This is a guest post brought to you by Hans Mast. With the announcement of Eva Airways joining Star Alliance we thought a post highlighting the route dominance is in order.
He splits his time between working as a travel agent, IT work, selling electronics, and photography/film-making. He grew up in the family business, which is a travel agency. He travels a lot internationally as a 1K with United. He enjoys observing industry trends and deciphering the intricacies of airfare pricing. He specializes in mileage mall deals (which he’ll be speaking on at the Chicago Seminars). You can find him on MilePoint and FlyerTalk as HansGolden.
The recent announcement that EVA Airways (BR) would be joining Star Alliance (*A), coupled with the vehement threats of many United/Continental (UA) flyers on Flyer Talk that they were leaving for greener pastures, caused me to sit down and do some research on how the route networks of the three major alliance compared. I knew Star Alliance was the strongest of the three, but I didn’t realize how dramatically so until I began to quantify and visualize things.
First, let’s take a look at how the present route networks compare. I believe visual aids demonstrate this the most easily. Please click to get the larger version as the thumbnail is insufficient.
Let’s move from a visual aid to a text-based approach. I’ve summarized the various alliances by number of airlines flying a particular route/region. There are a number of carriers that have limited routes in a particular region, so I’ve split the numbers into “solid” and “barely” carriers (which is very subjective, I know; I welcome feedback). (I’ve included below CM and AV/TA which are almost *A members, including having already implemented reciprocal agreements. I flew CM two days ago and they even have Star Alliance logos on their planes and lounges. For the record, I also flew TA about a week ago, but didn’t notice branding either way.)
TPAC *A carriers: 5+2: UA, AC, NH, OZ, SQ (barely: TG-1, CA-4)
TPAC OW carriers: 4+0: AA, JL, CX, QF
TPAC ST carriers: 3+2: DL, CI, KE (barely: MU-3, CZ-2)
TATL *A carriers: 12: UA, AC, LH, LX, OS, SA, ET, LO, MS, TK, SK, TP, US
TATL OW carriers: 5: AA, BA, IB, AB, AY
TATL ST carriers: 5: DL, KL, AF, SU, UX
Europe *A: 11: LH, LX, OS, LO, SK, A3, JP, SN, KF, TP, BD
Europe OW: 4: BA, IB, AB, AY
Europe ST: 4: KL, AF, SU, UX
Middle East *A: 2+0: MS, TK
Middle East OW: 1+1 RJ (EY kinda with AA)
Middle East ST: 0+1: N/A (SV coming soon)
Africa *A: 3+0: SA, ET, MS
Africa OW: 0+1: BA (Comair subsidiary, very limited routes)
Africa ST: 1+0: KQ
Australia/NZ *A: 1+0: NZ
Australia/NZ OW: 1+0: QF
Australia/NZ ST: 0+1: none (VA kinda with DL)
Asia *A: 5: NH, OZ, SQ, TG, CA
Asia OW: 2: JL, CX
Asia ST: 4: CI, KE, MU, CZ
Latin America *A: 3: CM, TA/AV, JJ
Latin America OW: 1: LA (however, AA has best NA-LA network plus good chance OW will get JJ/LA combo)
Latin America ST: 1: AM
SkyTeam (ST) comes closer to *A’s route density than OneWorld (OW) does, but to accomplish this density, they’ve lowered the bar and admitted some truly questionable carriers. The most notorious of the pack is Aeroflot. However, the reputations of Aeromexico, Air Europa, Czech Airlines, and Vietnam Airlines are not very polished either. Korean Air and Kenya Airways stand apart as very high quality members, perhaps even more so than cornerstone carriers Delta, KLM, and Air France. For the US-based frequent traveler, Delta’s poor FFP is an additional strike against the alliance.
OneWorld (OW) has a very high quality group of carriers including American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, LAN, and Qantas. However, their route map is quite small compared to the other alliances. They’ve made a mis-step recently by inviting Kingfisher Airlines (India) to join just moments before it collapsed. Kingfisher is/was a high quality airline (I flew them in January), but was financially unsustainable because it was a luxury carrier operating at LCC prices. Also, two existing OW airlines (Malev and Mexicana) recently ceased operations due to financial problems. Hopefully OW will continue to expand, but do so in a quality-focused way–not letting growth desperation poison their alliance. They have a compelling value proposition with their high quality carriers that do fly most of the important routes.
Finally, Star Alliance has not only route density, but also a stable of very nice carriers: Air Canada, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana, Lufthansa, Singapore, South African, Swiss, Thai, Turkish, and United all have quite good reputations for service and quality. (I would add carriers like Austrian, Brussels, Ethiopian, LOT, SAS, and US Air that have solid reputations along the lines of Delta/KLM.) From my perspective, *A combines not only route density, but also high quality.
To wrap up, let’s take a look at the route maps of three airlines that are just about to join (CM and TA/AV) and one (BR – EVA Airways) that was just announced as a future member (read: will join in 1-3 years). Star Alliance is continuing its aggressive expansion by coralling further, high quality airlines.