Many of us are familiar with a short list of airlines that we regularly fly. Myself, I fly US Airways and American unless something unforeseen causes me to jump ship, or I specifically book an award flight on another airline. There are however many airlines that partner with the airlines we are familiar with, and many belong to alliances. What are the advantages to flying with one of these airlines? Or staying within the alliance?
This can quickly become a complicated question when you start looking at your preferred airline, and then trying to stick with a partner… The partner lists sometime get huge. If you start gaining points in many programs, as you should, then it gets overwhelming fast. So let’s stick to American Airlines as our base example since they are my preferred airline.
American is part of the Oneworld Alliance which is comprised of the following airlines:
That’s a long list, but lets not stop there. Now we can look at individual partner airlines associating with American:
Air Tahiti Nui
So, now that your head is spinning, keep in mind that everyone you have points with has a similar list, partners, alliances, so on so forth… it’s all a bit much to remember. I can’t keep them all straight either, to be honest, I think this list has changed since the last time I looked at it. Just remember the important airlines that you are interested in that partner with your preferred airline, and ignore the rest until they become relevant at some future date, if at all.
With all of these partners on the books, what is the advantage here? Why partner with all of these airlines? How does it benefit us?
Well, with American, the advantage comes in awards for the most part. Partner airlines in most cases will earn you American points when you travel with them. If you happen to be flying someplace that isn’t serviced by your preferred carrier, then choose an alternative that is a partner. That way you get to a great place, and get rewarded to your usual account where most of your points are.
These partnerships also mean you can book reward flights on most partner airlines. This is great in many cases because, for example, you can use American miles to book a seat on a partner airline. Since American has some of the best awards rates, using American miles to purchase tickets on other airlines means you get the best rates with the flexibility to redeem to any destination covered by another airline, and the ability to tailor your flight to the company that offers the best business or first class seats and service.
Keep in mind that I did say most above, some airlines restrict certain awards, or don’t earn full amounts. Just check before you book to make sure you don’t get surprised later when you get fewer points, or try to book with points and the agent tells you that it’s not allowed on that airline.
To give you a real world example, let us look at my planned flight to Cape Town, South Africa next year. As you all know, I would like to fly American, but they don’t fly to Cape Town, so what are my other options? Sticking with Oneworld Alliance in this case is the way to go. Either British Airways or Qatar Airways is the best way to get there. Currently my plan is to fly with Qatar Airways for a simple reason, more miles. Qatar routes all of their flights through Doha, Qatar. British Airways routes flights through London, England.
Routing through Doha allows me to get more miles out of the trip for roughly the same price. More miles is always good in the points game if you are looking to use those miles for more travel. Since I will be flying with Qatar Airways, I can then credit all of my miles back to my American Airlines account and get rewarded to my normal account instead of leaving them with Qatar Airways which has a less rewarding program, and I don’t know when the next time will be that I will get enough points for a ticket on Qatar.
Partnerships in the airline industry can be a complicated subject, but keep an eye on them. Look for the best place to gain rewards, and always check the partner relationship before you buy a ticket. it could be the difference between full miles and half miles… I’ve been burned by that in the past.