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February 21, 2024
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Is there really much of a difference between the big three airline alliances?  We took a look at the big three airline alliances in light of the latest airline rankings from Skytrax.

The analysis offers and intriguing insight, shown in the table below.  When we add up the rankings for each alliance partner and average them, the result is exactly the same at 5.8/10. Of course, even though on a global basis the alliances average out the same, there are subtle differences. The highlighted number is the simple (unweighted) average for each alliance.


  • SkyTeam has three members rating 8 out of 10. Star Alliance has two and oneworld has none.  One would think then by selecting the top airlines a flight experience is likely to be the most pleasant.
  • We suggest that any airline rating below 5/10 is below par, and a poor travel experience is to be expected.
  • The US carriers rate way below their peers. Delta rates best at a five – meaning it is still below average by comparison with global and alliance standards. American and United rated a three at the bottom of their respective alliances.
  • The best ratings across the board come from Asian airlines or those based in the Middle East. (MEA is a surprise but is based only on 74 reviews, so is not a statically safe bet. Same thing for Adria with 64 reviews and Tarom with 88.)

Even as some names are perhaps rated higher than they deserve due to small sample sizes, it is perhaps more surprising that some big names rate lower than one would expect.  For example perennial traveler favorites like Cathay and Singapore are rated as Five Star airlines at Skytrax but in terms of the ratings table they are not ranked at the top.  Of the “certified” five star airlines in the Skytrax rankings, all but Qatar are Asian.

Interestingly, when it comes to safety, some of the airlines ranked highly appear somewhat questionable when examined historically.  Garuda Indonesian, a Sky Team member, was banned from Europe from 2007-2009, but has come a long way since, with new aircraft and a new attitude, and now meets international standards.  Asiana, another highly rated carrier, had the unfortunate crash in San Francisco a couple of years ago due to poor crew coordination and a lack of fundamental flying skills. While each is highly rated in terms of cabin service, what are their improvements in the cockpit and maintenance hangar?

Fundamentally, the alliances enable travelers to go virtually anywhere in the world seamlessly, with code-sharing and perks based on frequent flyer status recognized across a system.  While most business travelers choose flights based on timing and non-stop service whenever possible, increasingly business travelers will go out of their way and make a connection to utilize their preferred alliance and earn bonus or tier mileage.  But based on the overall averages, it appears that everything is pretty much the same, which is what you would expect in a commodity business.

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