As discussed in Chapter 6 of the book, Alaska Airlines can be a valuable frequent flyer program for crediting miles flown on their non-alliance partners Delta and American Airlines, especially if you don't anticipate flying on either airline enough to earn elite status.
Well, according to this thread, that value might be about to get a lot better. So far this is just a rumor, but a number of people have apparently been told the same thing by Alaska phone agents: you will soon be able to redeem Mileage Plan miles for one-way partner awards on Delta and American.
Why is this a game-changer? First of all, Delta award availability is notoriously bad, and if you're booking award flights using Delta Skymiles (or, currently, with Alaska miles), you have to book your outbound and return legs at the same time, which means both legs must have award availability. The consolation prize is that you can book a free one-way at the beginning or ending of your round-trip award.
If Alaska Mileage Plan miles can be used to book one-way awards on Delta, then you can book each leg as award space becomes available. No more waiting for low-level availability on both legs to be available simultaneously. This would make Alaska Mileage Plan miles much more valuable for Delta award flights than Delta's own program, assuming Delta continues to require round-trip bookings when you redeem Skymiles.
The second reason this is potentially a major game-changer is that by making Alaska miles so much more valuable, it also increases the value of Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints. Starwood points can be transferred to Mileage Plan miles at a 1:1 ratio with a 5,000 mile bonus at 20,000, 40,000, and 60,000 Starpoints (so 60,000 Starpoints become 75,000 Mileage Plan miles). Keep in mind that these transfers are not instant, so you will need to plan ahead if going this route.
The rumored date for this change to go into effect is March 17, 2013. If it ends up being true, I'll be recommending to all my friends and clients who are casual flyers to start crediting their Delta flights to Alaska. Additionally, Starwood points, already one of the best hotel award currencies for low- and mid-tier properties, are about to get a lot more valuable!