Pros and Cons of Star Alliance vs oneworld


Now that US Airways has officially announced their departure from Star Alliance (March 30, 2014) many people who were loyal to US Airways for years are wondering what the pros and cons are of Star Alliance vs oneworld.  I too wondered the same. Should I stick with US Airways, which means a new alliance or switch to a Star Alliance member airline like United, Air Canada or one of the 26 other member airlines.

Here’s a look at some of the pros and cons:

If you review the SKYTRAX Airline Ratings you’ll find that airlines receiving a 5 star rating are:

From oneworld:

  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Cathay Pacific Airlines
  • Qatar Airlines

From Star Alliance:

  • ANA
  • Asiana Airlines
  • Singapore Airlines

A key factor behind SKYTRAX’s 5-Star Airline Rating is the airline’s ability to deliver a consistent and high quality Product and Service. Star Ratings are not connected to customer ratings.  In terms of 5-star ratings, the alliances are pretty even.

SKYTRAX’s 4-Star Airline rating signifies airlines providing a good standard of Product across all travel categories – combining with a good standard of Staff Service delivery across the Onboard and Airport environments

From oneworld:

  • British Airways
  • Finnair
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Iberia

From Star Alliance :

  • Air Canada
  • Air New Zealand
  • Eva Airlines
  • Lufthansa/ Swiss
  • Thai Airways
  • Turkish Airlines

Again, the alliances are pretty even among 4-star airlines. And again, the ratings are not tied to customer satisfaction but rather to data.

SKYTRAX’s 3-Star Airline rating signifies a “satisfactory” standard of core Product across most travel categories – but reflects poor or less consistent standards of Staff Service and/or Product quality in selected Onboard or Airport features. While there are few 5-star Airlines, I would tend to look more at the number of good and satisfactory airlines in an alliance – assuming I prefer to fly higher rated airlines rather than the lower rated ones.

From oneworld:

  • Air Berlin
  • American Airlines
  • Iberia
  • S7 Siberia Airlines
  • LAN

From Star Alliance:

  • Aegean Airlines
  • Avianca Airlines
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Copa Airlines
  • Egypt Air
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • LOT Polish
  •  SAS Scandinavian
  • Shenzhen Airlines
  • TAP Portugal
  • United Airlines
  • US Airways (part of Star Alliance until March 30)

Star Alliance has many more airlines than oneworld does, but the number of 3-star airlines is disproportionate percentage wise.  It’s no surprise that the three major U.S. airlines are ranked as 3-star so when making your decision, the domestic choices are tied in the “satisfactory” category.

Do these ratings really matter? The answer probably is, it depends. It depends on what is important to you – does the rating system evaluate things that are important to you? If not, then the ratings may not influence your decisions.  However, one thing is for sure, data alone is not a good way to make a decision. There are a lot of other factors that you should consider. Here are a few:

Airline Lounge Access:

Pros: oneworld’s top tier members are allowed access to First Class Lounges when traveling internationally.

Con: It’s probably fair to say that the best airline first class lounges are primarily Star Alliance affiliated (Lufthansa, Singapore, and Thai are legendary)

Con: Star Alliance Silver members (one of two Star Alliance levels) don’t get any lounge access privileges while oneworld Sapphire members (the middle of three levels) do receive access to business class lounges.


In my opinion, this area is a tie: oneworld has 981 destinations to Star Alliances’ 1,328 destinations – in the scheme of things, it’s not a huge difference.  United serves 385 cities and American will serve around 400.  

I think the thing to evaluate is who provides service to your area, how many flights are available from your home airport to the destinations you want to travel to, what hubs do you want to travel through most often and who offers the most competitive pricing in your area.

As far as award redemption, you should consider where you’ll redeem miles to most often and which alliance provides the most service and the best value.

Award Redemption:

Pro: US Airways has some amazing business class and first class fares to Northern Asia and Southeast Asia. Those will likely change when the award programs merge – but no date has been announced for that.  You can only book via Star Alliance partners until March 30, 14 – but I wouldn’t wait!

Pro: British Airways has great award redemption in the US because is uses a distance based award system.  If you travel mainly domestically, these awards are typically better value than US Air or United awards.

Con: There are a lot of unknowns still – so if you have to decide quickly, you’ll have speculate somewhat based on all the commentary out there.

What pros and cons are you weighing?

7 Comments on "Pros and Cons of Star Alliance vs oneworld"

  1. Booking award business class on AA metal to Europe is tough. Most of the flights available are on BA metal which charges a high fuel surcharge. That is a big downside as USAir leaves Star. There are too few carriers/flights in OW going to/from Europe/US as compared to Star Alliance. Star Alliance is a far better program.

  2. My biggest con to oneworld is LHR.

  3. I consider the First Class Cathay lounges in Hong Kong and Qantas First lounges in both Melbourne and Sydney to be excellent, and far better than Singapore’s home base lounges, so I don’t agree it is fair to say Star is superior.

  4. The only real difference is the lack of lounge access for mid tier Star Alliance cardholders, except on the airline which issues your card. For a mid tier flyer, this is a real, key issue.

  5. I travel to Denmark and Italy and have been very pleased with service provided by US Airways and their Star Partners (SAS and LH) and will really miss the service US Air have provided to their European Hub (Frankfurt).
    Having US Air teaming up and most likely use BA and the UK as a hub will be a complete disaster. The reason for my strong opinion is based on experience. A few years ago, my family and I was going to Denmark for Christmas and was flying with BA (PHL/LHR/CPH). BA PHL accepted our tickets but could not book our luggage through to CPH. I found that strange, but did not think more about it. That was until we got to London – the airport was closed due to fog (which happens quite often – but this time the fog was there for 5 days and there was no flights leaving and inbound flights was still arriving (even before they actually departed from their respective origins). The pure masses of people was a complete disaster and BA and the airport authorities in LHR was completely out of touch with reality. We were sent outside the airport to get in line to enter the lines together with the other +40.000 stranded travelers for “connecting flights”. In our case, we arrived in LHR on Dec 22 and was told we could go standby to CPH (our final destination) on Dec 27th. The ironic (sad) part was that our return ticket from CPH to PHL was Dec 28th. but that did not concern the BA staff. I have since that experience, never flown via the Island (UK) because you are literally stuck on an island in the North Sea. Had BA PHL told us before our departure from PHL that the LHR airport was closed – we would have stayed at home and celebrated Christmas in our own surroundings. Oh, I forgot to mention that the hotel we ended up staying at was an additional cost of $1400 and that was not reimbursed nor discounted by anyone because the weather was to blame.
    Trying to get a flight from PHL to JFK for a AA flight will most likely result in missed flights because of the often departure delays when you are trying to depart (runway delays).
    Happy and safe travels to everyone.


  6. I would say Star Alliance is going down because they are getting stingy for point collection and use. But you have access to lounges sooner with SA (compare point requirements vs mileage).

  7. SA Gold does get complimentary lounge access when flying internationally – even when it is only between US and Canada.

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