Alliance Wars: The post US Airways – American Airlines world – Part II

In Part I of this post I looked at the impact of the two significant event in the OneWorld Alliance, namely:

  • Qatar joining OneWorld
  • US Airways and American Airline deciding to merge

This has made me re-examine my loyalty to Star Alliance. In this post I will look at, or really just think aloud of the pro and cons of Star Alliance vs. OneWorld – for me. You will need to take this argument and apply it to your needs – your location and your travel patterns. Lets take a look.

International Routes:

The number one consideration for me is International routes. I fly internationally a lot. This year I flew to 10 countries over the whole year – primarily in Europe and Asia. For this, routing becomes very important. Routing in turn, is determined by hub location. I live in the Washington, DC area. Hence, my primary airport is Washington Dulles (IAD). The following airlines from the two Alliances fly to IAD:

Star Alliance:

  • United (Hub)
  • US Airways (Merging with American Airlines)
  • Lufthansa
  • Austrian
  • South African
  • ANA
  • Air Canada
  • Copa
  • Avianca
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • SAS
  • Turkish Airlines
  • TAM Airlines (defecting to OneWorld)


  • American Airlines
  • US Airways (as American Airlines, post merger)
  • British Airways
  • Iberia
  • Qatar
  • TAM (Defecting from Star Alliance)

Just to be fair and balanced, lets look at SkyTeam too:

  • Delta
  • Air France
  • KLM
  • Saudia
  • Aeroflot
  • AeroMexico
  • Korean Air

The impact of Hubs:

What a hub does is determine possible routes. Lets take an example with two cities – one which is not a hub for any alliance (Dubai) and another which has no direct flight by any airline to the US (Singapore). All major airlines of the world fly to both these cities.

Dubai (DXB):

If I want to fly to Dubai from Washington Dulles, I have one direct fly by an alliance airline – United has a non-stop and one by a non-alliance airline – Emirates. So, if I chose to fly OneWorld, I will need to go thru a hub, making it a one-stop route for any other alliance.

Singapore (SIN):

With Singapore Airlines ending its non-stop flights to Newark (EWR) and Los Angeles (LAX), no airline has a non-stop between the US and Singapore, making it an even playing field – there has to be a stop on the way. This opens up interesting comparisons.

Using either Alliance, I can fly to Singapore thru Europe – Lufthansa, Austrian or Turkish (if you consider Turkey to be in Europe) for Star Alliance or British Airways for OneWorld. Or thru Asia – United and ANA for Star Alliance and American for One World. Alternate routes are thru Africa with South Africa – Star Alliance (way too long), or the new interesting one – thru the Middle East with Qatar (OneWorld)!

All these routes are 1-stop, except for the American route which will take me thru a domestic AA hub then to Asia and then on to Singapore. The Qatar route thru Doha is new and exciting. Given it is Qatar, it is much better service than any of the other airlines that fly out of IAD!

I have made similar analysis to cities in India. All routes from IAD are 1-stop. Qatar adds an alternate route, which actually offers destinations in India that are many more than any other airline in any alliance.

Domestic Routes:

From a domestic routing perspective, if I stick to IAD as my start point, ignoring DCA (Washington National), United and hence Star Alliance wins hands down. For a destination other than American and US Airways’ hubs, for a flight to any other city in the US, I will need to make a 1-stop trip, no matter what, if I switch to OneWorld.

The dilemma:

Given my travel patterns, what is really attracting me to consider One World is Qatar. It offers new alternate routings to cities in Asia and India that Star Alliance does not have. One World limited my trips to Europe, as I would have to go thru London (LHR), taking British, to any other city in Europe. Or fly thru a American Airlines hub. So, 1-stop either ways. To Asia, I would say they both have equally bad non-stop coverage – United flies non-stop to Tokyo and Beijing (PEK) and ANA to Tokyo (NRT). For all other cities in Asia, it is 1-stop anyways.

Domestically, United hence, has a massive advantage.

The Future:

The future is of course, unknown. There is a possibility that an India based airline may finally join an alliance. You one that is viable, not Kingfisher. I would love to see Jet Airways, but given that Etihad just bought a major stake, it may be a package deal – Jet + Etihad joining Star Alliance. They will not join OneWorld as Qatar is already there. If that happens, or for that matter any Middle East or India based airline joins Star Alliance, it will end the dilemma for me. Even if it is Air India… maybe…

So, what am I planning to do? Not sure. I will decide once I have a better idea of my travel patterns for next year. This year it was mostly Asia and some Europe. If Asia remains predominant, I may take the plunge and start flying Qatar.

What do you suggest? Should I switch to OneWorld, dumping Star Alliance?

I have until the end of the year to decide. In the meanwhile, I am maximizing the miles I can collect using credit cards for:


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  1. Interesting analysis. Is DCA not an alternative option for you? If you can fly out of there for your domestic flights using US Airways, then OneWorld becomes a viable option for you. If you do a lot of travel to Asia, then flying on Qatar is great (so choose OneWorld). If you do a lot of flying to Europe, then Star wins by default when you can fly amazing carriers like Lufthansa, Austrian, etc.

    So my advice is choose the alliance based on where your future flying is going to be focused; Europe or Asia?

  2. You should also look at the company as a whole and the direction it is headed. I’m convinced that AA post merger will be better run than United so I’d go for onewold. Plus, I think the leadership at United is shortsighted and will harm the customers in the long run for short term gains. The other thing you need to do is consider reward tickets, which will be hard to do intelligently until the new AA chart comes out.

  3. neither IB nor JJ fly to IAD. You’re overstating the reach of oneworld at IAD. They only long-haul routes they have are LHR and DOH.

    SkyTeam has far more presence at IAD than oneworld.

    Now, if US+AA decides to launch long-haul routes out of IAD, that might change the game a bit. But even if they do, I won’t expect anything more than LHR/MAD/GRU.

  4. I have gold status in star alliance and emerald in oneworld and I´ve done my share of travel on both alliances.
    As star does not have a really top tier status, the service I find in oneworld is much better than the one I find at star.
    Go for oneworld

  5. My question involves AAdvantage Award tickets.

    I thought AA only allowed booking award ticket from the US to trans-pacific. I am a correct? If so, Qatar cannot be used from US to Asia for AA award tickets. If not, I am real happy as I have 1M AA miles and like to go to Asia, and Qatar is a real nice airline. Help me out. Thanks.

    “The dilemma:

    Given my travel patterns, what is really attracting me to consider One World is Qatar. It offers new alternate routings to cities in Asia and India that Star Alliance does not have.”

  6. whynotgo: You’ll have to soend more miles, but you can take any routing you want. I have done ORD-HKG and then HKG-India when seats were not available on usual transatlantic routes.

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