When you say "loose groups" do you mean alliances, like SkyTeam, oneworld, and Star? Because they're pretty formalized, although some more so than others.
The biggest advantage is that it makes it easier for the customer because several airlines' computers all work together.
For example, let's say I wanted to fly Norfolk, VA-Athens, Greece, where there's no nonstop service. Before, I'd be stuck flying the 1 or 2 airlines that served those cities (if such a carrier exits) with a stop(s) somewhere. I'd have to re-check my bags at those stops, wait in line to get a second or third boarding pass, and I may have had to buy two separate tickets.
Now, with alliances, I can fly on almost any airline. I can, for example, fly UAX from ORF-IAD
, then choose from one of 4 IAD
) (FRA / FRF / EDDF), Germany">FRA departures on UA
. I'll get my IAD
) (FRA / FRF / EDDF), Germany">FRA and AB
) (FRA / FRF / EDDF), Germany">FRA-ATH
boarding passes when I check in at ORF. My bags will be checked all the way through, and I can earn miles in either UA
programs. Other options include AA
, KLM & NW
For businesspeople who travel all over the world, being able to earn FF
miles in one program and being able to buy one ticket no matter where they want to go is a HUGE convenience. Plus, being an elite FF
in one program makes you an elite in all of them, you have access to everyone's lounges, and a host of other benefits.
About the only disadvantage is some would claim they're anti-competitive to the consumer. (DL
closing its AB
) (FRA / FRF / EDDF), Germany">FRA hub, for example, although others would argue). Some would also argue they're anti-competitive to airlines who, for whatever reason, don't want to join an alliance, because it's more difficult for them to get connecting traffic. Many of these airlines have marketing agreements with several major carriers, although they're not officially in the alliance (VS, for example).
Does this answer your question?
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