Codeshares and alliances for dummies – Part 2

Let’s now have a look at alliances.

An airlines alliance is an agreement between airlines to cooperate on a substantial level.  There exist 3 major alliances.  Ordered by size these are Star Alliance, the biggest of the three, Skyteam and Oneworld.  Not all airlines want to be part of an alliance.  Figures of March 2013 show that nonaligned carriers transport almost as many passengers as the 3 alliances combined.


SkyTeam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As is the case with codeshares, alliances aim to enlarge the network of the airlines.  Airlines will typically engage in codeshares with their alliance partners.  Codeshares will however be limited to their most important routes.  All others will not be codeshared and will remain the full responsibility of the operating carrier.

Some airlines choose not to be part of an alliance to save costs.  Being a member of an alliance means you have to align your reservation systems with those of your alliance partners.  You will also need to align your frequent flyer program to be consistent with that of your alliance partners.  To enjoy optimal benefits you should also (re) schedule your flights to ensure good connections with your alliance partners.  The cost to become a member should not be underestimated and may exceed the benefits for some airlines.

Airlines that form an alliance are at the same time partners and competitors.  Quite recently this was painfully clear when Qantas preferred to codeshare with Emirates instead of British Airways on their kangaroo route .  This is why not every airline is welcome in an alliance.  An airline that wants to join an alliance needs to be approved by its members and needs to be sponsored by one of the existing members of the alliance.

In my previous post I used the flights DL141, AF3658 & KL6141 as an example.  All three are basically the same flight between Brussels and New York.  Air France, KLM & Delta are partners in Skyteam and they arranged a codeshare for this flight.  As I live in Brussels and I’m a member of Delta’s Skymiles program I can pick any of these 3 flights, whichever airlines offers the best price at that time.

Now imagine I would want to fly to Amsterdam.  KLM offers a flight from Brussels to Amsterdam but Delta does not codeshare this flight.  As both carriers are in the Skyteam alliance I will still be able to earn miles on this flight.   Delta offers 500 miles minimum or 100pct of miles for flights on KLM.  At least as important are the elite benefits.  Once you have achieved elites status with any of the airlines in an alliance you will enjoy these elite benefits across all other airlines within the alliance.

I will explain Elite levels in more details in a separate post.  Important for this post is that you should know that you can earn elite status based on the number of flights or miles you travel with a certain airline.  For this matter airlines treat their alliance partner equal to themselves.  The first elite level on Delta requires 25000 miles. Travelling 5000 miles on Delta and 20000 on KLM would grant me this Elite level as well.  (as long as I credit all miles to my Skymiles account)  Sometimes you can earn miles as well with partners outside the alliance but these do not add up to elite status.  (eg. Delta offers base miles for flights with Jet Airways but no medallion qualification miles)

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  1. The Varying Consistencies of Emirates | Vishal Mehra and Co. - June 3, 2013

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