What are airline alliances, and who’s in them?
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What are airline alliances, and who’s in them?



a large passenger jet flying through a blue sky


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If you are an even moderately frequent flyer, you have taken advantage of the perks that airline alliances offer passengers. And if you’ve flown at all in the past two decades, you have heard their name spoken in an onboard announcement: Thank you for flying Air X, a member of the Y Alliance.

There are three of them: Star Alliance, SkyTeam and Oneworld, in order of size. They make connections and mileage collecting and spending easier. Since their appearance in the late 1990s, they have been a welcome innovation for flyers who have elite status, which gets recognized by all partner airlines. If you’re a Delta Air Lines Medallion member, for example, you can get priority treatment from all other airlines that are members of SkyTeam.     

Not everybody is a fan. Weekly magazine The Economist calls them price-fixing cartels, asserting that those benefits have come at the cost of higher fares because alliances reduce competition.

Pretty much every major airline is in an alliance, with relevant exceptions among the big global players being Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and TPG Awards winners Etihad and Virgin Australia. Several large regional airlines also aren’t in; that’s the case of Southwest, JetBlue and WestJet in North America, Ryanair and EasyJet in Europe, and Air Asia.

Code-share flights and mutual collections of miles don’t happen just between alliance members, though. Often, airlines outside alliances partner up with one another. You can for example transfer American Express Membership Rewards points to Emirates’ Skywards program, and use the resulting miles to book a flight on JetBlue.

Related: Your guide to airline partners and award charts 

So, here’s a list of what airlines are in which alliances. You’ll notice that each one of the big three U.S. legacy…

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