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WebFlyer Home > Programs > Ratings & Reviews

Ratings & Reviews

(Program Reviews - Side by Side Comparison - Website Reviews)


(76 ratings)


This program was reviewed and rated by our editors in October 2006. Changes in the program past this date are possible, especially program partner information. We recommend you subscribe to the #1 source of frequent flyer information, Inside Flyer Magazine, to get the most current information possible.

It may be one world to the oneworld alliance, but ongoing differences in the earning and redeeming abilities among partners of this global alliance have kept it from achieving perfection in the eyes of the savvy frequent flyer. However, its focus on quality partners has earned it respect, and there is great value in the awards that members can benefit from across the alliance.

The oneworld alliance (Aer Lingus, American Airlines, British Airways, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, Iberia, LAN, and Finnair), originally founded in February of 1999, is significantly smaller than the 18-member Star Alliance, and the nine-member (10 if you count KLM as a separate airline from Air France) SkyTeam alliance. But it has plans for growing and early next year will be joined by Japan Airlines, Malev, and Royal Jordanian. It provides passengers about the same level of benefits as its two global rivals -- serving more than 600 destinations in 135 countries. But there is darkness on the horizon of oneworld with Aer Lingus announcing it will be leaving the alliance in 2007.

Last year, oneworld member airlines carried 258 million passengers earning billions of frequent flyer miles.

But why should you care? What's the big deal with these alliances anyway?

Global alliances make good business sense. The partners feed each other passengers, leverage their various geographic systems to provide a wider range of destinations for members, and reduce each other's costs by working more closely together. Everyone wins.

Star Alliance goes for the power of sheer numbers and reciprocal benefits such as their emerging seamless upgrade policy. The oneworld alliance tends to be a little more exclusive -- the idea, apparently, is to focus on quality, not the quantity of its relationships.



In essence, even when you are earning miles on a partner's plane, the rules of your primary program apply. Thus, even though American AAdvantage allows economy-class flyers to earn one mile per mile flown, a British Airways Executive Club member flying on an American plane in discount economy would earn just 25 percent of miles flown -- just as they would on a British Airways plane.

Or, for example, though a short hop on a British Airways plane would normally earn an Executive Club member actual miles plus 500, a Cathay Pacific Asia Miles member would get just actual miles. Again, you are bound by the rules of your "home" program, regardless of who is actually in the cockpit.

As a result, class-of-service and elite-level bonuses are determined by your individual program.

Earning is available on all oneworld partners with one glaring, ugly, noticeable exception: British Airways and American do not allow mutual earning or burning on transatlantic flights. Both have allowed such seamless frequent flyer benefits in the past, even with each other, but modern times, and with so much at stake over the Atlantic, neither airline wants to be the one that blinks.



Alliance awards are of great value to the consumer who might otherwise be locked in the geographic confines of his or her own airline. By expanding its partnerships, oneworld will add to its over 600 destinations worldwide when it welcomes three new partners in 2007.

Alas, there is still no specific, established around-the-world award -- something we've been hoping for since the beginning. There is the "oneworld Explorer," which takes advantage of the relationships between the airlines to provide a trans-global experience, but it's something you have to pay money for (imagine that!). You can however, build an around-the-world award with oneworld partners using the online redemption system, but most will find it easier to use a phone representative to work around seat inventory. Routing for alliance awards includes rules such as members may only fly up to 16 segments and stop in each city once, but may not connect in the same city more than twice. Also, members may not stop over or connect in the city where travel originated. These alliance awards are based on distance flown -- nine different zones with the highest zone being distances from 35,001 -- 50,000 miles flown. The most popular combination for around-the-world awards are coach at 140,000 miles, business class at 190,000 miles, and first class at 280,000 miles. Upgrades are another anomaly -- they are not redeemable between member airlines.



We have eight fine airlines here, and you're still asking for partnerships? That's fine. So are we.

As it stands, partnerships with hotels, car rental agencies, and other various merchants are determined by your own program -- oneworld does not have its own specific merchant partnerships.
This can be important to you when you plan your trips -- remember that the individual airlines may have relationships with airlines outside the alliance. Check with your own program to see with whom they codeshare.

It's been said before, and it's worth mentioning again: American programs tend to offer you a dizzying array of earning partners, while European and Asian programs are just as creative in finding ways for you to burn miles.

We keep hoping that global alliances will help ease this apparent imbalance. No luck yet.



For true frequent flyers, the elite-level benefits offered by alliances really provide the value. Elite membership in an alliance is not -- let's repeat that -- not something that will earn you extra miles when you fly. You will not earn any elite bonus above what you're already entitled to with your own program. It does, however, entitle you to certain benefits in addition to what you already have.

Three levels of staus are offered from oneworld: Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald (just in case the whole precious-metals thing was overdone). To get to any of these levels, you need to attain equivalent status in your own program. By way of example, an AAdvantage Gold member qualifies as Ruby, a Platinum member makes it to Sapphire, and an Executive Platinum member qualifies as Emerald.

Ah, you say, but doesn't each partner have it's own criteria for determining elite status? That is correct. The upshot is, for example, that an AAdvantage member can get to Sapphire status with just 50,000 miles, while a Cathay Pacific Asia Miles member needs a full 60,000 miles. Hey, don't blame us.

Benefits of elite status with oneworld vary by level. Ruby members can expect priority check-in at business-class counters regardless of class of service flown, preferred seating and priority standby and waitlisting. Sapphire members get all these goodies, plus boarding and entrance to all of the oneworld airlines' business-class and airport lounges when traveling internationally, regardless of the class of service flown on that day. Emerald status earns access to more than 400 exclusive airline lounges when traveling internationally, including first-class lounges, regardless of the class of service flown. Undoubtedly, of course, those lounges will be filled with obnoxious (some, not all) Americans who didn't have to fly as much as everyone else to receive the same benefits.



Members are subject to the rules and conditions of their individual program. Missing miles issues and award questions should be directed to the appropriate program.



Members can contact their individual program service centers; there is not, at present, a oneworld service desk. This is actually a plus: Veteran flyers will tell you that the oneworld family includes airlines that offer the world's best customer service.




Alliances, including oneworld, are a real victory for both the carriers and passengers. System-wide elite status, greater geographic diversity and seamless travel both on awards and revenue tickets all add up to a good deal.

The balanced portfolio of oneworld partners opens up the entire globe to members. The clout of American Airlines and British Airways is a perfect counterbalance to the smaller partners.

While not predetermined, the oneworld distance awards are a better value than the around-the-world award from competing Star Alliance, where coach is 200,000 miles, business class 300,000 miles, and first class 400,000 miles.

Obviously, the inequality of the American Airlines/British Airways relationship might get under your skin. Is that a minus? Depends on your program.

A predetermined around-the-world award? Anyone? It would make the purpose of an alliance award easier for many.

And the most glaring minus of this global alliance -- the absence of upgrades among partners for award redemption.

And hey, why be so selfish with the non-flight awards? It won't kill you to let an Iberia Plus member redeem miles for that aromatherapy award in London.


  Earning Ability Award Choices Partnerships Elite-Level Rules & Conditions Service Support Online Services Overall Rating
8.40 8.70 9.40 9.10 7.50 8.00 8.00 8.44
5.03 5.15 5.13 5.22 4.64 5 5.05 5.03

(76 ratings)


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