Ultimate Guide to Airline Alliances

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Airline alliances are important to understand. When you purchase a ticket for one airline, it may contain several or all flight segments operated by a completely different airline.

In the example below, American Airlines sells a ticket with an American Airlines flight number but operated solely by their OneWorld Alliance partner British Airways.

Airline Alliances
American Airlines selling a flight operated by British Airways

Alliances also allow you to earn your preferred airline miles when flying a different airline. Plus, many people don’t know that you can redeem one airlines miles on a different airline if they are in that airline’s alliance.

What is an Airline Alliance?

An airline alliance is an agreement between a group of airlines to work together, share resources, and create a worldwide route network to get you anywhere in the world.

You have probably booked a flight that utilized an airline alliance partnership.

You may have flown American Airlines, Delta, or United to Europe or Asia, and then connected on one of their alliance partners to a smaller city.

Benefits of Airline Alliances

One of the biggest benefits of airline alliances is the ability to earn and redeem points on other airlines.

For example, you can earn and redeem United Airlines miles on 25 other airlines in the Star Alliance including ANA, Air Canada, EVA, Lufthansa, and Turkish Airlines.

This is great because it allows you to earn points in your preferred airline when you fly an airline you may only fly once or twice in your lifetime.

It also gives you the flexibility to redeem miles on anywhere in the world and the ability to fly some amazing airlines within an airline alliance.

For example, you can redeem American Airlines miles to fly Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific, or Japan Airlines. You could also use Delta SkyMiles to fly Air France, KLM, China Airlines, or Korean Air.

Airlines alliances also allows frequent fliers to get some of their elite benefits on partner airlines and allows checked bags to be transferred easily between airlines.

Star Alliance
Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance among the "Big 3" airline alliances (Photo by: Chris Leipelt).

Star Alliance

The Star Alliance currently has 26 member airlines with United Airlines and Air Canada in North America.  Overall, it is my favorite airline alliance.

It is very strong in Europe with Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, SWISS, and Austrian Airlines, and in Asia with ANA, Asiana, EVA, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways.

Plus, if you are traveling to Africa, the Star Alliance has the most options with Ethiopian Airlines, EgyptAir, and South African.

Star Alliance Star Alliance Airlines
Aegan Airlines Aegean Air Canada Air Canada
Air China Air China Air India Air India
Air New Zealand Air New Zealand ANA ANA
Asiana Airlines Asiana Airlines Austrian Airlines Austrian Airlines
Avianca Avianca Brussels Brussels Airlines
Copa Copa Airlines Croatia Airlines Croatia Airlines
EgyptAir EgyptAir Ethiopian Ethiopian
EVA Air EVA Air LOT Polish LOT Polish
Lufthansa Lufthansa SAS SAS
Shenzhen Shenzhen Singapore Airlines Singapore Airlines
South African Airways South African SWISS Airlines SWISS
TAP Portugal TAP Portugal Thai Airways logo Thai Airways
Turkish Airlines logo Turkish Airlines United Airlines logo United Airlines
Oneworld is the second alliance to be founded among the major airline alliances. It was founded in 1999.
Oneworld is the second alliance to be founded among the major airline alliances. It was founded in 1999 (Photo by: Ninja).

OneWorld Alliance

The OneWorld Alliance currently has 13 members but they will be adding Alaska Airlines in late 2020. 

Qatar Airways is the #1 airline in the world and is a great option for transiting between the U.S./Europe and East Africa, India, Central Asia, and Southeast Asia.

OneWorld is also strongest in Australia due to Qantas, and a good option for visting Europe with British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair. 

oneworld 2 OneWorld Alliance Airlines
Alaska Airlines Alaska Airlines American Airlines American Airlines
British Airways British Airways Cathay Pacific Cathay Pacific
Finnair logo Finnair Iberia logo Iberia
Japan Airlines Japan Airlines Malaysia Airlines logo Malaysia Airlines
Qantas Logo Qantas Qatar Airways logo Qatar Airways
Royal Air Maroc Royal Air Maroc Royal Jordanian Royal Jordanian
Sri Lankan Airlines logo SriLankan Airlines
There are currently 19 Skyteam members which includes major airlines like Delta, Aeromexico, Virgin Atlantic, and Korean Air.
There are currently 19 Skyteam members which includes major airlines like Delta, Aeromexico, Virgin Atlantic, and Korean Air (Photo by Fasyah Halim on Unsplash).

SkyTeam Alliance

SkyTeam Alliance is the newest alliance with 19 member airlines headlined by Delta Airlines.

The SkyTeam is the weakest alliance because outside of Air France, KLM, and Korean Air, the remaining airlines are either fairly small or have lackluster flight experiences (i.e. China Eastern).

SkyTeam SkyTeam Airlines
Aeroflot Aeroflot Aerolineas Argentinas Aerolineas Argentinas
AEROMEXICO LOGO AeroMexico Air Europa Air Europa
Air France Air France Alitalia logo Alitalia
China Airlines China Airlines China Eastern China Eastern
Czech Airlines Czech Airlines Delta Air Lines Delta
Garuda Indonesia Garuda Indonesia Kenya Airways Kenya Airways
KLM KLM Korean Air Korean Air
Middle East Airlines Middle East Airlines Saudia Airlines Saudia
Tarom TAROM Vietnam Airlines Vietnam Airlines
Xiamen Airlines Xiamen Air

Independent Airlines

Some airlines are not apart of an airline alliance and instead create their own partnerships with several individual airlines.

The airlines with the largest number of partnerships are the two Middle Eastern airlines Emirates and Etihad Airways, but JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines also have partnerships with a few airlines.


Emirates created a partnership with 15 airlines including Alaska Airlines, Japan Airlines, JetBlue, Korean Air, and Qantas.

Emirates A380
Photo: Emirates

Etihad Airways

Etihad Airways partners with 24 airlines including American Airlines, ANA, Korean Air, Asiana, and Air Canada. 

Etihad Airways 787
Photo: Etihad Airways


You can earn JetBlue points when flying on Singapore Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Emirates, IcelandAir, and South African Airlines.

However, you can only redeem JetBlue points on JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines flights.

JetBlue Mint lie-flat
Photo: JetBlue Mint

Hawaiian Airlines

Hawaiian Airlines has several partners to earn and use HawaiianMiles including Japan Airlines, JetBlue, Korean Air, Virgin Atlantic, and Virgin Australia. 

Hawaiian Airlines First Class 1
Photo: Hawaiian Airlines

Southwest, Frontier, Allegiant, and Spirit

Southwest Airlines, Frontier Airlines, Allegiant, and Spirit Airlines don’t have any airline partners. Unfortunately, you can only earn and redeem points on the individual airlines.

The Verdict

Airlines alliances are a key aspect of the aviation industry.

It expands the options for customers to earn and redeem points and provide easy connections between flights.

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