National coffee powerhouse Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) expanded its reach into the skies Wednesday with the announcement of a new airline partnership.
Alaska Airlines, the nation’s seventh-largest airline, will begin serving complimentary Starbucks coffee starting Wednesday on all of its flights. Its sister carrier, Horizon Air — also owned by Alaska Airlines parent Alaska Air Group (NYSE:ALK) — has been serving Starbucks on its flights for more than 20 years.
The move is part of a larger initiative by Alaska Airlines to improve its in-flight fare. It also has added products such as Beecher’s cheese, Tim’s Cascade potato chips and Alaskan Amber beer.
Alaska Airlines isn’t the first major carrier to partner with Starbucks, however. United Continental’s (NYSE:UAL) United Airlines has been serving the Seattle brew since 1995, and Japanese giant All Nippon Airways (PINK:ALNPY) began carrying it in 2010. And starting March 2011, Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL) has offered Starbucks’ Seattle’s Best Coffee brand java on all its flights.
Starbucks also has made a host of other partnerships closer to the ground over the years. Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) bookstores and Kroger (NYSE:KR) grocery locations tout in-store Starbucks bars, and in 2010, Starbucks opened a location on Royal Caribbean International’s (NYSE:RCL) Allure of the Seas. More recently, Starbucks partnered with India’s Tata Coffee in hopes of gaining a foothold in the large emerging market.
– Kyle Woodley, InvestorPlace.com Assistant Editor