The 3 Major Airline Alliances: Star Alliance, OneWorld and SkyTeam – Why Are They Good?

Yesterday we reported that Qatar was ready to leave the OneWorld alliance over unfair play from American Airlines. Now, to fully understand the problem, it is important to have a thorough understanding of what airline alliances are, in addition to what they achieve. There are currently three big players in the airline alliance industry. These are OneWorld, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam.

What Is An Alliance

An alliance is an agreement between a number of airlines to pool resources. This, in turn, gives them a greater ability to compete against other airlines. The first benefit this brings is Codeshare flights. While codeshare agreements do exist outside of alliances, the highest density will be found within alliance members.

There are three big airline alliances, Star Alliance, OneWorld, and SkyTeam.

The next biggest benefit is arguably how the airlines share their frequent flyer rewards. With my British Airways Avios, I am able to book reward flights all over the world, as every member of the alliance will accept my points. Likewise, the benefits of frequent flyer status are shared. When I was travelling in America, I was able to use the American Airlines lounges with my British Airways silver status. While this is seen as a benefit for passengers, it is also a huge benefit for the airlines. Take the example given. American Airlines won my business because of the benefits I would receive. Had it not been for the alliance, I would’ve looked at other options too.

Star Alliance

Star Alliance was the first of the big three alliances to be established. Based in Frankfurt, the alliance was founded in 1997 by:

  • Lufthansa;
  • Air Canada;
  • Scandinavian Airlines;
  • Thai Airways;
  • United Airlines.

Lufthansa star alliance

With a slogan of “The Way The Earth Connects”, the alliance operates over 18,500 departures per day. This is achieved with a combined fleet of over 4,500 aircraft. As such, the alliance had a total passenger count of 728 million a year as of April this year. The alliance has grown in the past 21 years to include a total of 21 member airlines:

Airline

Country

Member Since

Fleet Size

Adria

Slovenia

09/2004

10

Aegean

Greece

06/2010

36

Air Canada

Canada

Founder

364

Air China

China

12/2007

316

Air India

India

07/2014

98

Air New Zealand

New Zealand

03/1999

104

ANA

Japan

10/1999

241

Asiana Airlines

South Korea

03/2003

84

Austrian

Austria

03/2003

80

Avianca

Colombia

06/2012

165

Avianca

Brasil

06/2015

41

Brussels Airlines

Belgium

12/2009

45

Copa Airlines

Panama

06/2012

98

Croatia Airlines

Croatia

12/2004

12

Egypt Air

Egypt

07/2008

81

Ethiopian Airlines

Ethiopia

12/2011

77

EVA Air

Taiwan

06/2013

67

LOT Polish Airlines

Poland

10/2003

35

Lufthansa

Germany

Founder

428

Scandinavian Airlines

Sweden

Founder

142

Shenzhen Airlines

China

11/2012

141

Singapore Airlines

Singapore

04/2000

105

South African Airways

South Africa

04/2006

52

Swiss

Switzerland

04/2006

90

TAP Portugal

Portugal

03/2005

77

Thai

Thailand

Founder

101

Turkish Airlines

Turkey

04/2008

260

United

United States

Founder

1265

Source: Lufthansa

OneWorld

The next airline alliance to join the aviation scene was OneWorld. The alliance was set up in 1999 and is headquartered in New York. As of October 2017, the alliance was carrying 527.9 million passengers per year. This is due to the slightly smaller combined fleet. OneWorld’s combined fleet comes in at just under 3,500 and sees 13,000 daily departures. The alliance was founded by British Airways, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas. In the past 19 years, it has grown to a size of 13 member airlines. OneWorld’s slogan is “An alliance of the world’s leading airlines working as one.”

S7 One World
S7 were the latest airline to join One World.

Airline

Country

Member Since

Fleet Size

American Airlines

United States

Founder

956

British Airways

United Kingdom

Founder

275

Cathay Pacific

Hong Kong

Founder

146

Finnair

Finland

09/1999

79

Iberia

Spain

09/1999

85

Japan Airlines

Japan

04/2007

164

Latam

Chile

06/2000

313

Malaysia Airlines

Malaysia

02/2013

80

Qantas

Australia

Founder

127

Qatar Airways

Qatar

10/2013

220

Royal Jordanian

Jordan

04/2007

26

S7 Airlines

Russia

11/2010

91

SriLankan Airlines

Sri Lanka

05/2014

27

SkyTeam

The last of the big three alliances is SkyTeam. SkyTeam is the youngest big alliance having been founded in June 2000. With 20 members, the alliance actually carries the most passengers each year. SkyTeam members transport 730 million passengers each year. The alliance was founded by four airlines. These included:

  • Aeromexico;
  • Air France;
  • Delta Airlines;
  • Korean Air.
Air France Skyteam
Air France was a founding member of the SkyTeam Alliance.

The alliance now has a combined fleet of just over 4,000 aircraft. This allows the alliance to operate 16,609 daily departures. SkyTeam has the slogan “Caring more about you”.

Airline

Country

Member Since

Fleet Size

Aeroflot

Russia

04/2006

197

Aerolineas Argentina

Argentina

08/2012

84

Aeromexico

Mexico

Founder

125

Air Europa

Spain

09/2007

51

Air France

France

Founder

348

Alitalia

Italy

01/2009

123

China Airlines

Taiwan

09/2011

98

China Eastern

China

06/2011

581

China Southern

China

11/2007

702

Czech Airlines

Czech Republic

03/2001

18

Delta Airlines

United States

Founder

800+

Garuda International

Indonesia

03/2014

196

Kenya Airways

Kenya

09/2007

36

KLM

The Netherlands

09/2004

71

Korean Air

South Korea

Founder

162

MEA

Lebanon

06/2012

18

Saudia

Saudi Arabia

05/2012

129

TAROM

Romania

06/2010

23

Vietnam Airlines

Vietnam

06/2010

96

Xiamen Air

China

11/2012

144

Which Airline Alliance is your favorite? Let us know in the comments down below!

4 comments
    1. Thanks for your clarification. The article has been updated accordingly. In regards to 2011, that is when the airline joined the alliance, not when it was founded, hence the column is called “member since”.

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