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If you are going to be traveling frequently, whether for work or for pleasure, it would make sense to choose an airline to align with. By selecting an airline to always fly with, you will be able to maximize the amount of airline miles that you get, and be able to use those miles for free flights sooner. Selecting a single airline to always fly with will put you closer towards an airline status. This will give you benefits such as early boarding, the possibility of getting upgraded more frequently, and bonus miles. What do you need to consider when choosing an airline alliance?
Should I search for “Which airline alliance has the best benefits?”
You should not start your airline alliance search on the benefits. You may want to work towards the Companion Pass on Southwest Airlines, but if all of your trips take you out of the United States, you will never fly enough to reach the airline status that you will need. The airline that you choose to be a frequent flyer on should first be based on your closest airport, then based on your flying patterns.
First, look at where you’re flying from.
Look first at the airport that you will be flying out of the most often, and see which airlines frequently use that airport. One of the biggest aspects you will want out of your airline alliance is flexibility, so you will want an airline brand that has as many flights out of your airport as possible. If you are fortunate enough to live near a hub airport, an airport where an airline sends large amounts of flights, it may make sense to go with one of those airlines.
Then, look at where you’re flying to.
Your next consideration should be where you are flying to. If you do not live near a hub airport but know that you will fly to one frequently, look at those airline alliances available. Even if you are unsure where you will be working, does your family live near a hub that you’d like to travel to more often?
Do not only look at where you will be flying to for work – look at where you will want to fly for personal travel, when you are redeeming your hard earned airline miles. For example, American Airlines is part of the one world alliance, which means you can travel with American Airlines miles on British Airways, Japan Airlines, Qantas, and more. Check the alliance program and partner airlines within your airline options, and see where your miles can take you.
Once you have assessed where you will be frequently flying, narrowing down an airline alliance is much simpler. You should be left with only a few airline options at this point. Now, I would consider the costs of the flights and loyalty program perks.
What else should you consider when looking at airline alliances?
For me personally, I flew Southwest Airlines the first two years that I was a consultant. I find that Southwest usually has the best prices for personal travel, and I liked the flexibility of being able to cancel flights and being able to put the costs towards future travel. I found that Southwest offered a lot of great perks for personal travel. If you can fly frequently enough to get the Companion Pass, which lets another traveler fly with you for free, then you can really take advantage of what Southwest has to offer.
As I matured in my career, I later switched to American Airlines. American Airlines offered the flexibility of flights basically everywhere – I was traveling all over the United States, and my family is also based in Dallas which is an American hub. My firm also offered the perk of giving me an airline lounge subscription, and Southwest unfortunately does not have airline lounges.
Though, switching airline alliances is not recommended. You will have to start over when working towards your status, and you will have to start over in building up your miles. The sooner that you can select an airline alliance, the better!
Look at what your coworkers are doing for advice.
As a traveling consultant based in the United States, the majority of my peers will travel on American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, or Southwest Airlines. I would not recommend a smaller airline, or you will be limited on the flights that you can purchase and the flights that you are able to redeem.
Good luck on selecting your airline alliance! Let us know which airline you frequently fly with and why in the comments below, we’d love to hear what you think.