Following the formation of Star Alliance in 1997, American Airlines, British Airways, Canadian Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Qantas joined together to launch OneWorld in 1999. Later that year Finnair and Iberia joined the club. In 2000 LanChile and Aer Lingus came aboard while a year later Canadian Airlines merged with Star Alliance member, Air Canada so left OneWorld. In 2003 Swiss International Air Lines’ application for membership was approved but in 2004 they withdrew and joined Star Alliance following a takeover by Lufthansa. In 2007 Aer Lingus withdrew but was replaced by Royal Jordanian, Japan Airlines and Hungary’s Malev. When OneWorld celebrated its 10th birthday it had 10 members. Later in 2009 Mexicana joined OneWorld, but a year later went bankrupt. Mexicana’s exit from the club occurred at the same time as Russia’s S7 Airlines admission. During 2012 Air Berlin, Kingfisher Airlines and Malaysia Airlines were admitted bringing the alliance’s membership up to 14 plus numerous affiliate airlines. The grouping has expanded tremendously, especially since 2007 but has slipped into the number three position behind Star Alliance and SkyTeam as these alliances have grown even faster. All the airline alliances have similar aims; coordination of services, bulk buying from suppliers for discounts, integration of ticketing services and passenger sharing. OneWorld has its head office in New York and its motto is ‘OneWorld revolves around you.’ While OneWorld likes to imagine there is a similar level of service amongst its members the reality can be quite different.
In terms of on-board service and flight experience OneWorld varies greatly. There is no member airline that provides spectacular service while there are several affiliate airlines who do provide amongst the lowest level of service available in the sky. The best on-board service to be found on any OneWorld airline is likely to be Royal Jordanian, while bottom place is reasonable crowded with American Airlines, S7 and Jetstar all competing for the wooden spoon. British Airways and Iberia also provide spectacularly dull flying experiences.
EThe entire world is covered by OneWorld however there are some regions of the planet where gaps exist. Brazil and China are two notable country’s where OneWorld do not have a strong presence. OneWorld is attempted to recruit Brazil’s TAM while China looks like remaining a OneWorld no-go zone as no major Chinese airline is interested in joining the club. OneWorld does seem to be stronger in the English speaking world than in other countries.
OneWorld carriers are all pretty much mid priced. Air Berlin has a reputation for being a discounter while others like Qantas and Cathay Pacific have a reputation for being pricey however all are largely in the middle. Buying round-the-world airfares, popular with back packers are great value and practically every airline offers them.
Catering varies widely with individual carriers, but will be provided free of charge on almost all airlines. American Airlines passengers on flights less than 5 hours duration will need to open their wallets to dine, while British Airways have reduced meal sizes to little more than snacks sizes. Royal Jordanian has the best catering in all classes within OneWorld.
In-flight entertainment varies with the airline and the aircraft type. Air Berlin will have rudimentary entertainment while others like JAL will have an older style, perhaps even the old single screen at the front. Most airlines however will have seat face IFE units on all long distance international flights, free of charge.
Check-in services and other ground service provided by member airlines varies greatly from so-so to sometimes terrible. All OneWorld carriers should take care of their passengers if things go wrong so customers shouldn't find themselves hunting for invisible staff they way they might if travelling on a budget carrier. Baggage services vary with the country but as all luggage will be interlined between carriers, connections theoretically should be a breeze.
AAs with everything else about OneWorld, there is great variety in member premium services. At the bottom of the ladder is Air Berlin’s modest, but cheap, Business Class, while at the upper end of the scale is perhaps Cathay Pacific’s award winning service. No OneWorld airline provides a genuinely excellent premium product in the same league as Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways or Singapore Airlines. Maybe, just maybe Kingfisher Airlines will come close to that and push Cathy Pacific off top notch. Very few of OneWorld’s lounges have a WOW factor.
Most OneWorld carriers provide a similar experience in Economy Class however some members codeshare with inferior airlines so a booking on one airline can actually result in a flight on a different carrier that provides a different experience. For example Qantas codeshares on its Jetstar subsidiary so passengers may think they are flying Qantas but when they arrive at the airport they discover they are flying an airline that has been described as Australia’s worst airline. While Qantas continue to provide meals, drinks and amenities, the Qantas passengers on-board a Jetstar flight will be required to purchase anything to eat or will need to buy a blanket. It pays to check carefully exactly what service the airline will actually be providing.
Amongst OneWorld airlines are some very good frequent flyer schemes and some terrible ones. Americans do love joining loyalty schemes so it is not surprising that American Airlines has perhaps the best example in OneWorld. AAdvantage is partnered to hundreds of associated companies and services and a membership can genuinely prove useful globally. At the other end of the scale Malev’s Duna Club is of so little value it is even hard to imagine why a Hungarian businessman would join.
There is a saying ‘The fastest way for a billionaire to become a millionaire is to invest in airlines’. Very few airlines make an acceptable return on their investment so many resort to the most despicable lengths to produce a profit. OneWorld corporate members include some of the least moral in the industry. Many CEO’s and their management teams will do almost anything they can if they think they can get away with it. In 2011 there was no worse run airline than OneWorld’s Qantas. While some airlines break the law in an attempt to make a profit, others don’t not because its wrong, but because the fear getting caught. Scandals, corruption, nepotism, bribery and pathological lying plague the industry with few exceptions.
OneWorld, together with the other airline alliances, do have a vested interest to ensure that the reputation of the club is maintained by ensuring aircraft are maintained at least to the manufacturers specifications. While some member airlines do fly old aircraft, none are flying rust buckets.
Little different to any other airline alliance. Frequent travelers may benefit by having a frequent flyer card from at least one member airline and the choice is determined by the region you live in. Passengers are unlikely to notice any real continuity between the member airlines, their lounges, service or anything else really. When booking a ticket there is very little reason why OneWorld membership should play any role in helping your decide who to fly with. OneWorld was set up to save money for the airlines, not for the passenger.
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