MIAMI — Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan members will soon have new international destinations to fly to on miles. Last week, the Seattle-based operator has inked a frequent-flyer partnership with Chinese carrier Hainan Airlines.

Under the terms of the deal, the members of Mileage Plan program will earn miles when flying with Hainan. The airline, rated as a 5-star by Skytrax, operates nonstop flights from Seattle to Beijing and Shanghai, and opens to Alaska Airlines new travel choices for Pacific Northwest business travelers to China.

“Alaska Airlines is expanding its international partner portfolio with the addition of Hainan, giving our Mileage Plan members more ways to earn miles for their travel from the West Coast to Shanghai and Beijing and on connecting flights within China,” assured Andrew Harrison, Alaska Airlines executive vice president and chief revenue officer.

Harrison added that the new alliance will enter in full force at the end of the year, and that Alaska and Hainan will continue to enhance their partnership by recognizing and extending elite reciprocal benefits to members of Mileage Plan and Fortune Wings Club by fall. Earned flight miles on Hainan currently qualify toward elite status in Alaska’s FFP.

An Upscaling Battle for Seattle

As previously published in a trilogy by our Senior Analyst Vinay Bashkara titled “The Battle for Seattle: Alaska vs. Delta” (Part One, Part Two, Part Three) both carriers are fiercely entangled for the control of Seattle, a highly competitive market. The decision of teaming up with Hainan will provide Alaska Airlines travelers a 5-star airline experience in two international key routes for Delta Air Lines out of Seattle. “Seattle was Hainan’s first North American gateway, opened in 2008, and since then we have carried hundreds of thousands of people between the U.S. and China,” said Hou Wei, Hainan Airlines vice president.

“This reduces Alaska’s dependence on Delta as a mileage partner,” travel consultant Steve Danishek told the Puget Sound Business Journal. “We assume that the Alaska-Delta mileage tie-up will eventually fail, perhaps pushed along by this.”