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World map showing home countries of the airlines in the three largest airline alliances: Star Alliance (grey), SkyTeam (blue) and Oneworld (purple) with IATA codes of founding members outlined in red. (In the SVG file, hover over a code to highlight its alliance; click to load its article.)

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 RPK, followed by SkyTeam with 20.4% and Oneworld with 17.8%, leaving 38.8% for others.[2]



Benefits can consist of:

  • An extended network, often realised through codeshare agreements. Many alliances started as only codeshare networks.
  • Cost reduction from 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.
  • Traveler 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 travelers to fly over the world for a relatively low price.

Airline alliances may also create disadvantages for the traveler, such as:

  • Higher prices when competition is erased on a certain route.
  • 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.

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.

The Star Alliance was founded in 1997, which brought competing airlines to form Oneworld in 1999 and SkyTeam in 2000.

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).[3] Then in September 2011, Branson said that Virgin would join one of the existing alliances;[4] this idea was repeated in October 2012.[5] In December 2012, Delta Air Lines purchased Singapore Airlines' 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic for £224 million.

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 the 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.

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.

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.[6]

On May 16, 2016, the world's largest alliance of low-cost carriers was formed, Value Alliance. The founding members are Scoot Airlines, Tigerair, Tigerair Australia, Nok Air, NokScoot, Cebu Pacific, Jeju Air, and Vanilla Air.[7]

Current alliancesEdit

Star AllianceEdit

Star Alliance, founded in 1997, currently has 27 members:[8]

Former members:


Oneworld, founded in 1999, currently has 13 members:[10]

Former members:

It is possible that the future new members Air Tahiti Nui, Interjet, Meridiana and Royal Air Maroc.


SkyTeam, founded in 2000, currently has 20 members:[11]

Former members:

Possible new members of the alliance including Brazil's GOL Airlines, Virgin Group's Virgin Atlantic, and India's Jet Airways.

According to CAPA, SkyTeam currently developing new alliance system for Low-cost carriers, due to launch this year.

Vanilla AllianceEdit

Vanilla Alliance, founded in 2015, currently has 5 members:[12]

U-FLY AllianceEdit

U-FLY Alliance, founded in 2016, currently has 5 members:[13]

Value AllianceEdit

Value Alliance, founded in 2016, currently has 7 members:[14]

Former members:


Star Alliance[15] SkyTeam[16] Oneworld[17] Value Alliance[18] U-FLY Alliance Vanilla Alliance Industry[19]
Airlines 28 20 13 7 5 5 1,402
Passengers per year 642.1 million 665.4 million 557.4 million 92 million 44 million 2.3 million 3,570 million
Countries 192 177 161 30 18 - 206
Destinations 1,330 1,062 1,016 183 149 - 3,883
Fleet size 4,657 3,937 3,560 180 129 - 26,065
Employees 432,603 481,691[20] 382,913 - - - 2,669,000
Revenue Billion US$ 179.05 140.98[20] 130.92 - - - 664.4
Daily departures 18,500 17,343 13,814 341 339 - -
billions RPK[2] 23% (1536) 20.4% (1362) 17.8% (1189) 1,6% (107) 0,6% (40) - 6,678.694
Skytrax World Airline Star Rating[21]
Alliance Star Alliance SkyTeam Oneworld Value Alliance U-FLY Alliance Vanilla Alliance Industry
Airlines 28 20 13 7 5 5 178
5-Star[22] 5: NH OZ, BR, SQ, LH 1: GA 2: CX, QR 10
4-Star [23] 8 8 4 2 38
3-Star [24] 15 12 8 5 1 110
2-Star [25] 21
1-Star [26] 1
Not rated 1 (MH) 3 4 2
Average 3.64 3.45 3.57 3 3.67 3.17
Airline Alliance Market Share By Network Capacity 2007


Airlines not in any alliancesEdit






Notes and referencesEdit

  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. ^ Perman, Stacy (2010-09-05). "Virgin's Richard Branson Circles His Wagons". TIME. Retrieved 2011-03-04. 
  4. ^ Bruner, Jon (2011-09-14). "Virgin Atlantic Will Join an Alliance Soon, Says Richard Branson". Forbes. 
  5. ^ Quinn, James (2012-10-26). "Virgin Atlantic to join global airline alliance, says Branson". Telegraph. 
  6. ^ "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.
  7. ^ "Singapore Airlines’ Low-Cost Carriers, Others Start Alliance". Bloomberg. 16 May 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2016.
  8. ^ "Member airline". Star Alliance. June 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-03-04. 
  9. ^ "Bmi Formally Leaves". Star Alliance. 2012-05-31. Retrieved 2012-10-15. 
  10. ^ "Oneworld at a glance". Oneworld. 12 May 2014. 
  11. ^ "Facts and Figures". SkyTeam. 5 March 2014. 
  12. ^ "Vanilla Alliance agreements signed in Antananarivo". ch-aviation. Retrieved 2016-04-09. 
  13. ^ "UFLY Alliance". Retrieved 2016-04-09. 
  14. ^ "Value Alliance". Retrieved 2016-05-16. 
  15. ^ "Facts and Figures". Star Alliance. 2 July 2015. 
  16. ^ "Factsheet" (PDF). SkyTeam. Summer 2016. 
  17. ^ "oneworld at a glance". Oneworld. July 2016. 
  18. ^ "About". Value Alliance. 
  19. ^ "The world of air transport, 2014" (PDF). Air Transport Action Group. 2016. 
  20. ^ a b "Factsheet" (PDF). SkyTeam. March 2015. Archived from the original on 2015-05-30. 
  21. ^ "All Airlines A-Z". Skytrax. 
  22. ^ "Certified 5-Star Airline Ratings". Skytrax. 
  23. ^ "The world's 4-Star Airlines". Skytrax. 
  24. ^ "3-Star Airlines". Skytrax. 
  25. ^ "2-Star Airlines". Skytrax. 
  26. ^ "1-Star Airlines". Skytrax. 
  27. ^ "SkyTeam Associate Program" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-10-20. Retrieved 6 August 2014. 
  28. ^ Continental Airlines – Proud member of Star Alliance Archived 2008-06-28 at the Wayback Machine.. (2009-10-27). Retrieved on 2011-03-04.
  29. ^ "Continental Air Leaving SkyTeam Oct 24 To Join Star Alliance". 29 January 2009. Archived from the original on 2 February 2009. Retrieved 30 January 2009. 
  30. ^ "TAM and US Airways join oneworld". Oneworld. 31 March 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 

Jet Airways is now a member of the Skyteam.

External linksEdit