Airline Alliance: Which Airline Alliance Is Best?

So what’s the big fuss about airline alliances, and why should you familiarize yourself with them? Simply, they make international travel easier and more cost/time effective for you, the customer.

Airline alliances often fly under the radar when it comes to the general public, but they are an increasingly important part of the airline industry. These industry arrangements often involve multiple airlines, various codesharing agreements, and a general sense of co-operation. Some members of airline alliances even use unified liveries.

Three major alliances.

The goal of these coalitions is to provide travelers with access to more destinations, streamlined connections, and competitive pricing due to smaller operational costs. Of course, this has some benefits on the airlines' bottom line, by cutting down on overlapping operations in shared markets and by funneling travelers through partners instead of a competitor's plane.


Oneworld’s premium status memberships are structured into three levels. The top being Emerald, followed by Sapphire, and the lowest tier membership is Ruby. Similar to the other alliances, Oneworld elites receive lounge access and added benefits like free checked bags and occasional upgrades. Flyers that have elite status with any alliance member frequent flyer program will be granted the corresponding tier in the Oneworld program. Oneworld elite tiers are recognized on all flights ticketed by member airlines.

For U.S. based frequent flyers, American Airlines is the gateway airline into Oneworld membership. However, those who accumulate miles with the airline will find it hard to redeem miles using the AAdvantage program on other member airlines. American only offers a snippet of available awards inventory on their site, and the amount of partner flights displayed is downright abysmal, with many airlines not displayed at all. Member British Airways is not much better. While it offers a better selection of flight options, they come with astronomical fuel surcharges that generally wipe out any savings you thought you'd get by redeeming for a "free flight."

American Airlines

British Airways

Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong

Finnair, Finland

Iberia, Spain

Japan Airlines

LAN Airlines, Chile

Malaysia Airlines

Qantas, Australia

Qatar Airways

Royal Jordanian

S7 Airlines, Russia

SriLankan Airlines

TAM Airlines, Brazil

Star Alliance

StarAlliance breaks down its elite status into two levels: Silver and Gold. Gold status in StarAlliance’s program is generally harder to reach for the average traveler, as it requires reaching the premium-to-highest levels of a member airline's frequent flyer program. Members who attain Silver and Gold membership within StarAlliance’s elite program receive benefits like extra baggage allowances, preferred boarding, and seat assignments. With the most extensive network of members, StarAlliance also boasts the most airport lounges amongst the three major alliances. Airport lounge access varies per airline and is dependent on which level of status you have within the program, so it's best to check in advance if you qualify for entry.

Many flyers based in North America will be familiarized with the StarAlliance via United Airlines or Air Canada. Using United Airlines MileagePlus program and search feature on their website, it's effortless to view member airlines' award availability. Awards at the Saver Level will cost the same amount of mileage no matter which partner airline your flights are operated on. Business and First Class awards will require extra mileage than flying on award flights solely operated by United. Air Canada is planning to overhaul its frequent flyer set-up by ditching current Aeroplan for a loyalty program of its own starting in June 2020.

Aegean Airlines, Greece

Air Canada

Air China

Air India

Air New Zealand

All Nippon Airways, Japan

Asiana Airlines, South Korea

Austrian Airlines

Avianca, Colombia

Brussels Airlines, Belgium

Copa Airlines, Panama

Croatia Airlines


Ethiopian Airlines

EVA Air, Taiwan

LOT Polish Airlines

Lufthansa, Germany

Scandinavian Airlines

Shenzhen Airlines, China

Singapore Airlines

South African Airways

Swiss International Airlines

TAP Portugal

Thai Airways

Turkish Airlines

United Airlines


SkyTeam splits its premium levels into two levels: Elite and Elite Plus. Status is awarded to frequent-flyers who have reached premium levels in a member airline. For example, a Delta Silver Medallion member will receive SkyTeam Elite, while Delta Gold or above flyers will receive Elite Plus. As with the other alliances, benefits for SkyTeam Elites are priority boarding, check-in, and preferred seating. SkyTeam Elite Plus members have additional perks, including extra baggage allowances and airport lounge access.

Delta Air Lines is the carrier that the majority of U.S. customers will be introduced into the SkyTeam network. Delta’s SkyMiles loyalty program doesn’t publish an award chart for flight redemptions, creating a guessing game on how many miles are required for a particular award. With frequent devaluations and the removal of tables, the moniker SkyPesos is bandied about regarding the program in the frequent flyer community. Air France, KLM, TAROM, Kenya Airways, and subsidiary airlines, have created a unified frequent flyer program titled Flying Blue. SkyTeam elite status is generally easier to achieve using Flying Blue over SkyMiles unless you're a Delta regular and dish out enough money with the airline to qualify.

Aeroflot, Russia

Aerolineas Argentinas


Air Europa, Spain

Air France

Alitalia, Italy

China Airlines, Taiwan

China Eastern Airlines

Czech Airlines

Delta Airlines

Garuda Indonesia

Kenya Airways


Korean Air, South Korea

Middle East Airlines, Lebanon


TAROM, Romania

Vietnam Airlines

Xiamen Airlines, China

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