Which Airline Alliance Offers The Most Global Coverage?

Airline alliances often fly under the radar when it comes to the general public, but they are an increasingly important part of the airline industry. These industry arrangements often involve multiple airlines, various codesharing agreements, and a general sense of co-operation. Some members of airline alliances even use unified liveries.

Star Alliance airline alliance.
Airline alliances are an increasingly important part of the industry. Photo: byeangel via Flickr.

While airline alliances were originally intended to be small-scale projects, they have since, in common with the airline industry itself, grown into huge and ambitious arrangements. But which airline alliance currently offers the most global coverage?

Three major alliances

There are three major airline alliances in the world; Star Alliance, oneworld, and SkyTeam. Star Alliance is the largest of the three in terms of scheduled traffic, accounting for 23% of the total in 2015. This compared with 17.8% and 20.4% for oneworld and SkyTeam respectively.

This picture is also reflected when it comes to global coverage. Although oneworld may claim to be the “most international” of the global airline alliances, it serves fewer countries than its two major competitors. Members of the oneworld alliance travel to 136 countries, which means that both Star Alliance and SkyTeam have greater reach.

SkyTeam Alliance comes in second place in the rankings. It is the alliance with the greatest global reach, as its combined fleet of over 5,000 airplanes flies to nearly 1,300 destinations in 195 countries worldwide.

Oneworld alliance airline alliance.
Oneworld has established itself as one of the ‘big three’ alliances. Photo: Papas Dos via Flickr.

Interestingly, though, Star Alliance was marginally behind SkyTeam in terms of total passenger count, when the last raft of statistics was compiled in 2018. Admittedly, there is a highly negligible difference between the two, with SkyTeam accounting for 730 million passengers annually, with Star Alliance transporting 728 million passengers every year. oneworld trails some way behind in this area, accounting for a still pretty hefty 528 million passengers annually.

Amazing statistics

Other statistics related to the three largest airline alliances are also intriguing. Collectively, the three alliances account for a staggering $450 billion of revenue annually. Star Alliance is some way out ahead with its annual earnings of $179 billion. SkyTeam comes in second, raking in $140 billion annually, with oneworld only a little behind, with annual earnings of $130 billion.

The three alliances also employ over a million people, have fleets of aircraft numbering nearly 3,500, and accounting for nearly 50,000 flights every day. While there are other, smaller airline alliances also in operation, including Value, U-FLY, and Vanilla, there is no doubt that these three are the dominant forces of the industry.

Airlines involved

Star Alliance comprises the following 26 airlines:

  • Aegean Airlines, Greece
  • Air Canada
  • Air China
  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • All Nippon Airways, Japan
  • Asiana Airlines, South Korea
  • Austrian Airlines
  • Avianca, Colombia
  • Brussels Airlines, Belgium
  • Copa Airlines, Panama
  • Croatia Airlines
  • EgyptAir
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • EVA Air, Taiwan
  • LOT Polish Airlines
  • Lufthansa, Germany
  • Scandinavian Airlines
  • Shenzhen Airlines, China
  • Singapore Airlines
  • South African Airways
  • Swiss International Airlines
  • TAP Portugal
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines
  • United Airlines
Oneworld airline alliance.
Each of the major airline alliances comprises numerous members. Photo: Oneworld.

There are 14 airlines in oneworld:

  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong
  • Finnair, Finland
  • Iberia, Spain
  • Japan Airlines
  • LAN Airlines, Chile
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas, Australia
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Jordanian
  • S7 Airlines, Russia
  • SriLankan Airlines
  • TAM Airlines, Brazil
SkyTeam alliance airline alliance.
SkyTeam carries more passengers than any other airline alliance. Photo: Papa Dos via Flickr.

And 19 airlines in SkyTeam:

  • Aeroflot, Russia
  • Aerolineas Argentinas
  • Aeromexico
  • Air Europa, Spain
  • Air France
  • Alitalia, Italy
  • China Airlines, Taiwan
  • China Eastern Airlines
  • Czech Airlines
  • Delta Airlines
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM
  • Korean Air, South Korea
  • Middle East Airlines, Lebanon
  • Saudia
  • TAROM, Romania
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • Xiamen Airlines, China

But Star Alliance remains the alliance with the greatest global reach and is the largest airline alliance in the world based on the vast majority of assessable criteria.