Airline alliance

Oneworld Star Alliance China
The 3 major airline alliance and the current fleet size of their home carrier (excluding subsidiaries, cargo and connecting partners) - from May 2020

An airline alliance is an aviation industry arrangement between two or more airlines agreeing to cooperate on a substantial level. Alliances may provide marketing branding to facilitate travelers making inter-airline codeshare connections within countries. This branding may involve unified aircraft liveries of member aircraft.[1]

In 2015, Star Alliance was the largest with 23% of total scheduled traffic in revenue passenger miles (RPMs)/revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs), followed by SkyTeam with 20.4% and Oneworld with 17.8%, leaving 38.8% for others.[2] In 2019, by number of passengers, Star Alliance was leading 762 million,[3] followed by SkyTeam (630 million)[4] and Oneworld (535 million).[5]


Benefits can consist of an extended network, often realised through codeshare agreements. Many alliances started as only codeshare networks. Cost reductions come from the sharing of sales offices, maintenance facilities, operational facilities (e.g. catering or computer systems), operational staff (e.g. ground handling personnel, at check-in and boarding desks), investments and purchases (e.g. in order to negotiate extra volume discounts). Traveller benefits can include lower prices due to lowered operational costs for a given route, more departure times to choose from on a given route, more destinations within easy reach, shorter travel times as a result of optimised transfers, a wider range of airport lounges shared with alliance members, fast track access on all alliance members if having frequent flyer status, faster mileage rewards by earning miles for a single account on several different carriers, round-the-world tickets, enabling travellers to fly over the world for a relatively low price.

Airline alliances may also create disadvantages for the traveller, such as higher prices when competition is erased on a certain route or less frequent flights; for instance, if two airlines separately fly three and two times a day respectively on a shared route, their alliance might fly less than 5 (3+2) times a day on the same route. This might be especially true between hub cities for each airline. e.g., flights between Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (a Delta Air Lines fortress hub) and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (a KLM fortress hub).


The ability of an airline to join an alliance may be restricted by laws and regulations or subject to approval by authorities. Competition law issues must also be considered in some countries.


The first airline alliance was formed in the 1930s, when Panair do Brasil and its parent company Pan American World Airways agreed to exchange routes to Latin America. In 1990, the African Joint Air Services (AJAS) Accord between Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia led to the launch of Alliance Air in 1994, with South African Airways, Air Tanzania, Uganda Airlines and the governments of Uganda and Tanzania as shareholders.[citation needed]

The first large alliance began in 1989, when Northwest Airlines and KLM agreed to large-scale codesharing. In 1992, the Netherlands signed the first open skies agreement with the United States, in spite of objections from the European Union, which gave both countries unrestricted landing rights on the other's soil. Normally landing rights are granted for a fixed number of flights per week to a fixed destination. Each adjustment requires negotiations, often between governments rather than between the companies involved. In return, the United States granted antitrust immunity to the alliance between Northwest Airlines and KLM. Other alliances would struggle for years to overcome the transnational barriers and lack of antitrust immunity, and still do so.[citation needed]

Star Alliance was founded in 1997,[6] which brought competing airlines to form Oneworld in 1999 and SkyTeam in 2000.[citation needed]

In 2010 Richard Branson, chairman of the Virgin Group, announced his intention to form a fourth alliance among Virgin branded airlines (Virgin Atlantic; Virgin America; and the Virgin Australia Holdings group of airlines).[7] Then in September 2011, Branson said that Virgin Atlantic would join one of the existing alliances;[8] this idea was repeated in October 2012.[9] In December 2012, Delta Air Lines purchased Singapore Airlines' 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic for £224 million.[citation needed] Virgin America was absorbed into Alaska Airlines, which is not a member of any alliance, in April 2018.[10]

On February 14, 2013, it was announced that American Airlines and US Airways would merge, retaining the American Airlines name and would remain in the Oneworld alliance. US Airways' participation in Star Alliance lapsed. In 2012, in South America, LAN Airlines and TAM Airlines began their merger. In March 2014, with the merger complete, TAM left Star Alliance and became part of LAN in Oneworld.[citation needed]

On September 21, 2015, the Vanilla Alliance was formed between several airlines based in the Indian Ocean region, in order to improve air connectivity within the region. The founding members are Air Austral, Air Mauritius, Air Madagascar, Air Seychelles, and Int'Air Îles.[citation needed]

On January 18, 2016, the first alliance of low-cost carriers was formed, U-FLY Alliance. The founding members—HK Express, Lucky Air, Urumqi Air, and West Air—are all affiliated with HNA Group, although the alliance is also seeking airlines not within the group.[11]

On May 16, 2016, the world's largest alliance of low-cost carriers was formed, Value Alliance. The founding members were Cebu Pacific, Cebgo, Jeju Air, Nok Air, NokScoot, Scoot Airlines, Tigerair, Tigerair Australia, and Vanilla Air.[12]

Current alliances

Star Alliance

Four members of Star Alliance at Tokyo Narita Airport: Thai, United, Swiss and SAS

Star Alliance, founded in 1997, currently has 26 members:[13]

Former members:

Slovenia Adria Airways, 2004-2019, defunct

Australia Ansett Australia, 1999–2001, defunct
Finland Blue1, 2004–2012, now a member affiliate
United Kingdom BMI, 2000–2012, absorbed into British Airways[14]
United States Continental Airlines, 2009–2012, merged with United Airlines
Mexico Mexicana de Aviación, 2000–2004, joined Oneworld in 2009
China Shanghai Airlines, 2007–2010, merged with China Eastern Airlines and joined SkyTeam in 2011
Spain Spanair, 2003–2012, defunct
El Salvador TACA, 2012–2013, merged with Avianca
Brazil TAM Airlines, 2010–2014, merged with LAN Airlines and joined Oneworld in 2014
United States US Airways, 2004–2014, joined Oneworld as an affiliate member of American Airlines
Brazil Varig, 1997–2007, defunct

Star Alliance Connecting Partners


British Airways Boeing 747-400

Oneworld, founded in 1999, currently has 13 members:[15]

Future members:

Former members:

Oneworld Connect Partners


SkyTeam, founded in 2000, currently has 19 members:[17]

Future members:

Former members:

Vanilla Alliance

Vanilla Alliance, founded in 2015, currently has 5 members:[19]

Réunion Air Austral, founder

Madagascar Air Madagascar, founder
Mauritius Air Mauritius, founder
Seychelles Air Seychelles, founder
Comoros Int'Air Îles, founder

U-FLY Alliance

U-FLY Alliance, founded in 2016, currently has 5 members:[20]

Hong Kong HK Express, founder

China Lucky Air, founder
China Urumqi Air, founder
China West Air, founder
South Korea Eastar Jet, 2016

Value Alliance

Value Alliance, founded in 2016, currently has five members:[21]

Philippines Cebu Pacific, founder

Philippines Cebgo, founder
South Korea Jeju Air, founder
Thailand Nok Air, founder
Singapore Scoot, founder

Former members:


Alliance Members Passengers
Destination Fleet Employees Revenue
/year (US$)
Star Alliance[22] 26 642.1 Mn 192 1,330 4,657 432,603 179.05 Bn 18,500 1536 Bn 23%
SkyTeam[23] 19 665.4 Mn 177 1,062 3,937 481,691[24] 140.98 Bn[24] 17,343 1362 Bn 20.4%
Oneworld[25] 14 557.4 Mn 161 1,016 3,560 382,913 130.92 Bn 13,814 1189 Bn 17.8%
Value Alliance[26] 5 92 Mn 30 183 201 - - 341 107 Bn 1,6%
U-FLY Alliance 5 44 Mn 18 149 129 - - 339 40 Bn 0,6%
Vanilla Alliance 5 2.3 Mn - - - - - - -
Industry[27] 1,402 3570 Mn 206 3,883 26,065 2,669,000 664.4 Bn - 6679 Bn 100%
Airline Alliance Market Share by Network Capacity 2007

Notes and references

  1. ^ Fernandez de la Torre, Pablo E. "Airline alliances : the airline perspective". DSpace@MIT. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Scheduled Passengers Carried". World Air Transport Statistics 60th Edition. IATA.
  3. ^ "backgrounder". Star Alliance. 18 Oct 2019.
  4. ^ "Fact Sheet" (PDF). SkyTeam. 2019.
  5. ^ "20 years, 20 facts, oneworld". OneWorld. 2019-02-01.
  6. ^ BRYANT, ADAM (14 May 1997). "United and 4 Others to Detail Air Alliance Today". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 30 January 2013. Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  7. ^ Perman, Stacy (2010-09-05). "Virgin's Richard Branson Circles His Wagons". TIME. Retrieved 2011-03-04.
  8. ^ Bruner, Jon (2011-09-14). "Virgin Atlantic Will Join an Alliance Soon, Says Richard Branson". Forbes.
  9. ^ Quinn, James (2012-10-26). "Virgin Atlantic to join global airline alliance, says Branson". Telegraph.
  10. ^ "Virgin America flights become Alaska next April". 2017-10-05. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  11. ^ "HNA Group: four airlines form U-FLY Alliance, world's first LCC grouping, showing HNA consolidation". CAPA - Centre for Aviation. 22 January 2016. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
  12. ^ "Singapore Airlines’ Low-Cost Carriers, Others Start Alliance". Bloomberg. 16 May 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  13. ^ "Member airline". Star Alliance. June 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-03-04.
  14. ^ "Bmi Formally Leaves". Star Alliance. 2012-05-31. Archived from the original on 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2012-10-15.
  15. ^ "Oneworld at a glance". Oneworld. 12 March 2020.
  16. ^ "oneworld welcomes Alaska Airlines' intention to join the alliance" (Press release). 2020-02-13. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  17. ^ "Facts and Figures". SkyTeam. 5 March 2014.
  18. ^ "SkyTeam hints Philippine Airlines' intention to join the alliance" (Press release). 2019-03-12. Retrieved 2019-03-12.
  19. ^ "Vanilla Alliance agreements signed in Antananarivo". ch-aviation. Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  20. ^ "UFLY Alliance". Archived from the original on 2018-08-25. Retrieved 2016-04-09.
  21. ^ "Value Alliance". Retrieved 2016-05-16.
  22. ^ "Facts and Figures". Star Alliance. 2 July 2015.
  23. ^ "Factsheet" (PDF). SkyTeam. Summer 2016.
  24. ^ a b "Factsheet" (PDF). SkyTeam. March 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-05-30.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  25. ^ "oneworld at a glance". Oneworld. July 2016.
  26. ^ "About". Value Alliance.
  27. ^ "The world of air transport, 2014" (PDF). Air Transport Action Group. 2016.