Anybody who has flown on a commercial flight will have heard about Airline Alliances. Perhaps you see ‘Star Alliance‘, ‘Oneworld‘, or ‘SkyTeam‘ on the in-flight magazine. Or hear the cabin crew thanking you for flying with them today, even though you were sure you were flying with XYZ Airways. That’s because nearly every major international airline belongs to a larger group of airlines to share facilities and allow more routes. That larger group is called an Airline Alliance.
The core idea behind these alliances is to expand the operations of an airline beyond where they would usually fly. Both the airlines and passengers benefit. For the airlines, this expansion is twofold. Firstly, the airlines in an alliance co-operate with their flights and scheduling to attract customers who may otherwise travel with rivals. Second is by sharing resources at airports, such as staff, lounges, and catering facilities to reduce operational costs. This theoretically allows more competitive pricing for prospective customers.
The benefits of Airline Alliances for you
The bonus for passengers means that they can travel worldwide on a single ticket rather than needing multiple bookings with several airlines. If you need to fly from Germany to New Zealand, there are no direct flights. But you could book with Lufthansa to travel to Asia or North America, where a connection will be made with Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, or Thai Airways can complete your journey. That’s because these airlines all belong to Star Alliance. The practice of sharing these flight routes is commonly known as a codeshare.
Furthermore, if you are a frequent traveller, the points system for an airline gets shared across the alliance. If you collect Avios points with British Airways, you can spend them to reduce flying costs with their Oneworld partners such as Cathay Pacific, and Iberia, for example. If you are a Dutch traveller and have member benefits to enjoy lounge access at Amsterdam Schipol airport thanks to KLM, you can find the same privileges when you are in the USA thanks to the SkyTeam partnership with Delta Airlines. Even if you’re an infrequent traveller, the points and shared facilities for one trip can make your journey much better.
The three alliances began forming in the late 90s. First, Star Alliance, then Oneworld, and finally SkyTeam in 2000. Every so often, airlines join and leave an alliance, while some have never joined but have codeshare agreements. Some significant carriers without alliances include Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, and Etihad. Check the information below to see the members that are part of the three Airline Alliances.
The first alliance of airlines was founded in 1997 with five members. Today that membership has grown to contain a whopping twenty-six airlines. This makes Star Alliance the largest partnership of the three in both airline numbers, plus traffic and passenger numbers. Star Alliance represented 23% of airline traffic with 762 million passengers in 2018.
Air New Zealand
ANA (All Nippon Airways)
LOT Polish Airlines
SAS (Scandinavian Airlines)
South African Airways
SWISS (Swiss International Air Lines)
TAP Air Portugal
Oneworld may be the smallest alliance, but they have some influential names in their roster. The four founding airlines back in 1998 were Cathay Pacific, British Airways, Qantas, and American Airlines. Following LATAM departing, Oneworld is now home to fourteen airlines. In 2021 they will expand their North American presence when Alaska Airlines joins the partnership.
Royal Air Maroc
Royal Jordanian Airlines
SkyTeam is the youngest of the three main alliances having formed in 2000. They have grown into a mighty force, in part helped by the foothold the founders already had in their regions. Air France/KLM have a substantial European presence, and their two hub airports are in prominent cities with Amsterdam and Paris. Delta and Korean Air helped expand the offering in the USA and Asia. Now, with 19 members, the group have a strong global offering.
China Eastern Airlines
Delta Air Lines
Middle East Airlines