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I don’t know how other bloggers come up with blog topics, but I have a list of topics that I think will be interesting.  I try to do a mix of

  • Current events – things that are happening in the travel world – as deals or news come out, sometimes I like to pass it on
  • Large-family specific tips and tricks – this is really the main focus of the blog.  Instead of the more general things that lots of blogs talk about, here at PWaC we focus on family travel, and the types of traveling that are more suited for lots of people
  • General information about travel hacking – even though a lot of this more “basic” information is covered on other blogs and elsewhere on the Internet, I do want to make sure that readers have the basics – that’s why I wrote the Beginner’s Guide, which is aimed for people just getting started.  Also, lots of times when writing posts about other topics, it would make sense to be able to link to an article or post that covers a topic in more detail.

So that is a long-winded way of saying that this is one of those posts in the last category :-D.  So it may seem a bit boring but stick with me – I’ll try to do my best to show you why even for the in-frequent family-style traveler, knowing a bit about airline alliances should be worth your while.

OneWorld

oneworldEach of the 3 major alliances have a “big” domestic US airline, and the one for OneWorld is American Airlines.

You can see the tail fins for the other ones there, but if you’re not an aviation geek (and I must say that I am not), they are:

Airberlin, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, TAM Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airlines, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines, and SriLankan Airlines.

The way that airline alliances work is that (for the most part), you can book flights on one partner’s website but the flight will actually be flown by the airplane (geek speak: metal) of another partner.  You can also accrue airlines miles on one airline and use them on an alliance partner’s metal.  What many medium-to-advanced travel hackers will do is rack up points in the mileage currency of an airline that they have no real intention of flying, with the idea to use them on a partner’s flight.

The most famous example of this is when I wrote that British Airways Avios were good for domestic US travel as well.  You can grab tons of British Airways Avios (or transfer them from Chase Ultimate Rewards).  Then you log on to ba.com, and use those Avios to book short-haul flights on American Airlines.

Skyteam

skyteamThe main US airlines in the Skyteam alliance is Delta.  The same principles apply – you can use Delta miles to book tickets on delta.com that are actually flown by AirFrance (or Saudia, or Alitalia, etc.).  Now, given Delta’s recent devaluation that may not be as great of an option, but you can also do the reverse.  If one of these partner airlines has an award chart that had a more attractive domestic US redemption, you could use miles from say, Vietnam Airlines to fly on Delta.

You don’t hear as much in the travel hacking community about Skyteam because there aren’t as many good opportunities to get or transfer miles on most of these airlines.  For instance, Aeromexico is a transfer partner of American Express, but so is Delta, so you might as well just transfer there directly.

Star Alliance

starallianceThe third major airline alliance is Star Alliance.  These alliances and partnerships do change all the time, but one of the most recent changes had a big effect on the domestic US scene.  US Airways was a member of Star Alliance, but when they merged with American Airlines, they joined OneWorld.  US flyers do still have United, and, like OneWorld, there are some good arbitration ideas there.

  • Aegean Airlines offers a very easy way to get lifetime Gold status on Star Alliance, which in turn, gets you perks whenever you fly any Star Alliance flight.  If you’re in to status, which, naturally, I am not 🙂
  • Avianca offers veryattractive ways to get points (frequent bonuses when you buy or transfer points) as well as some “unorthodox” routing rules (email me if you’d like more information on this)
  • Singapore Airlines is a recent transfer partner of Chase, and also has some of the most luxurious airline accommodations (Singapore Suites Class).  They also have some sweet spots in their redemption chart, including having Central America, Mexico and Hawaii all in the same “region”, which probably deserves a post of its own.

Crediting miles flown

Another feature of airline alliances is that when you fly, you can credit your miles to a partner airline instead.  United’s recent change to a revenue based system has many frequent flyers exploring options of where to credit their United flights.  I haven’t put a lot of time into studying this since I typically don’t pay for my flights, and when you redeem with points you don’t get any mileage credit, but the basic idea is as follows

If you fly on United, normally you will just earn miles based on United’s rules.  But, if you want, you can instead credit that flight to a different airline (as long as it’s a partner of United).  This is typically how people get the Star Alliance gold on Aegean as I alluded to earlier, since most (US-based) travelers aren’t actually flying a ton in Greece :-).  The one watchout for this is that oftentimes partners don’t give 100% credit for miles flown, depending on the class of fare that you travel on.

Concluding…

I hope that this was a helpful overview of airline alliances and why you might care about them.  As always, thanks for reading, and share in the comments what your experience has been with alliances.

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