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The 3 Airline Alliances: SkyTeam, Star Alliance, Oneworld

Airline alliances have been around for a couple of decades now, and they have proven to be great marketing strategies for the aviation industry. Airline alliances bring together several different airlines around the world and encourage travelers to fly with these airlines by offering certain perks. This benefits not only the travelers, but also the airlines because of the increased passenger demand. In this article, we will be exploring the three aviation alliances in this world and what perks each of them offer.

Star Alliance

Star Alliance was formed in 1997 when Air Canada, Lufthansa, SAS, Thai Airways and United Airlines came up with an idea that would allow passengers to travel to any continent in the world under one airline partnership. This partnership created the first ever airline alliance, and today, Star Alliance holds the title for the largest airline alliance in the world, encompassing 26 different airlines in all inhabited continents. Star alliance has two reward statuses – Silver Status and Gold Status – for its frequent flyers. These statuses can be earned by accumulating miles with any of the 26 airlines. The silver status unlocks priority standby on flights and priority reservations for class upgrades on an aircraft. The gold status unlocks both of the silver status perks plus priority airport check-in, priority baggage handling, priority boarding, extra baggage allowance, priority airport security at select locations, and unlimited airport lounge access at over 1000 locations. To unlock silver status, a customer will typically need 10,000-35,000 qualifying miles in a year or two, and for gold status, a customer will typically need 60,000 miles. 

Star Alliance | Flight Centre South Africa
Credit: Flight Centre


Formed almost two years after Star Alliance, the Oneworld alliance is the second airline alliance to be created. With the withdrawal of LATAM airline in 2020, Oneworld only consists of 12 airlines, making it the smallest airline alliance in the world. Oneworld is however expected to acquire Alaska airlines in March of 2021. With a limited number of airlines, Oneworld still manages to cover all inhabited continents. The Oneworld alliance has three different reward tiers – Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald. These tiers are earned by first gaining status with an individual airline, and then being given the Oneworld status equivalent to that airline status. The Ruby status allows passengers to access business-class check in, preferred seating, and priority standby; the Sapphire status allows passengers to access all the Ruby perks plus priority boarding, priority baggage handling , extra baggage allowance, and business-class lounges; and the Emerald status allows passengers to access the previous perks plus first-class check in, first class lounges, and priority security lanes. The method to earn these statuses differs from airline to airline, but there shouldn’t be too much of a difference. 

China Southern Will Not Be Joining Oneworld Alliance Anytime Soon - Simple  Flying
Credit: Simple Flying


Formed in the year 2000 by Aeromexico, Air France, Delta Air Lines and Korean Air, the SkyTeam alliance is the newest airline alliance to be created. SkyTeam consists of 19 different airlines across all inhabited continents except Australia. Similar to Star Alliance, SkyTeam also has two different reward statuses – SkyTeam Elite and SkyTeam Elite Plus. To obtain these statuses, SkyTeam matches a passenger’s status with an individual airline to either the Elite or Elite plus status. Travelers with SkyTeam Elite have perks to priority check-in, priority baggage drop-off, priority seating, priority boarding, priority airport standby, and extra baggage allowance. The Elite Plus status includes all of these perks plus lounge access, guaranteed reservations on sold-out flights, SkyPriority recognition, priority at transfer desks, and priority at immigration and security lanes.

SKYTEAM - Alitalia
Credit: Alitalia

In the end, all three airline alliances offer similar rewards and perks for their statuses, so there isn’t a particular alliance that is superior to the other. These alliance perks allow frequent flyers to fly more comfortably and stand out from the rest of the passengers. People who are not frequent flyers should still consider signing up for programs with these alliances since the miles that travelers gain from an airline can be used and redeemed with other airlines in the alliance. There is no harm in doing so, and any passenger can essentially gain and redeem miles between different airlines of the same alliance. With this in mind, you should consider signing up for a frequent flyer program in the future and start slowly accumulating those miles!






Cover image credited to aerocompare.com

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