Every airline passenger will have seen the name and logos of the three big airline alliances carrying almost two out of three of the world’s airline passengers. The names “One World“, “SkyTeam” and “Star Alliance” adorn planes, airline marketing materials, boarding passes, in-flight magazines and airport signs. All three of the big US airlines (American, Delta and United) are linked to one of the alliances. In Europe, it is the same with their three biggest airline companies.
Airline alliances offer a number of advantages. The main one is that Frequent flyer points can be earnt and spent with any of the alliance members giving a wider range of destinations you can use points for. The benefits that high-status frequent flyers earn are spread across the network’s airlines. This means I can use the priority check-in, lounge access, priority luggage, and early boarding when flying the other carriers in the same alliance.
This is what makes choosing the right alliance important so that I can maximise my points earning and status.
Today I answer two questions:
- Who is your alliance of choice?
- Which one is the best alliance?
What is your answer to these questions?
My Alliance of Choice
I am a major One World Customer, largely driven by my Status level at Qantas, one of the founding partners of the OneWorld Alliance because of its dominance of the Australian airline market. I have had a status with Star Alliance which waxes and wanes. My interactions with Skyteam have been way fewer than those two alliances.
Thanks to my use of the Flightmemory tracking system, I have a lot of data regarding my alliance experiences. How do they compare to your experiences?
I have flown with all but one of the current OneWorld members Including Air Berlin (which closes tomorrow). The one that I am missing is Russia’s S7. I have even flown Aer Lingus who will be rejoining One World and Malev, another one of the members that went bankrupt.
Star Alliance is the largest by a number of the alliances and I have flown on one-third of their members. I am yet to fly with any of the airlines of the two smallest alliances.
As to be expected, my 533 One World Flights dwarf the 254 with Star Alliance members (which in itself not to be sniffed at!) My Skyteam and Value Alliance members are almost a handful by comparison.
I have also flown over 300 times with airlines such as Emirates, Etihad, Southwest and the Virgin companies which are not members of these alliances.
The miles I have flown with each alliance are in the same proportion! I have flown more miles with One World carriers than all of the other alliances combined.
Which alliance is the best?
There are a number of ways to answer this.
1. The Airline that suits your needs
If you live in Atlanta, Georgia, the home hub of Skyteam member Delta, then that will probably become your airline of choice. If you were flying to Germany a lot, Lufthansa (Star) would, however, be more appealing as your airline of choice as it better fits with your travel patterns.
Asian destinations may draw you to Singapore/Thai/ANA (Star) or JAL/Malaysia/Qatar (One World) or Korean/China Southern/Delta (Skyteam).
Down under, air passengers will be drawn to American/Qantas/Cathay Pacific (One World) or Air New Zealand/ Singapore (Star).
2. Number of destinations and flights
Star dominates the planet in that regard:
I think U-fly and Value should look at combining and try and recruit EasyJet, Ryan, Spirit and Westjet. This would really give them traction.
This difference translates into benefits. For example, Oneworld have about 650 airport lounges while Star Alliance’s have more than one thousand.
3. Skytrax Star Rankings
Skytrax assigns many airlines a star rating from one to five stars. It is not an exact science and I have questioned a few decisions but it does provide a helpful comparison as to how many three, four and five-star carriers each alliance includes.
Taking all of those star ratings and averaging them across each alliance gives an average star rating per alliance:
4. Skytrax Consumer Scores
Skytrax also get thousands of consumers to review and rate their flights and airlines. This gives an average score per airline which I have averaged out across the alliances:
Star Alliance are streets ahead for customer satisfaction.
I am surprised at how low One Wold was but I note it is dragged down by American Airlines which has one of the worst consumer ratings on Skytrax of any airline, a spot they share with Air Madagascar at around 30%.
Note that the Value alliance has a higher level of customer satisfaction than Skyteam. Having flown both Scoot and Nok, the customer service experience is superior to many of the airlines including Aerolineas Argentina, Alitalia and China Southern who are officially “full service” carriers.
The Vanilla grouping needs to work on their overall experiences with more people disliking their service than liking it.
Finally, in 2017 Star Alliance won the best alliance in the Skytrax awards with One World behind them.
Ensconced in Thai Airways Business Class using points earnt through Avianca. Both are Star Alliance members
With size and quality, the Star Alliance is hard to beat. One World give them a run for their money but have much smaller spread. I will maintain my frequent flyer efforts with those two camps in 2018.
What is your assessment?
The Alliances and their Members