An airline alliance is an aviation alliance between airlines that allows them to extend their network to consumers around the world so that they can better serve them. The three main airline alliances are oneworld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance. Although airline alliances greatly serve travelers, many people don't believe that consumers can benefit from a business deal that started over 20 years ago.
While each airline alliance has tremendously grown, they are still fulfilling their #1 purpose: to make traveling easier. Whether I've booked the tickets myself or through a travel agent, I personally find the benefits to the alliances as I prefer traveling around the world with one ticket. It saves me trouble with baggage and delays, no matter what class I am flying.
Here's a list of a few ways that airline alliances can benefit you and your business travels.
1. Convenient international booking.
If you've booked an international flight, whether you know it or not, you most likely booked with a specific alliance. Let's say you're taking a business trip to Bangkok (BKK) from Dallas/Fort Worth (DKG) and you're flying with American Airlines. Each airline on your itinerary is from the oneworld alliance.
While this may seem like no big deal, it's definitely convenient, especially when traveling for business. Because of this, you have more flexibility for your flights. You can book all of this on one site and you won't have to craft your itinerary from scratch. Also, your connections will be more efficient, resulting in possibly cheaper tickets and shorter flight times.
In other words, you don't have to worry so much about booking and flying with one airline, landing, rushing to get your bags, and rushing to check-in with another airline.
These alliances participate in code-sharing agreements where at least two airlines share the same flight. If you want to fly internationally and earn points with a certain airline, you may be able to. However, laws prevent certain airlines from flying to different countries without a merger. For you to earn points with your preferred airline and still get to your destination, you'll have to fly with a different airline.
Besides making booking easier for travelers, many airline alliances also have same-terminal conveniences. Instead of traveling across the airport to get on your next flight, you'll usually be able to catch your flight from the same terminal that you arrived at, or at least be relatively near to where you need to go. This does vary though so do double check upon arrival.
2. Frequent flyer status is recognized.
If you have a frequent flyer status with American Airlines AAdvantage, then you'll be able to use your rewards and privileges with any airline in the alliance. You'll also be able to earn miles with your frequent flyer program when you fly within the alliance.
For instance, if you fly on qualifying flights through oneworld, you'll be able to advance your tier status. If you have a Gold status with American AAdvantage, that translates to a Oneworld Ruby tier status.
Ruby status lets you access to Business-Class priority check-in and preferred or pre-served seating. It also offers priority on wait lists and when on standby. As your tier status advances, you'll have access to even more privileges.
3. Earning and redeeming miles is easy.
As mentioned earlier, if you have a frequent flyer program within a certain alliance, you'll be able to earn miles with airline members in that alliance. You'll be able to redeem miles as well. However, if you're trying to book an upgrade through an alliance such as oneworld, you won't be able to unless it's an upgrade for the award airline's own carrier.
4. Gets you access to lounges.
While you can access airport lounges with the best travel rewards credit cards, you can also access lounges based on your airfare class. Let's say you're flying business or first class from Los Angeles (LAX) with United to Toulouse (TLS) with Lufthansa. You'll have access to the stunning Star Alliance lounge in the LAX airport. From its contemporary furniture and modern style to its decorative wall of wine and variety of food, this is just one of many lounges that won't disappoint.
However, I should mention that there are a few negatives to airline alliances. For one, not all airlines are equal. You may find that your points go further with one airline than they do with another. Also, alliances hurt independent and/or low-cost airlines. This can make it harder for them to compete and therefore not allow much value for travelers.
Note that the above does vary so be sure to double check miles and rewards when booking to get the most of out the alliance.