Should I defect from OneWorld?

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)

OW AMS

OneWorld carrier destinations grabbed from OneWorld's website

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:

  1. After a 12 hour longhaul to Hong Kong, I'm not so willing to do another 4 hour flight
  2. 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.

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Comments

  1. I wouldn’t say its oneworld’s downfall not to have any transatlantic flights, but rather, AA’s downfall. American Airlines is the only oneworld’s airline that could have a transatlantic nonstop flight to North America given it wouldn’t make sense for Iberia or British Airways or Finnair.

    • Agreed with you on that front. I wonder if the possible US merger will help things along as there’s an AMS-PHL route, but even still Philadelphia isn’t the greatest Oneworld hub!

  2. It costs a lot of time (in terms of unneeded connections) to fly a carrier other than the dominant hub carrier.

    While few gravitate to ST, the hoops you have to go through to connect on OW probably aren’t worth it.

  3. I am NL-based as well and I think Star Alliance would be indeed a better choice. Although Star Alliance long-houl connections are limited as well, it is also possible to depart from DUS instead of AMS.

    I am a Skyteam Elite-plus as well and the only think I like is to have status. For mileage redemption there is one area where Flying Blue is generous: south-east Asia to South-east Asia connections.
    For example TPE to CGK for only 10,000 miles + around €25 tax, which is quite a distance and 25,000 miles + abt €25 tax business. (this used to be 20,000 miles though).
    I booked a trip BKK-TPE-MNL last year on CI in business with a 22-hour stop in TPE (which felt like stopover) for only 20,000 miles + little tax amount.

  4. Sounds like your decision ha already been made based on your post. I’m sure KLM would offer a status match, and within 3 months, you can lock in Platinum/SkyTeam Elite Plus for the next year. Even though you don’t fly much, you may want to book some longer haul flights to hit their challenge level.

    KLM is also in the middle of retrofitting all of their business class cabins, and even though their new product isn’t great, it’s better than having to fly BA to the USA and get slammed with high fees and a forced stop in the UK/Ireland.

  5. From a purely redemption opportunity/availability perspective I would go with Star Alliance. One World, I’m in the U.S., has too few available transatlantic J class availability. As a Aadvantage member for 28 years I hate that AA directs many transatlantic award redemption routings onto BA flights with their outrageous fuel surcharge. Positives with AA/One World is the off season 40K economy awards and, if you’re lucky enough to grab one, seats on long-haul Finnair business. I’ve mostly stuck with Star Alliance for the past 13 years.

  6. Star really doesnt offer anything practical in amsterdam, But u know that allready. If you are looking for great facilities then skyteam is your choice. If you are looking for better airline products and redemption rates then it’s star … I am too struggeling a lot and I need to make my mind up as I need to book my first 2014 flights

  7. If it’s all about award redemptions, stick with OW. I joined AAdvantage in January, 1983 and wound up with 938,000 total miles accrued, but it was never the most convenient carrier (or alliance) from where I lived. A job relocation to Atlanta made Delta the default carrier because of the convenience when I had to travel nationally, including Alaska and Hawaii. Despite well over 1mil accrued, I wished I’d put up with a little inconvenience. Sure, I got to/from LHR in February, 2012 with Skyteam from ATL via MIA-LHR-AMS-ATL with two Biz seats, but came up empty on other redemption attempts to DUB and another to HKG despite the pay-for-award sites, very flexible dates and any Skyteam partner. Where available the miles required were, at minimum, twice the saver award, which is now increasing substantially. The AAdvantage awards this past Spring for three to HKG on CX (great seats) were a snap with AAdvantage. A possible trip for a Med cruise next Spring also is wide open. But, I’ve got only a couple hundred AA miles left and the 600K Skymiles are, so far, proving worthless. Consider, too, without status or lots of flying, building a stockpile of Star Alliance miles will take a lot of time and creativity.

  8. All compelling arguments…

    My current strategy is to get enough to BA Silver so I can activate 100% Avios on my AMS-LON routes. Including minimum sector awards, I can pretty much trigger an award bucket ticket on one return journey. That’s already a big plus for me!

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