Why bad airlines joining a quality alliance can be a GREAT thing!

OK, it’s time for a post I’ve been meaning to make for a long time now, which I finally was pushed to make after a comment I read yesterday. I hear on an almost weekly basis, “Yeah, the Star Alliance is starting to suck, they’re letting EgyptAir, Air China, Shanghai Air, Air India, etc. into an otherwise good alliance.”

There’s no doubt in my mind that all those airlines aren’t particularly good overall, definitely not up to the standard of the previous Star carriers. At the same time, let’s think about this for a minute. When you’re flying within Egypt, what are you choices for airlines? Well, frankly I’m not too familiar with Egyptian aviation, but I’d say EgyptAir is about as good as they get. Similarly, while China has several carriers, none really stands out as a “gem.”

Let me put it in terms of an example. Last summer I had an award ticket in business class to China, back before Shanghai Air or Air China were in the Star Alliance. I booked the award into Shanghai and out of Beijing, since booking the intra-China segment on miles wasn’t possible as part of a Star award. So as a result I had to buy a revenue ticket for PVG-PEK and got treated like any other passenger. Had they been a part of the Star Alliance I could have flown PVG-PEK as part of the award ticket in business class. Similarly, even if I had purchased a revenue coach ticket I would have had priority check-in (I waited in line for nearly 30 minutes), lounge access, extra baggage allowance, priority seating, etc.

As I’ve recently posted about, I’ve been planning an award to Egypt for my mom and brother in first class. They want to fly into Cairo and out of Luxor. Since EgyptAir is in the Star Alliance I’m able to book them a ticket into Cairo and then out of Luxor as part of the same mileage award ticket. They’ll be saving the money they’d otherwise have to pay for a revenue ticket, not to mention will get business class seating and a bunch of other benefits.

Simply think of the additions of these airlines as more options for your travels, especially when you’re traveling in a region without any premium carriers. Air India is an exception here since there actually are quality airlines in India (like Jet and Kingfisher).

Be it the ability to include domestic segments within China and Egypt as part of an award or be it the extra benefits you receive on a revenue ticket, it’s a win-win.

Lastly, and maybe I’m a bit naive on this point, but I don’t get the feeling that Air China and Egypt Air frequent flyers present a huge threat to common Star award inventory.

Just my two cents….

Comments

  1. I think Air India is up and coming, and supposed to be pretty decent. I’ve heard they have good legroom in Y, especially in the lonnnnnnng flights to Bombay from JFK, and their Y class food is heralded as some of the best in the business. I’m not so sure about how their premium cabins handle, but, again, I think they are making fleetwide improvements.

    I certainly agree with you about the travel flexibility afforded to you with the Chines airlines, and that one can now book intra-China segments. I’m benefiting from Air China’s PVG – PEK service on my upcoming award ticket.

  2. To a certain extent I agree, but it’s your last paragraph where I don’t really agree. I feel that by allowing so-so airlines into the mix you are in the grand scheme of things “cheapening” the alliance as a whole. No real evidence of this but an SQ ticket (in my opinion) is far superior to well basically any other airline either for purchase or reward(most importantly for those of us who primarily fly say AC or UA), therefore doesn’t this make SQ make award tickets harder to get? Also if I were to know nothing about code shares and I booked and SQ ticket in Biz from X to X and the last or first segments put me on an airline that is sub-SQ standard doesn’t that devalue your(SQ’s that is) over all product?
    The more carriers the better as an AC flyer but let’s get something going to South America, ie a serious carrier there, a few more *A carriers to S.A. would be a good thing in my books.
    BTW do you have a layover in you CX YYZ-HKG in yyz this time?

  3. All good points Monty. At the same time, if you’re booked on an SQ ticket and fly basically any other Star carrier (possibly with the exception of NH and OZ), you’ll be disappointed.

    I agree something in South America would be nice. There’s a MASSIVE hole in the network with the complete lack of anything substantial in SA. At least CO will offer a bit more US-SA service, which is at least something. Still, we need a regionally based carrier.

    I’ll have about 14 hours in YYZ that day, so hopefully we can work something out!

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