Alright, time to start up a thread and watch the sparks fly.
A question in another thread made me consider this one: which is the best airline alliance out there?
Needless to say, this could be taken a bunch of different ways, so some points of possible discussion are:
-On board product?
-Frequent Flyer programs?
-Connectivity/cooperation between partner airlines?
Just to name a few.
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.
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
, and CI
, while Star has CA
, and oneworld has CX
. In northern Asia, Star also has OZ
, 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.
, 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
, 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
, 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
. 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
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
, 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
, 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
(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!