Whilst trying to book my latest long-haul trip I've hit a stumbling block which has really questioned my rationality. Should I fly OneWorld or not? After nearly 10 years of choosing OneWorld by default, things are starting to look a lot less promising. My new home airport is Amsterdam where it is dominated by Skyteam carriers, especially the national carrier KLM and Delta.
Oneworld's representation is limited to five airlines each only serving one city non-stop:
British Airways — London, flying to Heathrow (LHR), Gatwick (LGW) and City (LCY) Airports
Cathay Pacific — Hong Kong (HKG)
Finnair — Helsinki (HEL)
Malaysia Airlines — Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
Royal Jordanian — Amman (AMM)
The ‘problem' is that I don't actually fly enough mileage to be ‘loyal' to any frequent flier programme, despite holding OneWorld Sapphire, Star Alliance Gold and Skyteam Elite Plus. My annual air travel is somewhere around 20 000 miles. I like to have a decent stash of Avios points for the shorthaul flights to/from London or within the Americas. If I were a little younger or travelling solo I wouldn't mind doing the occasional mileage run, transferring 10 times each way if it meant getting the cheapest air fare. But on this latest trip I'm trying to book, to get anything reasonable, say under €650 economy class, I have to make at least 3 transfers in each direction if I were to stick with OneWorld.
In general if you want to head west then your only options are to transfer in London, or Helsinki. This is Oneworld's biggest downfall in Amsterdam. No transatlantic flights. I'm generally not a fan of connecting in European airports because they typically impose large taxes or service fees. London Heathrow and City are the notorious worst-offenders of high airport fees which make them unattractive, with one notable exception. If you can catch the first flight from AMS to LCY at around 7 in the morning you can connect onto to British Airways' flagship all-business class flights to New York operated in specially adapted A318 planes. This offer a United States pre-clearance stop in Shannon so you will arrive in New York's JFK airport like a domestic passenger rather than slumming it out in the immigrations queues. (Though don't forget you might be eligible for Global Entry)
Looking towards London Gatwick airport can offer onwards connections to pretty much every Carribean island on British Airways, as well as Tampa and Orlando where you can connect onto American Airlines. But whether you can be bothered to do at least two connections is for you to consider!
But the problem extends to other continents too.
Travelling to Africa your options are even more limited here. You can only transfer at Heathrow or Gatwick to connect onto BA, but there's a decent selection of cities from when BMI was taken over by British Airways. You have the following selection:
- Abuja, Nigeria
- Accra, Ghana
- Agadir, Morocco
- Algiers, Algeria
- Cairo, Egypt
- Cape Town, South Africa
- Entebbe, Uganda
- Freetown, Sierra Leone
- Johannesburg, South Africa
- Lagos, Nigeria
- Marrakech, Morocco
- Mauritius, Mauritius
- Monrovia, Liberia
- Nairobi, Kenya
- Tripoli, Libya
- Tunis, Tunisia
Going towards the Middle East, Royal Jordanian's flagship Queen Alia International Airport in Amman offers perhaps the best connections going in the right direction. (Unlike flying to HEL to go to America!). However, if you're thinking of using your air miles, their taxes and fuel surcharges can be ludicrously high — I think I had to pay around £80 for Amman to Cairo in fuel surcharge alone in September last year!
Despite this, they remain pretty well connected to their neighbouring countries…perhaps you've always dreamed of a beautifully sandy and sunny destination like Iraq! Just too bad member-elect Qatar Airways doesn't fly non-stop to Amsterdam either…
Flying towards Asia/Asia-Pacific, Hong Kong is one of Asia's largest hub airports, with onward connections with Cathay Pacific to nearly every major city in every continent. Two gripes I have with them though:
- After a 12 hour longhaul to Hong Kong, I'm not so willing to do another 4 hour flight
- Cathay Pacific's deep-discount economy class fares don't offer full mileage to most OneWorld frequent flier programmes. Big no-no.
So I'm now left scratching my head as to whether to abandon OneWorld altogether and just go with Star Alliance? I really don't want to jump onto Skyteam, though I'm still interested to hear from people who still do fly them.
So what do you think folks? I'd be delighted to hear from you whatever alliance or airlines you fly, and how you go about your points strategy.