Airline Alliances
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Airline Alliances, Explained!

An airline alliance is when a group of airlines form an alliance with each other to help the flyer as well as themselves.  There are 3 major alliances, Skyteam, Star Alliance, and OneWorld Alliance.

You may wonder why this is important to you, I will explain.  When you have an airline you like, you want to stay loyal to them best you can, and like earning miles with them, you may have to , from time to time “cheat” on them because they may not fly where you’re going.  The good news is , most of the time, you can find an Alliance partner that does fly there, and you can usually credit that mileage to YOUR airline.  You also receive perks for staying within an alliance that you hold a status with like airline lounges, priority boarding, extra luggage, etc. Alliances do this to broaden their reach, and help their customers and their luggage get where they are going.

Example 1:

I am a loyal Delta flyer.  I have diamond status with Delta, and I am not only hoarding redeemable miles with Delta, I am also always worried about re-qualifing for diamond with MQM (Medallion Qualifying Miles).  

I need to fly to Dubai, but Delta does NOT fly there at all, nor anywhere in the UAE.  I could cut my losses and book on another airline and not have status with them, OR I could find a partner within the Skyteam alliance and fly them.  In this instance I select KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines), they are also a part of Skyteam, and the fact that I am Diamond with Delta makes me Skyteam Elite Plus.  Having this status affords me extra luggage, better seats, and most importantly, I can credit my miles and status qualifying miles to Delta. So I keep earning towards my next years status , earn Delta miles, and have a few extra perks. 

Example 2:

You have United Miliageplus miles that you want to redeem, and you want to go to Egypt.   United doesn’t go to Egypt , so you can use your United miles to book an award ticket on EgyptAir to Egypt.  Sometimes it’s even cheaper to do this than fly your carrier (if they go to where you’re going).  (Many times , the “sweet spot ” in mileage redemption is business or first class Wirth an alliance partner)




SkyTeam Alliance Member Airlines
SkyTeam Alliance Member Airlines

I will start with Skyteam, of course, since it’s MY alliance.  I am a huge Delta fan, and they are a founding member of the Skyteam alliance.

Skyteam was founded in 2000, being the last of the 3 major alliances to be formed.  There are currently 19 carriers in the Skyteam alliance.

As you can see, China has the most, 3, members, and just a few months ago , they had 4, before China Southern Left in January 2019.

Elite Levels

Skyteam has 2 levels of Elite status .  Skyteam Elite, and Skyteam Elite Plus.  This will depend on what status you have with whatever member airline you hold status with.

SkyTeam Elite Benefits
SkyTeam Elite Benefits

This alliance is not the biggest or most broad, but you can pretty much get anywhere you need to go with one of the member airlines.


Star Alliance


Star Alliance Member Airlines
Star Alliance Member Airlines

Star Alliance is one of the Biggest airline alliances, founded in 1997.  There are 27 full member airlines.

Star Alliance has 2 Elite Levels , Star Alliance Gold Or Silver.  This will depend on what status you carry with one of their member airlines.

Star Alliance Gold
Star Alliance Gold

There are some FABULOUS and NOT so fabulous airlines in this list, but the global coverage is pretty good for the most part.



OneWorld Alliance Member Airlines
OneWorld Alliance Member Airlines

Oneworld is the smallest of the 3 alliances, with a total of 13 member airlines.  OneWorld was founded in 1999, and is headquartered in New York, New York, USA.

Although this alliance is small, it packs a punch with a few of its members. Like Qatar Airways and Cathay Pacific, 2 of my favorites and many other’s as well.

One world is unusual in its loyalty scheme as it has 3 levels, Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald, this all depends on what status you hold with your airline.  Emerald being the highest. I actually PREFER this and wish at least Skyteam would do this as well.

OneWorld Priority Levels
OneWorld Priority Levels


Things to Keep in Mind

Not all alliances and partnerships are created equal, what I mean is some airlines part of the same alliance MAY or MAY NOT offer full miles or perks for flying a certain airline.  Check with your airlines “earning page” to find out more.  also check the alliances page and input your status with he member airline. Here are the 3 USA carriers:

American Airlines

United Airlines

Delta Airline



Some of this information may never have anything to do with you, but If you try to fly one certain airline or have a lot of miles with an airline, then you may need to know some of this.

Check out an example of how I used an alliance to score a great ticket!

Etihad Airlines First Class
Etihad First Class Ticket I bought using American Airlines Miles (back when they were alligned)

As you can see, knowing all there is to know about these programs and all the ins and outs is like mapping the genome.  But maybe this little bit of information will help you understand this little part of it!

Also, keep in mind, like the example above with Etihad and AA, they were NOT in one of these alliances together, yet they are aligned with an agreement. There are many other opportunities beyond just the 3 alliances. Check the links above for the Big 3 airlines earning pages to see more!


Thanks for reading, and PLEASE, TRAVEL MORE!!

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