Alliance vs the Horde

Buffalo Travel Blog

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Hmm been playing entirely too much WoW for a guy my age, but its my party and I'll do what I want to..

Since it has been requested, I shall put an entry down about the airline alliances.  OneWorld, SkyTeam, Star Alliance, etc.  I'm a huge fan of frequent flyer miles.. they're kind of a pain in the ass if you don't use them correctly but in general, they can be quite useful in a number of situations.  In the beginning there was only one way to earn miles, flying.  Now they can be earned on everything, gassing up the car, going to a restaurant, banking, hell, even dry cleaning.  I could easily write a few weeks worth of entries on that subject alone, but for the time being I'm going to shelve it and just talk about the airlines and their code share partners. 

Alliances offer the airlines a number of advantages and well, to you as a consumer as well.  You can buy a ticket on delta for some remote place in central europe without having to purchase two separate tickets (one on delta to get you to london and then one on hungarian airlines to get you to wherever for example).  The people from central europe get this benefit as well.  Delta gets business from people going to central europe and out of it as does its partner airline.   Of course, not all alliances work out for the best, esp. for airlines that compete for the same business along the same flying routes.  For example US Airways and United are part of the Star Alliance, but often compete for business into and out of places like Chicago or Philadelphia, etc. 

Since I know the Star Alliance the best, I will talk from this perspective, but most of this is applicable for the other airline alliances.  Most airlines have partners.  It makes business sense as I've outlined above.  These partnerships generally give the consumer an easier experience in getting to where they want to go (not having to book separate flights) along with other benefits, like earning status or frequent flyer miles in their primary program, etc.  Of course, there are caveots and before flying with a partner airline, you should look up their rules concerning this.  For example, if I decide to take SAS airlines out of Seattle into Copenhagen (since it has a direct flight) but I am a united frequent flyer member and I've bought their lowest cheapo airline seat (cause I like flying cheaply), I can expect roughly 25% of the status and frequent flyer miles to be placed into my account.   For me, thats a serious negative, esp if I can get a flight there that might involve a connection but give me my full benefits.  That aside, it does illustrate the point that I can earn miles (status and otherwise) on a partner airline. 

Sometimes, this works out in your favor though.  For example, I recently flew from Toronto to London on Air Canada.  The lowest fare for air canada does not provide any frequent flyer benefits for someone in the air canada frequent flyer program.  But for people crediting the flight to their united frequent flyer accounts, they get (and I got), full status miles and full frequent flyer miles (no bonuses though :(). 

The point that I am trying to make is that, if you're flying strategically, such that you might earn status on a particular airline but for instance can't find a flight on your primary carrier that is suitable, being able to get flights on its partner airlines can often help save you from "wasting" a flight on a rival carrier.  From the example above, united, for that same route would have cost me nearly double what it cost on Air Canada.  So while I like my miles and my status, there isn't any way (lest i find myself winning the lottery sometime) that I would spend nearly double for getting a few miles, it just isn't worth it.   But I lucked out, the airline partner was the cheapest and I am now one step closer to earning the status level I want for the year.

Things to note though, airline code shares are a tricky business.  Because airlines are competitive in nature, they often do not want to emphasize flights by partners that offer a lower fare.  So when you're looking for a flight at say united's website and select "have a look at code share flights",you will often not find flights from US Airways that compete directly with a united flight.  So for example, if you're looking to fly Philly to Chicago, the US Airways flights maynot show up at all.  But if you're flying Charlotte to Manchester, NH, you will definitely see the US Airways flights as code shares along with some alternatives by united.

Finding out who your airline partner's with is typically fairly easy, just look at their frequent flyer program and look at air partners.  Make sure that before you book a flight with a partner airline that you look at this page first to figure out whether or not you'll be getting your full benefits.

For united:

http://www.united.com/page/article/0,6722,1177,00.html

Its always a good idea in general, to look at milemaven.com to figure out how to get the max miles for your trip as well ;) (as a side note).

The star alliance itself has a website:

http://www.staralliance.com/

While I'm not sure about OneWorld (American, etc), SkyTeam (Delta, Northwest, etc), I'm pretty confident that they do as well.



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