oneSMALLworld

oneworld is the smallest of the three alliances (14 member carriers), but it is far from lacking. It provides customers exceptional coverage in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Oceania, but unfortunately it does lack in Africa. There are some excellent member airlines of oneworld too, such as Cathay Pacific and Qatar Airways and Japan Airlines, which all complement American Airlines’ massive domestic route network in the United States. Although there are lots of world-class products available, they can be a bit challenging to attain with miles/points.

Key Facts

  • Name: oneworld
  • Website: www.oneworld.com
  • Three Notable Members: American Airlines, British Airways, Japan Airlines
  • All Members: airberlin, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LATAM, Qatar Airways, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, SriLankan Airlines, Royal Jordanian, S7 Airlines
  • Loyalty Tiers: (1) oneworld Emerald, (2) oneworld Sapphire, (3) oneworld Ruby

Three Notable Features

  • Many aspirational airlines…: While oneworld is the smallest of the three alliances in terms of membership (there are only 14 carriers), there is a huge cluster of elite airlines in this consortium. In fact, 11 of them are known as “flag-bearers,” which means they represent the best that their home countries have to offer. Correspondingly, you can expect a number of higher flyer products available for your consumption during your travels. In every region of the world except for Africa, there is a world renowned oneworld carrier operating there, whether its British Airways in Europe, Cathay Pacific in Southeast Asia, the “new” American in the United States, or Qantas in Oceania. While all classes of service will be pretty good, albeit non-descript, the seats at the front of the planes consistently differentiate these airlines from their competitors in other alliances.

    British First Class
    First Class on British Airways
  • …That offer valuable perks: oneworld’s communal loyalty program is impressive by itself, as it is clear proof that the organization cares about the customers who show even the slightest bit of dedication to the member carriers. Even those who earn just the baseline tier (Ruby status), they are treated to some of the best lounges in the world, priority check-in and security, and preferred seats, regardless of which class of service the passenger is traveling in.
    Qatar Lounge
    The Al-Safwa First Class Lounge in Doha, Qatar. Available to anyone with oneworld Emerald.

    Sure, Star Alliance and SkyTeam all offer similar perks, but the degree to which oneworld can execute and deliver them is far superior to its competitors. Perhaps such is the result of an elite roster of members working together, but it should be obvious: higher flyers will be well taken care of when they devote their efforts and their dollars to traveling oneworld.

  • American Airlines: American Airlines is the biggest carrier in the United States in terms of passengers flown, fleet size, and daily departures. It operates hubs in 10 cities, and its loyalty program, AAdvantage, has long been considered by many to be among the best. With lucrative points earning rates and compelling perks and products from both the airline itself and the oneworld collective, it pays to be a higher flyer on American. That doesn’t even begin to take into consideration how convenient it is to fly with them; odds are that if you live in the United States, you live in close proximity to one of the hubs. If those benefits aren’t enough to convince you, American has fervently been refurbishing its aircraft over the past few years. These upgrades have elevated the quality of accommodations to a world-class standard.

    American A321T J
    Believe it or not, this classy new business class can be found on domestic American routes!

Three Notable Drawbacks

  • American Airlines: For all of these nice benefits that come with flying American, there are some rather unpleasant compromises to be made. While the new Boeing 777-300ERs and Airbus A321s are beautiful, state-of-the-art planes, the majority of the fleet has not been retrofitted yet. For every new plane that looks like this in first class…
    American 77W F
    “New” American First Class on board the Boeing 777-300ER

    There are many more that look like this…

    American 77W LEGACY F
    “Old” American First Class on board the Boeing 777-200

    Yikes.

    Add in the fact that American rarely releases saver award space on their own flights, it can be damn near impossible to redeem points for any of the seats/classes/planes pictured above. That saves the company money, as does installing economy class seats with 29 inches of pitch (!!!) and cutting back on catering and paying flight crews less, but it all translates to a much more unpleasant and frustrating experience for higher flyers. Be warned of American’s shortcomings!

  • Unfortunate redemption policies: It can be a challenge to redeem miles for American Airlines flights, and unfortunately, some other prominent oneworld members aren’t much easier. British Airways levies hefty fuel surcharges on all of its issued award tickets, and these can sometimes cost more than $1,000. That torpedoes the value of otherwise great redemption opportunities. Cathay Pacific and Qantas fly to fun destinations and can get you there in comfort and style, but too bad their awards cost so much, even in economy class. Japan Airlines has reasonable deals, but it lacks a significant transfer partner from the banking sector (and neither does American), so accruing points is difficult. With frustrating limitations like these, higher flying on oneworld carriers is limited at times.
  • Underwhelming route network: Want to fly oneworld on intra-African routes? Well, you’re pretty much out of luck if you do. Aside from a small subsidiary of British Airways that operates in the southern-most regions of Africa, there is no other oneworld carrier. If you need to go to a different part of the continent, then Star Alliance, SkyTeam, and other non-affiliated companies are your best bets to get there. The lack of an airline there is astounding, but some of the existing ones like airberlin and Malaysia Airlines and S7 don’t add much to oneworld’s network either. The first two are on the brinks of bankruptcy and are transitioning into regional low cost carriers, and that isn’t too practical for the purposes of higher flying. Meanwhile, S7 dominates the Siberian market, and good for them I guess, but how many people need access to Novyj Urengoj, Gorno-Altaysk, and their newest destination, Kulob?

    S7 route map
    S7’s route map. While someone has to offer service to Siberia, how useful is this for higher flyers, or even the average oneworld customer?

Three Special Opportunities

  • BA Avios for short domestic redemptions: Redeeming points for travel on domestic carriers in the United States can be quite costly, especially on very short routes under 500 miles. If there’s no saver award availability on American Airlines (which is usually the case), you could be looking at spending over 25,000 miles for a flight that spends under an hour in the air. That would be a colossal waste, so instead of using AAdvantage miles, you should opt for British Airways Avios. While AA charges flat rates for regional awards, BA determines prices based on distance flown, so a shorter flight costs less than a longer one. For flights under 650 miles, awards start at 4,000 Avios, which is a terrific value, especially when compared with alternatives.
  • AAdvantage miles for partner redemptions: While American doesn’t offer a lot of award space on its own flights, it’s a whole different story with its partners; it’s a lot easier to get on board other oneworld flights with AAdvantage miles. With an impressive roster of choices, which extends beyond the alliance to include Etihad, Alaskan, and several others, higher flyers can redeem points for some of the very best premium class experiences at fairly decent values. This includes on Japan Airlines…
    Jal F.jpg
    Redeem AAdvantage miles for Japan Airlines First Class…

    …or on Qantas…

    Qantas First
    …or for Qantas First…

    …Or maybe even on Etihad.

    Etihad Apartment
    …or for the legendary Etihad Apartment!

    So even though you might not be able to use your store of AAdvantage miles on American flights, you can rest assured knowing that you’ll be able to put them to good use!

  • Cheap premium airfares on Qatar Airlines: If you prefer saving your points, you can spend cash on Qatar Airlines instead. While Qatar operates one of the finest business class products in the world (it’s routinely rated 5 out of 5 stars by Skytrax), it also frequently offers heavily discounted tickets. Early in 2017, it was possible to fly from New York or Los Angeles to Singapore roundtrip, via Doha, for ~$1,800! Don’t get me wrong, that’s a lot of money to be had, but when considering that the same flight usually prices for above $8,000, you’d be getting more than 75% off the list price. Those figures don’t take in to account the tens of thousands of miles you would also earn.
    Qatar New Business
    Outright purchase cheap airfares for travel in Qatar’s business class

    Qatar Airlines is also in the process of retrofitting its long-haul fleet with a brand new business class product with fully enclosed suites! Flying that for such a relatively cheap price is quite the opportunity.


As is the case with the other alliances, oneworld has its share of strengths and weaknesses. While I prefer Star Alliance instead, that doesn’t mean that oneworld is definitely inferior. You probably have different experiences, perspectives, and values than I do; what matters to me may not matter to you and vice versa. The point of this guide is merely to highlight the features that makes oneworld unique, and help you better understand how it fits in to higher flying collectively.

Do you have any other tips/things to know about oneworld? Add them in the comments!