Monday, May 6, 2013

Codeshare Secrets

When you spend a lot of time on the road, or more accurately, in the air, you learn a few tricks to dealing with the airlines that make spending time in the air possible. One recent learning experience for me was with the whole code sharing of flights between airlines.

As airlines merge and try to compete and increase their offerings codeshares are a big way for them to be bigger than they are and serve more cities than they really do. I fly Delta almost exclusively and they have a codeshare with Alaska Airlines that I’ve found myself using numerous times. I book the flight through delta.com but part of the trip is on an Alaska Airlines plane operated by an Alaska crew.

This really isn’t anything new; it has just become more prevalent as airlines continue to merge. Eventually when they have all merged together and there is only one airline this problem will go away but for now it is something we all deal with.

In the ideal world you don’t even know the codeshare of the flight exists. Your bags transfer seamlessly, you go from gate to gate without issue and as a passenger the only difference is plane livery and crew uniforms. However, there are several things that don’t seamlessly integrate because after all, remember, you are dealing with two independent companies who have just decided to play nice with each other.

In my case the issue arose due to my seat preference. I like to sit in the economy plus section on longer flights to the west coast. On Delta you pay for this privilege but on Alaska they reserve those rows for their mileage elite and premier status customers. My question was how do I get an economy plus seat because on the Delta website all the seats on my Alaska codeshare flight were taken and it wouldn’t even let me select a seat at all.

Here are some tricks:
  • Even though you bought your codeshare through one airline you actually have two separate reservations and confirmation codes, one for each airline. Find out what both of these codes are and then login to the website of the codeshare operator and you can see more seats that are available.
  • In this case I had to actually call Alaska Airlines to get my confirmation number with them. The Delta website only shows your Delta confirmation number but once I got my Alaska confirmation number their site showed both numbers. I also called Delta and found them to be of little help as they didn’t have either my Alaska confirmation or ticket number. I waited 24 minutes to talk to someone at Delta and only 1 minute to talk to someone at Alaska.
  • When you check in for your flight on your primary carrier you may not get all the seat options available due to difference in how each airline allocates seats. For instance, Delta charges for better seats while Alaska holds them for elites and premiers up until 24 hours before flight time. At that point it’s a free for all.
  • In order to cheat the system I actually checked in twice to get the seat I wanted. I checked in on Delta for my Delta flights and then went to the Alaska website and checked in again just for their segment so I could get the seat I wanted.
  • Remember, the 24 hour window starts from the local time of your flight for that segment. That’s why when I first checked in on the Delta site it still didn’t show me the seats I wanted. I waited another 3 hours until my Alaska flight was within check in range and tried on delta.com again and it showed me more seats but it did not let me pick them. I went to the Alaska website and quickly and easily got the seat I wanted. Granted I had a boarding pass from Delta for their flight and Alaska for their flight but at least I got the seat I wanted. Trust me, on longer flights across the country it is well worth it. 
Codeshare flights definitely have a benefit for both passengers and airlines. I personally prefer Alaska flights to Delta flights as the service on board is better, the crews are nicer, and they offer hot food for purchase in economy, the only US airline to do that I think.

Disclaimer: While this process has worked for me it is important to note that even though you can change your seat on the codeshare flights and print a boarding pass with your new seat the Delta site and the Alaska sites will still show you in your old seat.  I tweeted with Alaska to confirm my seat had changed and they confirmed it had, and their website showed it changed once I opened my actual reservation but the apps for both airlines never reflected my seat being changed.

Back to the (insert your own adjective here) skies.