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What Is an Airline Alliance?

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    Jonathan Chum

What is an airline alliance? An airline alliance is a group of airlines that have banded together to offer mutual benefits to travelers.

If you are an experienced traveler, there is a good chance that you have heard about Airline alliances. There are several of them, and they represent the bulk of flying options in the United States and around the world. As experienced flyers, we have taken flights with all the major alliances and learn about each of them for the benefit of our readers. Therefore, if you are looking to learn more about airline alliances, we are here to educate you.

In this post, we are going to review the major airline alliances. Then, we are going to cover the benefits and drawbacks of airline alliances when it comes to travelers. Learn more about airline alliances, what they are, and how they operate by reviewing the information below!

What Are Examples of Major Airline Alliances?

If you have boarded a plane recently, there is a good chance that you have heard the saying, “thank you for flying with our airline, a member of the blank airline alliance.” That is how you know you are flying on an airline alliance. Now, it is difficult to fly with a major airline carrier that is not a member of one of the three major airline alliances.

In general, there are three major airline alliances. They are:

  • The Star Alliance: The Star Alliance is made up of some of the biggest airlines in the world including Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, Australian Airlines, Lufthansa, United, and Singapore Airlines.
  • The SkyTeam Alliance: The SkyTeam Alliance includes airlines such as Air Europa, Air France, China Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Delta, and Korean Air.
  • OneWorld: Finally, the One World Alliance includes American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, and Qatar Airways.

Importantly, these are not all the constituents in each of these three major alliances. Furthermore, there are other airline alliances as well; however, these alliances dominate the flying industry. Clearly, it is difficult to board an airline today without flying with an airline alliance. The biggest airline that is not a member of an alliance is Emirates.

Why Should I Fly With an Airline Alliance?

The biggest reason why you should fly with an airline that is a member of an alliance is that your reward points will cross over between airlines. It is not exactly a secret that plane tickets can be expensive. If you are looking for a way to save money, you should use rewards to book tickets on major airlines. In some situations, an airline may not fly to a specific destination. Therefore, you have to use a different airline instead. If you are selecting an airline that is a member of the same alliance as your preferred airline, you may get to use rewards anyway, helping you save money.

At the same time, mutual collections in miles can happen outside an alliance as well. For example, it is possible to use your reward points from American Express cards and transfer them to the True Blue mileage account on JetBlue. Then, these miles can still be used to book a flight on Emirates. Therefore, there are lots of ways for people to save money on plane tickets even if they look outside their preferred airline or alliance.

Do Airline Alliances Change?

Yes, it is possible for airline alliances to change over time. Even though these changes are rare, new airline alliances can pop up from time to time. Furthermore, one of the most common situations where an alliance might change is if one airline gobbles up another.

Those who have been flying for several decades may notice a few edible absences when they look at the list of airlines above. For example, Continental Airlines is no longer listed as a member of the alliances above. The same can be said of US Airways, also known as US Air. During the past few decades, these airlines have been purchased by other airlines on the list. Therefore, they are no longer members of their original constituent alliances. With all the issues taking place in the flying industry right now, it is possible that more changes could happen down the road. It is critical for people to keep up with these changes, so they know how they might impact their ability to use reward points later.

Will Flying With an Airline Alliance Save Me Money?

In short, yes, if you tend to fly with a single alliance, you can save money on your plane ticket. In many situations, miles and reward points will cross over from airline to airline. On the other hand, there are some people who look at airline alliances as a giant trust. Essentially, they can be viewed as agreements between certain airlines to avoid certain cities. Therefore, this reduces competition in some locations, allowing airlines to raise fares.

As a result, even though it may feel like you are saving money by flying within a certain alliance, these are lines are actually making more money because they are reducing competition in certain locations when they enter an agreement as an alliance. There isn't necessarily a lot that you can do about this, but it is important to understand the benefits and drawbacks of alliances when it comes to airlines.

Understand an Airline Alliance Before Flying

Ultimately, when it comes to you, the traveler, the most important thing you have to remember about an airline alliance is that there are three major ones. If you book plane tickets within a single airline, the reward points in miles you rack up could be used to save money on plane tickets on multiple airlines within the same alliance. At the same time, understand that airlines can still establish mileage and reward transfer agreements outside of these alliances. So, make sure that you understand all of your options before you book a plane ticket.