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Airline Alliances: What They Are, Members, Benefits, and Tips

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Published April 27, 2023


An airline alliance is a partnership between multiple airlines that allows them to work together and coordinate services, offering passengers an extended network of destinations, smoother connections, and a more seamless travel experience.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the benefits and inner workings of airline alliances, providing you with valuable insights and practical tips on how to make the most of these partnerships in your travel plans.

What are the benefits of airline alliances?

A KLM plane with SKYTEAM Alliance callouts – Celt Studio – stock.adobe.com

Some of the big benefits of airline alliances include:

  • Expanded route networks: Through code-sharing agreements, alliance members can extend their reach, providing passengers with a broader selection of destinations and more convenient connections. Also, if you miss a flight or need to change flights, the airlines can help you rebook more easily on an alliance partner than a non-affiliated airline.
  • Shared frequent flyer programs: Most airline alliances allow passengers to earn and redeem miles or points across their member airlines, maximizing the value of their rewards.
  • Reciprocal elite status recognition: Elite status with one alliance member is sometimes recognized by the other member airlines, granting benefits such as priority boarding, lounge access, and extra baggage allowance.
  • Streamlined travel experience: Alliance members often coordinate their schedules, baggage handling, and check-in procedures to make connections smoother and more efficient for passengers.
  • Cost savings: Airlines within an alliance can share resources and reduce operational expenses, potentially resulting in lower fares for passengers.

The Big Three: Major Airline Alliances and Their Member Airlines

Here are the current members of the three major alliances as of April 2023:

Airline Alliances. The big 3: Star Alliance, Oneworld, Skyteam

Star Alliance

Founded in 1997, Star Alliance is the largest and oldest airline alliance. It currently includes 26 member airlines that serve over 1,300 destinations in 195 countries.

Member airlines:

  • Aegean Airlines
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Austrian
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EGYPTAIR
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Air
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • THAI
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines

SkyTeam

Established in 2000, SkyTeam has 19 member airlines, providing access to over 1,150 destinations in 175 countries.

Member airlines:

  • Aeroflot (currently suspended due to geopolitical events)
  • AerolĂ­neas Argentinas
  • AeromĂ©xico
  • Air Europa
  • Air France
  • China Airlines
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • ITA (prev Alitalia)
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air
  • Middle East Airlines
  • Saudia
  • TAROM
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Virgin Atlantic
  • XiamenAir

oneworld

Launched in 1999, oneworld consists of 14 member airlines, covering more than 1,100 destinations in 180 countries.

Member airlines:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Fiji Airways
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian
  • SriLankan Airlines

How can you make the most of airline alliances?

  1. Choose a primary frequent flyer program: To maximize your rewards, select a frequent flyer program within your preferred alliance and focus on earning and redeeming miles or points with that program and its partners. For example, if you optimize for American Airlines miles, which makes sense if you fly out of Philadelphia, you should consider Oneworld alliance partner airlines, all else equal.
  2. Leverage elite status: If you have elite status with one member airline, make sure to take advantage of the benefits it offers across the alliance, such as lounge access, priority boarding, and extra baggage allowance. If you’re ever unsure whether benefits carry-over, airline customer service can easily tell you.
  3. Stay informed about alliance news: Keep up-to-date with any changes within your preferred alliance, such as new member airlines, route expansions, or updates to their frequent flyer programs.

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