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:
- Malaysia Airlines
- Cathay Pacific Airlines
- Qatar Airlines
From Star Alliance:
- 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
- British Airways
- Japan Airlines
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.
- Air Berlin
- American Airlines
- S7 Siberia Airlines
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.
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?