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Airline alliances are very important in the travel world – they allow airlines to partner closer with each other and offer their passengers elevated benefits including easy ticket sales on multiple airlines, frequent flyer benefits across the whole alliance, and generally fly passengers anywhere in the world thanks to the help of their alliance members. Those holding elite status with one airline in an alliance, means they have a wide variety of benefits available to them when flying any alliance member.

What is an Airline Alliance?

An airline alliance is a group of airlines that work closely together with each other on a number of aspects – including codesharing, partnerships, and some airlines even have strong joint ventures together. Airline alliances are great because they essentially exist to connect people around the world seamlessly, in other words, if your airline can’t fly you to where you want to go, chances are one of their alliance partners can. Being a frequent flyer elite member in one airline means that your benefits extend to other airlines in the same alliance.

The Three Major Airline Alliances

There are currently three major airline alliances – Star Alliance, oneworld, and SkyTeam.

Star Alliance is the largest and includes airlines like Avianca, Lufthansa, United. oneworld is the most premium alliance and includes world-class carriers like Cathay Pacific, JAL, Qatar Airways, etc. Then you have SkyTeam which many don’t care about because it doesn’t really include many premium carriers and is sort of the “leftover” alliance, not to mention they have the weakest benefits from all of the alliances.

Benefits of Airline Alliances

There are many benefits offered to passengers when flying on multiple airlines in the same alliance and these include:

  • easy ticketing – get to where you need to go all on one ticket, even with mixed airlines
  • through check-in – you’ll only need to check-in once even if flying on multiple airlines
  • baggage checked to final destination – no need to pick up and re-check your bags if you are flying multiple airlines
  • frequent flyer benefits – elite members receive similar benefits on all airlines in the same alliance
  • collect miles with one frequent flyer program – no need to collect miles from multiple airlines in different programs

The benefits for airlines include that they can expand their global reach with the help of their alliance partners, allow passengers a seamless journey, and gain more flyers from world-wide recognition.

Codesharing, Partnerships, and Joint Venture

Partnerships between airlines exist on several different levels. It is important to note that airlines do not have to be in the same alliance in order to partner, but they usually are. There are various “levels” of partnerships:

  • interline – able to check bags to different airlines and issue tickets for travel on different airlines
  • codesharing – able to place their own airline flight number on a flight operated by another carrier
  • alliance membership – stronger partnerships, including frequent flyer benefits
  • joint venture – coordinate schedules and share revenue together

Some airlines work really closely with each other, while others just offer the basic, required items as regulated by each alliance.

Frequent Flyer Benefits

If you are an elite member in a program from one airline in an alliance, most of your benefits extend to all airlines in that alliance. The benefits that are usually alliance-wide include:

  • priority check-in
  • extra baggage allowance
  • priority baggage handling
  • fast track security
  • lounge access
  • priority boarding
  • priority reservations waitlisting and standby
  • dedicated help desk

Some airlines have additional benefits for their frequent flyer elite members – like complimentary upgrades, preferred seating, etc. – these benefits do not always extend to other alliance members.

All in All

Being able to earn and redeem miles and points in one frequent flyer program for travel on any of their alliance and non-alliance partners is amazing – this is why there are some incredible opportunities out there when redeeming miles, all thanks to alliances and partnerships. Often, it makes more sense and is better value to use a partner frequent flyer program for a redemption than the airline’s own program, and that would not exist if there were no alliances or close partnerships between airlines. Airline alliances really make travel so much better, because it is a seamless experience – no matter where in the world you are flying to.

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