Airline Alliances for Beginners

Southwest Airlines plane interior

This year I gave the gift of new memories to both my parents. Each one was given the choice of one destination out of five. I’m really excited to be traveling to China with my dad in May, and I’ve been heavily researching airline alliances and airline rewards programs so we both can maximize our flight miles for future trips.

I guess I feel altruistic today, so here’s what I’ve learned about airline alliances.

Full disclosure: I found this blog post on “rookie travel tripsextremely helpful in coming up with this summary.

Why Alliances?

The three main airline alliances, including oneworld Alliance, SkyTeam Alliance, and Star Alliance, now account for almost two-thirds of the total world airline capacity and more than 80 percent of air travel spend between the world’s top 100 business cities. (Source: oneworld fact sheet)

Most people want to travel internationally to different markets, but local laws and ordinances make it almost impossible for a single airline to operate under all those pressures. Alliances enable like-minded airlines to work together for the benefit of passengers.

I’ve included a summary of each airline alliance below, along with member airlines.

oneworld Alliance

Member airlines: airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Royal Jordanian, and S7 Airlines.
Soon to join: SriLankan Airlines, TAM Airlines, and US Airways

Countries: 151
Lounges Available: 603
Destinations: 883

SkyTeam Alliance

Member airlines: Aeroflot, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Middle East Airlines, Saudia, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines, and Xiamen Airlines.
Soon to join: Garuda Indonesia.

Countries: 178
Lounges Available: 530
Destinations: 1,024

Star Alliance

Member airlines: Adria Airways, Aegean Airlines, Air Canada, Air China, 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, TAM Airlines (moving to oneworld Alliance in 2014), TAP Portugal, THAI, Turkish Airlines, United, and US Airways (moving to oneworld Alliance in March 2014).

Countries: 195
Lounges Available: 1,000+
Destinations: 1,328

Tips and Tricks for Airline Alliances

From what I’ve researched, there are a number of great ways to take advantage of airline alliance benefits.

  • You don’t have to join the alliance rewards programs to take advantage of their benefits.
  • Join one major airline reward program per alliance. Even though in most cases you can’t transfer points or miles between airlines reward programs, you can still book flights from a single airline across the whole alliance. For example, if you book a flight on Air Canada, you can use a rewards program from any other airline in the Star Alliance. Most travel experts recommend joining American Airlines AAdvantage for the oneworld Alliance, Delta Air Lines SkyMiles for the SkyTeam Alliance, and United MileagePlus for the Star Alliance.
  • If you achieve status in one airline, it will carry over to most other airlines in the alliance.

Let me know on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+ if you have any airline alliance tips or tricks of your own!