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  • Julius Chang

Best Airline Alliance for Business Travel? (2019)

Today we are going to help you determine what is the best airline alliance for your business travel in Asia.


We will look at all factors you need to consider to make the best decision. From understanding how the alliances work, to looking at the destinations that they serve and their Skytrax ratings, we have you covered.


Let's dive right in.



Star Alliance (also known as *A with frequent travelers) is the oldest Airline Alliance out there, carrying over 700 million passengers each year on its truly global network. The five points in the Star Alliance logo represents the five airlines, United Airlines, Scandinavian Airlines, Thai Airways, Air Canada, and Lufthansa, that founded the alliance back in 1997.


By now, the alliance has grown to 27 full members that together serve just about every destination on earth. Serving 98% of the world’s countries, over 1300 destinations and with nearly 19,000 daily flights, Star Alliance keeps true to its brand slogan “the way the earth connects”.


Since 1997, two other major airline alliances have been founded in OneWorld and SkyTeam that both have Asia-based member airlines. Even the low cost carriers have started their own alliances with the Value Alliance and the U-Fly Alliance both launching in 2016.

With so many different alliances to choose from, which is the best for Asian business travelers? We will look at a few different factors to find out.


What is an Airline Alliance?

The Airline Alliances have become critical to the airline industry.


Why?


The global airline alliances exist because it allows carriers to offer significantly more destinations than they could do on their own, making travel easier for customers and maximizing the use of airlines’ available seat capacity.


Most of the global alliances started as codeshare agreements that allow participating airlines to sell seats on flights operated by another cooperating airline. This means that airlines do not have to operate overlapping flights to the same destination and it is easier to fill the airplane operating the flight.


Code shares are a key feature of the airline alliances as it allows airlines to offer more destinations, better connections, and share operating costs. All having a positive impact on the participating airlines profitability while providing a better service to travelers. This is a typical network effect, where the value of the airlines network increases with the number of destinations it can offer to its customers.


The alliances also offer significant value to business travelers through their frequent flyer programs that allow you to earn and redeem miles at any partner airline, gives you access partner airline lounges, priority boarding, check-in, and many other great benefits.


What airlines are in Star Alliance?


The Star Alliance member count currently stands at 27, making it the largest airline alliance in terms of number of members. This number excludes 40 affiliates (typically regional airlines and subsidiaries of Star Alliance full members). The membership number is likely to grow going forward and there are frequent rumors about new airlines joining the alliance.



Asian Star Alliance Members


European Star Alliance Members


African Star Alliance Members


North American Star Alliance Members


South American Star Alliance Members


Oceanian Star Alliance Members


Star Alliance Frequent Flyer Status Levels


The Star Alliance member airlines each have their own frequent flyer programs with tiers that are equivalent to Star Alliance Silver and Star Alliance Gold. Status can typically be achieved either by flying a certain number of miles or a certain number of segments with the partner airline or a Star Alliance member. Some partner airlines also require that you have spent a certain amount of money with the airline (United Airlines) or flown a certain number of miles / segments with the airline managing your frequent flyer program.



Star Alliance Silver


Silver as the name suggests is the less prestigious status level offered by Star Alliance and gives access priority on standby and when on a waitlist for reservations.



Star Alliance Gold


Gold is the highest status offered by Star Alliance gives you access to the full set of benefits, including access to over 1000 lounges globally, priority check-in and boarding. This status provides the chance to get upgraded on overbooked flights.


Star Alliance Gold Benefits


Star Alliance lounges


Access to the over 1,000 Star Alliance Gold lounges globally (219 in Asia) with access to internet, free snacks and beverages and comfortable seating. Perfect when you need to get some work done while waiting for your next flight! You can even bring a +1 that doesn’t have status.


Priority Boarding


Board at your own convenience or together with the First Class and Business Class passengers. This is handy on full flights and you are unsure if there will be enough space in the overhead locker for your bag.


Extra Baggage Allowance


Although likely less relevant for your business trips, Star Alliance Gold status will allow you to bring an additional 20KG baggage. Perfect for the family vacation!


Gold Track


Gold track allows gold members to breeze through security via a dedicated lane. This can save a significant amount of time for business travelers at peak hours. Gold track is currently only available in 17 airports in Asia and typically at major bases for Star Alliance members (for example Changi Airport in Singapore)



Priority Check-in


Cut the lines at the airport even when you are flying economy class and check in with the business class passengers. Can be a significant time saver as check-in waiting times can easily reach over one hour at many airports in Asia.



Priority baggage handling


Ensures that your baggage is amongst the first to arrive on the belt (at least when it works). Allows you to be on your way faster than waiting around for your baggage with the rest of the passengers. You may have seen the orange priority baggage tags before that tells the handlers how to load your baggage.



How you can achieve Status with Star Alliance


To achieve Silver Status you typically need to fly 10,000 - 35,000 over a year or two depending on the partner airline. The other option is to fly 25-35 segments to qualify. If you do a lot of long-haul flying it will be easier to qualify on the basis of points, whereas segments is more applicable to the traveler that flies many short flights on a regular basis.


For Gold Status you need to earn 40,000 - 100,000 miles or fly around 50 segments per year to qualify.


Worth noting:


The difficulty in achieving Gold Status varies significantly between the different Star Alliance member airlines. It is worthwhile doing some research on each member airlines’ program to see which one suits your needs the best.


Comparison vs. OneWorld and SkyTeam


So now that we know all the basics about Star Alliance and its frequent flyer benefits, how does it stack up against its main competitors OneWorld and SkyTeam? We have compared the performance across the key factors that are important to business travelers.

Star Alliance vs. other Airline Alliances Comparison

Number of Destinations

Star Alliance was founded with the goal to be "an alliance that will take passengers to every major city on earth". With 1,330 destinations they are offering by far the most destinations of the major global alliances which may be handy when you want to use those hard earned loyalty points for your vacation.



When zooming in on Asia coverage in particular, SkyTeam is outstanding with 326 destinations. They have by far the most impressive route network in China through China Eastern and Xiamen Airlines. Star Alliance also has good coverage overall but has a notable weakness in SouthEast Asia with only 20 destinations served.


Still:


if you are only flying into the largest cities in Asia for your business travel any of the three alliances will have you covered and beyond.

Number of destinations in Asia by Airline Alliance

You can use this handy map to understand which Airline and Alliance offers the best service to your country


Skytrax Airline Rating


To assess the quality of the member airlines we have taken the average of the member airlines’ World Airline Star Rating to get an idea if the quality varies significantly. We are aware that the scores are no perfect but it should give an idea if there is any major differences.


How they compare:


Comparing the Skytrax ratings, the quality of the airlines in each alliance is pretty near equal. It is worth noting that Star Alliance has 5 of the 10 total 5-Star rated airlines in the world today. If flying 5 star is your thing, you may be better off being loyal to Star Alliance.



How do I decide which Airline Alliance is best for me?

As we have seen, Star Alliance performs very well across all of the factors that are important to a business traveler. The alliance is comprised of high quality airlines that can fly you all over Asia in comfort.



Star Alliance offers generous benefits to its Gold members in the form of lounge access, priority boarding, check-in, baggage handling and much more. Star Alliance has more 5 star airlines than anyone else, including two of the top three airlines in the world in Singapore Airlines and ANA.


However:


The most important factor in deciding which alliance is best for you is your own travel pattern and what airline serves your home airport.


For example if you are based in Singapore you are probably best off being loyal to Star Alliance and one of its members to be able to maximize your loyalty points while having access to the most direct flights. If you are based in Taipei, you are more spoilt choice with Both EVA Air (Star Alliance) and China Airlines (SkyTeam) offering flights to many destinations in Asia and connections globally.


If you fly lots of low cost carriers such as Air Asia or you are based in a location where there is no flag carrier that is part of a global alliance such as Manila, you are probably less concerned about the three global alliances. You may want to join each one to collect points towards an award flight instead of having a deliberate aim to get status.


Also consider your flying pattern to different geographies. If you spend a lot of time flying to different cities in China, SkyTeam is a sure bet. If you need good access to Indian cities, Star Alliance is a great choice as Air India will have you covered.


Finally:


You can’t go wrong with Star Alliance for business travel in Asia! Just make sure to look at which airline provides the best service to your nearest airport and analyze your travel pattern to make the best choice.


Now we would like to hear from you:


Which Airline Alliance do you prefer and why?