Airline Alliances – what’s the point?

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  • TonyR

    Having retired recently I now no longer have someone to arrange my travel for me and I am beginning to wonder what the purpose is behind airline alliances. There seems to be no integrated booking system unless I’ve missed something.

    So for example I wanted to travel BGI-AUS on AA. I am BA Gold so thought I’d try booking it through the BA app. No flights it said even though AA and BA are oneworld partners. So I went to the AA website but there was no obvious way to add my BA number to get particularly my seat selection privilege. Eventually went down to the local AA office where they had to phone up to find out how to add my number and when they did it showed no privileges and wanted to charge extra for seat selection. Eventually they found a way to book with oneworld Emerald privileges but having to work out how to do it meant its not a seamless process across the oneworld alliance. I should be able to go on the BA site, it give me the AA flights and allow me to book them from there.

    I then needed to go to Tokyo from BGI via LHR and chose Virgin + SkyTeam partner ANA where I am also a Virgin Gold FC member. Again try to book it on the Virgin app and it tells you there are no flights. This time went to the local Virgin ticket office where they said they couldn’t book it either unless I went AirFrance to Tokyo .

    Eventually Amex Travel did it for me and all sorted but why oh why do neither oneworld nor SkyTeam recognise partner airlines in their booking systems?

    SkyTeam describe themselves as “We are the face of seamless travel” while oneworld say “oneworld member airlines work together to make your flying experience as seamless as possible”. Well no, not even close.

    So what is the point of these alliances or have I missed a trick somewhere?

    4 users thanked author for this post.


    Unless you’re originating from the airline’s hub, you won’t be shown partner flights. For example, I looked up LHR>AUS and it shows AA connection flights (via DFW or JFK). However, since BGI>AUS is all AA metal (assuming a connection via MIA), it wouldn’t be bookable on BA website – unless you’re using Avios.

    Re entering your FF details, attached pic is from AA. You may enter your details after entering your name.


    ANA is a FlyingClub partner , however not a SkyTeam member. ANA doesn’t participate in Flying Blue. You need to ask Virgin, since it’s really nothing to do with SkyTeam.


    Hi TonyR

    A simple answer to this is that whilst airlines might be part of an alliance they are still competitors (and miles partners are not always in the same “alliance” either just to confuse things). Where they have a Joint Venture on certain routes then you’ll likely see partner options – otherwise they are unlikely to point you to a “points partner”. They often use completely different reservation systems so cannot always see each others bookings.

    Any decent travel management company can do most of what you mentioned for you – or provide guidance. Looks like Amex sorted it for you – but what you wanted any decent agent would have done in a matter of seconds for you with regards to entering frequent flyer information and sorting seats as per your status. Going to airlines direct can actually on something like this cause more aggro than it is worth!

    Alliances have the benefits if you have status for things like lounge access – and can be useful for RTW travel. The “seamless” travel might be a bit of a strong statement. They have there uses.


    You have to separate the technical capabilities of an airline IT platform vs. their distribution policy. Airline members of an alliance have the capability to book anything, but they filter out the offers that they consider most relevant. BA can sell AA and vice versa obviously but they may not be willing to show it by default in competition with their preferred travel solutions. As mentioned above you can be partners and still competitors on certain routes. As for certain specific routes like those you booked, it can indeed sometimes show non optimal solutions (because better ones are fully booked or that particular city pair+date is not optimized). Travel agents (for individuals or TMCs like Amex or Carlson) are a lot less restrictive on looking for itineraries as their revenue is not that dependent on which flights are sold and connection times and experience may not always be optimized.

    As to the impossibility to add your card number and get benefits, adding your FF number is a requirement in any alliance, so it should be on an IT development backlog somewhere as something to develop, to fix or it is already there but not visible enough. Your mileage may vary about getting a chargeable seat for free based, on status, on another airline than the one of your frequent flyer program.

    As for Virgin with ANA, ANA are actually Star and Virgin are joining Skyteam. The closer partner for VS for Japan is actually Air France (as advised) or JAL (through their partnership with Air France). So ANA may be a Virgin Atlantic partner but not close at all to Skyteam. Certain alliance members can get or retain bilateral agreements but this is more or less well implemented on their distribution channels.

    If not too inconvenient, please send this kind of feedback to the airline or alliance, some have active programs to fix those seams.

    Disclosure: I am working in an alliance on those topics…

    4 users thanked author for this post.


    Im confused.

    Iv never had a problem adding my executive club account to an AA (or CX, QR, QF, AY, IB etc etc) booking during the booking process and having my status recognised for the very features you mention.

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    Seems like we’ve been waiting years to see the benefits of partners, alliances, code-shares, whatever. I think pax who take certain routes and airlines regularly probably figure it all out. Also, travel professionals know how to make it all work. But the rest of us who might benefit from these various ‘connections’ are pretty much out to lunch. It strikes me as a marketing plan with little benefit to the traveller.


    My KLM/AF Flying Blue status and benefits have been regularly recognised when booking/flying with Aeromexico, Aerolineas Argentinas, Vietnam Airlines and Delta. Although I haven’t flown outside Europe in the last couple of years it was always easy to include my account number onto the partner airline websites.

    2 users thanked author for this post.


    What is the point of Airlines alliances? Simple, its profit.

    While there is almost no benefit to passengers, despite the claims in the marketing hyperbole and on board diatribes. My favourite is “please talk to our ground staff or any one world partner” Asking anyone at BA about flying with Qatar, Finnair, Qantas or American will just get a blank vacant look. The same is also true for the others.

    On the other hand, alliances allow the carriers to collude legally on fares, schedules, revenue sharing and a myriad of other matters such as the absence of frequent flyer credit cards in the UK for anyone in the one world alliance except BA. Even American express do not allow transfers of reward points to certain carriers by UK card members while allowing non UK based members to do so.

    If you fly across the Atlantic the revenue from your ticket is shared with BA IB AA and AY. Indeed AY now have a monopoly on the LHR HEL route. If you are foolish enough to book via BA you will pay more for LHR HEL than is you book via Finnair.

    Similarly, there is revenue sharing between BA AY and JL on the Japan route all of which leads to artificially high fares ex the UK. Even if UK APD is removed UK departing airfares remain some of the highest in the world which is why so many continue to depart from the EU and often are still on the same plane and same seat ex LHR at a fraction of the cost.

    1 user thanked author for this post.
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