Conventional wisdom seems to be that this is a discussion between *A and oneworld. Sure, oneworld is a fairly distant 3rd in terms of passengers carried, but size doesn't necessarily equate to "best." In terms of global coverage, I will argue that oneworld has the best dispersal worldwide. A full 1/2 (12/25) full member *A airlines are based in Europe, as well as 7/15 in Skyteam, in comparison, only 4/11 oneworld airlines are (to be fair, all of these ratios are set to decrease in 2012/2013).
One of the best metrics, in my opinion, is one's ability to book an around-the-world ticket, and get around in every continent. This is one of the main areas where oneworld wins over the others.
Having QF in Oceania makes oneworld damn near unstoppable vis a vis their competition. *A has NZ, which certainly doesn't help if you want to get around Australia, and Skyteam has...well, nothing. An addition of V Australia would be huge in this respect to either *A or Skyteam (though Skyteam seems the more likely of the two).
I'll break up Asia into three "subregions," northern Asia (including China) and Japan, SE Asia, and the Indian Subcontinent.
All three airlines have pretty good coverage here. Personally, I'd rank Skyteam #1, Star #2, and oneworld a close #3. Skyteam is certainly the strongest to China/Taiwan with MU, CZ, and CI, while Star has CA, and oneworld has CX. In northern Asia, Star also has OZ and NH, while oneworld has JL, and Skyteam has KE. Certainly, there aren't any glaring holes in this region, though oneworld could use a mainland China airline (HU comes to mind as a possible option). A mention of SU is probably worthy here for many parts of Russia.
With SQ and TG, Star wins by default. Skyteam has VN (and soon to be GA), and oneworld doesn't have anything (though MH is coming online this year, and will fill this hole nicely). In general, the prevalence of low cost carriers in SE Asia makes intra-region connectivity less important here than other places.
No alliance has a full member airline here. There are opportunities to be had here, and oneworld has certainly tried to capitalize with IT. We'll see if they can get their stuff together. 9W codeshares with lots of airlines across all three alliances, but they look to be the Star bound. No question who would be the winner in this scenario. AI is the wild card. Can they get their ducks in a row? If so, will they wind up in *A, or has this most recent round soured one side or the other on possible future membership?
All three carriers have a limited direct presence in the region. Star and oneworld have MS and RJ, respectively. Skyteam has nothing, though SV and ME are slated to come online later. I don't expect either to make a major splash, but it's certainly better than what they have now. Needless to say, EY, EK, or QR going to one of these would automatically increase the alliance's presence in the region considerably.
Sub Saharan Africa
As with SE Asia, I don't feel like this region is as important, though this time due to limited opportunities for intra-region traffic. For one, there simply aren't many reputable options in the region (which says something about the possibilities there) oneworld is in last here, as the only alliance without an African member airline (though Comair provides options in the southern quarter of the region). Skyteam is in second with KQ, while Star is in first with SA and ET. It's worth mentioning that the Dutch and French colonial influences give Skyteam a bit of a leg up in terms of European connectivity via KL and AF.
Since this would take an eternity, let me just say that Star is clearly in first here, and provides the clear majority of intra-region options. Skyteam is in second, and oneworld is in 3rd. Fundamentally, all three have all the major areas covered, and have areas of strength and relative weakness. oneworld is unquestionably strongest in the United Kingdom and also very strong in the Iberian peninsula, but lacks European continent options (AB helps, but Skyteam with AF/KL/AZ and Star with LH among many others are well ahead in this area). Scandinavia is clearly Star land with SK, though oneworld with AY is not bad. Both Skyteam and *A are strong in Eastern Europe, with oneworld lagging behind (S7 is the only presence in the region).
Though clearly an important region, the availability of other mass transit options (namely, terrific train connectivity) make it less important in my eyes. All three are perfectly functional, though some obviously have more options.
Again, functionally all three work just fine. Star is obviously #1 with UA, AC, and US , while Skyteam (DL and AM) and oneworld (AA) duke it out for 2 and 3. Despite the size of the region, all three main US airlines have massive networks, with only relatively minor strengths and weaknesses compared to each other. AC provides options to the 30,000,000 residents of Canada, though the vast majority of those can also be connected via the US airlines.
Latin America and Brazil
This is one of the major regions that sets one alliance apart from others. LAN provides such an overwhelming advantage to oneworld in this region. Assuming LATAM remain in oneworld (which seems to be the case), I would argue oneworld's advantage in this region is considerably more than any other alliance in any other region. Skyteam puts up the sparse offering of AM and soon to be AR (which is nothing to brag about). Star is comparatively stronger, with AV, TA, and CM, but this is fairly limited to Central America and northern South America. The presence in deep South America is fairly limited. GOL would be a small, but not altogether insignificant consolation prize to either Star or Skyteam if LATAM goes oneworld.
What I take away from this is that oneworld is a lean, mean alliance machine, with high quality (for the most part) airlines strategically positioned across the planet. There's limited overlap, which is good. With the JV across the Atlantic , it gives oneworld a considerable competitive advantage. Star is the leader in Europe and Southeast Asia, but again, I feel like these are regions where having a strong presence may be less important than others (because of other options available). Oceania is, as of now, a 2-horse race, and with the combination of QF and JQ (which has a solid NZ network), oneworld is the clear leader. That's two regions that are more dependent on air travel (and not just air travel, but air travel without considerable LCC influence) that are functionally owned by oneworld. Northern Asia is, I would argue, the only region where Skyteam's airlines give them a legitimate advantage, and even still, all three alliances have strong networks. Simply because of the scope of the US airlines, I basically consider North America a wash, though Star has a slight lead on Skyteam, which in turn has a slight lead on oneworld.
In terms of airline quality, Star has 2 Skytrax 5-star airlines (SQ and OZ), while oneworld has 1 (CX, though once MH joins, they could be #2...currently a 5-star, but the ranking is "under review."). Skyteam does not have a Skytrax 5-star airline.
11/25 Star airlines (44%) are either Skytrax 4 or 5 star airlines. In comparison, 5/11 (45%) of oneworld airlines are 4 or 5 star, while only 4/15 (27%) of Skyteam airlines are 4 or 5 star. The remainder in all cases are 3 stars. This would support the notion that Star and oneworld are ahead of Skyteam in terms of airline quality (though these Skytrax ratings should be taken with a grain of salt).
1b. Star Alliance
Let the games begin! May the odds be ever in your favor!
LAXintl From United States of America, joined May 2000, 23465 posts, RR: 50 Reply 1, posted (1 year 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 2354 times:
For me, with a LAX base, using a mix of Star and OW covers all my destinations rather conviently, albeit Star to a higher degree internationally, and OW domestically. Top level elite at both as result.
From the desert to the sea, to all of Southern California
dc9northwest From Switzerland, joined Feb 2007, 1931 posts, RR: 5 Reply 2, posted (1 year 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 2342 times:
This is possibly the most subjective thread ever, so here's my biased, subjective view:
oneworld doesn't do anything for me. I travel often in US, Europe and between and that leaves me with BA and AA (Finnair doesn't fly to Romania anymore, AA is bAAd, BA is in LHR, which from the stories I hear... I could do without, while IB is horrendous, and Malev went bye-bye recently )
Star, for me, died when an UA agent treated me and my mother horribly at ORD in 2000, on a joint OS-UA ticket (I think it was OS stock, and I don't remember the codeshare listed). Personally I find the old UA pretty bad and I'm in no mood to fly them. US? Let's not go there, I've had problems with them too, on their own tickets! I've heard horrible stories about Star Alliance integration, but if I'll end up living in Western Europe as opposed to the USA, I'll consider Star.
Skyteam? DL is fabulous IMO compared to UA, US, AA. Again, subjective, I'm sure, but DL seems to have massively improved since 2004 with delays and I've never really had bad service on DL. KL remains my favorite airline but due to circumstances I'm more loyal to DL.
I will try LH, SK and OS this summer to see what the European Star Alliance looks like...
Star are clear geographic winners in Europe, and probably overall. In fact, that's exactly how I see it:
1. Skyteam (they have massive holes, such as Australia, Latin America)
1. Star (but I hate UA, so bye-bye for me while living in USA)
3. Hello? oneworld, are you there? Do you still exist?
The Bucharest market is quasi-inexistent to OW (Oh, BA has 2 daily flights? wow!), while Chicago should be good, but everyone here seems to prefer UA over AA.
Anyway, sorry, I guess this isn't exactly a 'helpful' reply, just my perspective on alliances right now
CXfirst From Norway, joined Jan 2007, 2842 posts, RR: 1 Reply 3, posted (1 year 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 15 hours ago) and read 2323 times:
As I see it, just about every alliance can get you anywhere.
The way people choose alliance is the alliance of their favoured, most-traveled airline.
For me that is SQ, and therefore I have Star membership, and status within the Star network.
The fact that Star has LH instead of AF/KL or BA, etc. does not matter to me. The thing that matters is that I have options within Europe, which all alliances bring.
As I see it, people don't choose alliances, but choose specific airlines, and then travel with their partners when needed. If you are in the US and prefer DL, you will fly Skyteam, it's not that you prefer Skyteam and therefore fly DL (although the case could be that you prefer AF, therefore Skyteam, and therefore DL).
The reason I am in the OW camp. If VA were to join * or SkyTeam then I'd be reconsidering but for now nothing can match OW for me. The only extra thing I'd like is a Middle Eastern airline (ie QR, EK or EY), but none of the alliances have one of them yet anyway.
CoachClass From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 381 posts, RR: 0 Reply 5, posted (1 year 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 2272 times:
Longhornmaniac, you did an impressive analysis. My brief analysis is based upon my personal experiences. I would put Star first, one world second and Skyteam last.
In planning international travel (Europe mostly), I now always start with Star because I have had better on board experiences with LH, for instance, than with AA, Delta, BA. However, LH and US, UA, TP are not on the same level, just like BA and AA aren't. Moreover, in getting FF miles, it's been my experience that it's a lot easier to get free seats, upgrades or discounted business class seats with Star. Skyteam (Delta) has been the stingiest for me. One World with AA seems to be some where in the middle. My new strategy is to get a lot of UA miles so that I can use them on getting Business class seats on LH or Swiss.
talisaman From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 6, posted (1 year 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 4 hours ago) and read 2243 times:
I have been using Delta for most of domestic, Europe, Latin America and have all the miles packed to my Delta Skymiles as there is no expiration. Delta has not upgraded their entire fleet of long haul fligths with new Business class lie flat seats and for now I use other partners depending on where I will be flying to.
Depending on the region sometimes you find very expensive reward and sometimes great deal.
But most important for me is being able to find good connections timing and good service and planes when paying for that special flight to where ever.
TruemanQLD From Australia, joined Feb 2007, 1388 posts, RR: 0 Reply 7, posted (1 year 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 2182 times:
Very subjective, and while I see you have tried to make it is an unsubjective as possible, at the end of the day its about what people like. I personally think *A has the better network coverage living in Oz (obviously not domestically, but internationally), SkyTeam doesn't even come onto my radar, unless I were to fly to China regularly where they then have it over Star and OW with CZ and there network coverage, decent Oz coverage and price. OW has it domestically, and they have the UK, US and South America covered well but they lack decent coverage in Asia (and CX is often very dear) and this is a drawback. There lack of coverage for long haul Europe-Asia is also a weakness. But this is all personally based on what suits me.
AirAfreak From United States of America, joined Apr 2012, 474 posts, RR: 0 Reply 8, posted (1 year 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 16 hours ago) and read 2168 times:
These are MY opinions/perception:
Star Alliance has Asia's most awarded airline, Singapore Airlines. SQ has Suites, service, service, and service. ANA is well-regarded as Japan's Leading Airline in terms of overall positive passenger perception; Thai has a fabulous Royal Orchid/First Lounge in Bangkok and in my opinion, some of the warmest, genuine cabin crew out there; Ethiopian Airlines to bring you even deeper into the heart of Africa; Lufthansa with it's First Class Terminal at Frankfurt; USAirways Charlotte base of flight attendants are consistently the nicest each time I've flown US within the USA. United merging with Continental and soon, or maybe now, you don't have to pay for alcohol in the United Club. It's ridiculous to pay an annual membership fee and THEN pay for alcohol. WHAT THE HELL! Swiss... Ahhhhhh, Swiss loves me and I love Swiss.
Star Alliance has United Airlines. Imagine flying SQ or TG from Asian to Los Angeles and then taking United Airlines to a domestic US City... total eye-roller. I hate to make such generalizations, but I've really tried with them. I have, but I have given up. I don't need any more stress in my life. Bye-Bye BMI... They had such a fabulous Long-Haul Premium Economy Product. Sad to see them go. Air China... Can you please turn down the volume on the PA when making your onboard announcements? I feel like I'm being yelled at or the cabin crew is having a panic attack.
OneWorld has Cathay Pacific Airways... I'm so excited to try their Premium Economy. Fabulous Hong Kong Airport. Malaysian Hospitality that is MH Malaysia Airlines, most awarded Cabin Crew... who can compare to that? BA Terminal 5 and the new First Class is above and beyond. QF Flight frequency to and from Australia from the USA makes travel down-under more convenient. Finnair has shorter flight times to Asian Destinations from Helsinki making Europe-Asia flights attractive.
OneWorld has American Airlines... Gone are the days of Transcontinental Flagship Service. AA should have kept their eyes on SQ as SQ kept investing in tough times and they are consistent. AA took the cheap road and now look at them. They are no where near CX. Iberia customer service onboard is marginal okay and not consistent.
Skyteam has Amsterdam and Seoul/Incheon Airport both voted in the higher margins of passenger ease and friendliness of use... KLM the friendly Dutch Cabin Crew Airline... Korean Air consistently winning Mercury Award for Economy Class Catering more years than any other airline... Air France La Premiere Dedicated Area at CDG Airport and free flowing champagne in Economy Class... Delta BizElite 767-400 and 777 flat beds and direct access to aisles from every seat... China Southern A380 Suites... good pasta on Alitalia
Skyteam has dozens of Delta's CRJ... just run me over with one and end it now... Air France and KLM Flying Blue Program is not mileage-accrual friendly... Alitalia Cabin Crew can take that stick out and smile at least once... Vietnam Airlines has zero flights to the US... VN has Saigon/Ho Chi Minh Airport and needs some attention. KLM has that Polderbaan Runway... you could fly from Amsterdam to Rotterdam quicker than you can taxi from the Polderbaan to your arrival gate in Amsterdam... (maybe not really, but I don't need another tour of the Dutch Countryside along Schiphol.)
Sorry, I have no answer for you, but I'm just sharing my experience and then you can tailor my reply to your travel needs and decide from there.
If you're not earning miles, are you really on your way?
RyanairGuru From Australia, joined Oct 2006, 4053 posts, RR: 2 Reply 9, posted (1 year 7 months 2 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 2141 times:
For me it is OneWorld.
They have hubs in HKG, LHR, NRT, JFK, ORD, MIA, DFW, LAX, SCL. I would argue that HKG, LHR and JFK are the three most strategically important destinations in the world, and the others aren't exactly insignificant.
No alliance comes close to them in South America with the combined weight of LATAM, AA and IB.
Even though they aren't too useful for domestic flights within China, CX/KE means you can fly from practically anywhere in the world to anywhere in China via HKG, and know that you will get decent service. In comparison I'm not sure how willing I would be to go CZ given the horror stories I've heard.
I think the quality of the airlines is the highest overall:
CX - duh
JAL - really decent product
BA - IMHO best European legacy
AA - IMHO best US legacy
LATAM - better than AR
QF - my favourite airline
Yes *A has SQ, but they also have UA
And as noted by the OP, QF brings a lot to OW's RTW fares. Just about every non-Australia originating RTW fare includes Australia, and if you have to buy your domestic segments separately then that can be a real hassle and add expense
Quoting qf002 (Reply 4): Having QF in Oceania makes oneworld damn near unstoppable
The reason I am in the OW camp
I agree 100%
I live in Australia. Therefore I go OW. It really is that simple. CX, AA and BA can thank my business on the fact that they're friends with QF.