into the biggest fan of the airlines among Alaska’s leadership. The product Condor is offering on the new planes, he said, is as good as any that he has experienced in the past three to five years.

“We love the partnership and a lot of places that Condor has historically flown to in the U.S., but the new aircraft, the business class and premium economy, it’s just a completely different level,” Pieper said.

Condor nevertheless remains just a small element of the connectivity Alaska is able to offer via partnerships across the Atlantic. The carrier’s Oneworld membership gives customers access to far larger transatlantic players, including American, British Airways and Iberia, as well as to Finnair. Alaska also partners across the Atlantic with El Al, Icelandair and Aer Lingus, which like British Airways and Iberia is owned by International Airlines Group.

Pieper said that it’s important for Alaska to offer as many quality partners as it can. And working with a small and independent carrier like Condor, he said, offers flexibility that just isn’t possible with a behemoth global carrier. 
“One of the things that Alaska really values with partners like Condor is the ability to be quirky, the ability to be creative and the ability to be quick,” he said. 

For example, Pieper said, when Condor moved its new A330s into the hotly contested Los Angeles market, being nimble gave the partnership an opportunity to quickly launch promotions that could steer consumer choice. 

For now, Condor and Alaska have not begun partnering on any Condor routes to destinations beyond Frankfurt. 

That could change soon. Condor focuses heavily on leisure markets in Mediterranean Europe during the summer months, especially in Spain and Greece. An Alaska spokesman said the airline is on track to launch sales on a few Condor routes out of Frankfurt by the end of this month, with expansions to follow in the months after that. 

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