Inside the three global airline alliances

Which of the three global airline alliances is the most important? Is Oneworld now the second largest? In which regions is each airline dominant? I check.

United Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner N29975
Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Single flight.

United is the largest Star Alliance member by flights. It has three times the volume of number two, Air China.

Star Alliance was created almost 25 years ago in 1997. It was followed by oneworld (1999) and SkyTeam (2000). This summer, from less than a month, the trio will be responsible for around 45% of all flights worldwide, according to analysis of the latest information from Cirium.

Star Alliance remains the largest

Despite the pandemic, Star Alliance has more than a million more flights this summer than each of the other two groups. It has four out of ten flights by the three alliances, one of its highest proportions to date.


More importantly, oneworld overtook SkyTeam for the first time. It was helped by the joining of Alaska in 2021, which quickly became the group’s second airline, and SkyTeam’s strong dominance in Northeast Asia, a sub-region still hard hit by the pandemic.

  1. Star Alliance: 3,866,428 flights this summer
  2. one world: 2,828,257
  3. SkyTeam: 2,791,940

Star has 26 members and various airline affiliates and connection partners. As the table later in the article shows, it is strongly dominant in Western Europe, thanks in particular to Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines and SAS. While 60% of African flights are carried out by unaffiliated airlines, Star has more than half of the alliance’s services thanks to Ethiopian Airlines, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines and, much less important now, South African.


The lack of significant development of the three airline alliances between the summer of 2013 and 2019 compared to non-aligned full-service carriers is evident. Data source: Cirium.

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North America rules, but…

Given that the three alliances are heavily dominated by American (oneworld), United (Star), and Delta (SkyTeam), it’s no surprise that North America is the top region for all three alliances. Four out of 10 thefts involve North America, but this varies greatly from group to group.

With 55% of flights, oneworld is disproportionately influenced by North America, with four times more flights than second-placed Western Europe.

In comparison, North America is smaller, in absolute terms and especially in proportion, for SkyTeam (36%) and Star (32%). Notice in the table how much larger the second sub-region is for SkyTeam and Star than for oneworld. In Western Europe, oneworld is of course mainly British Airways.

American and Alaska are oneworld’s largest airlines this summer. According to Cirium, eight of the top 10 oneworld airports are in the United States: Dallas (ranked #1), Charlotte (#2), Chicago (#3), Seattle (#5), Miami (#6), Philadelphia ( #7), Washington National (#8) and Phoenix (#10).

SkyTeam Flights one world Flights star alliance Flights
North America 1,016,300 North America 1,578,773 North America 1,243,031
Northeast Asia 702 581 Western Europe 377,285 Western Europe 1,039,939
Western Europe 433,876 Northeast Asia 290,821 Northeast Asia 752,944
Central and Eastern Europe 167,628 southwest pacific 204,487 Central and Eastern Europe 128,754
South East Asia 126,380 South East Asia 86,268 southwest pacific 120,818
central America 115,533 Middle East 75,865 Upper South America 103 293
Middle East 106,829 Central and Eastern Europe 70,938 South Asia 85,370
Lower South America 58,054 central America 30,554 central America 78,622
East Africa 17,959 South Africa 29 121 South East Asia 51,095
Caribbean 12,637 North Africa 28,939 East Africa 48,896

oneworld is almost on pre-pandemic flights

Oneworld’s total flights were down just 0.4% this summer compared to summer 2019. In comparison, Star remains down 7% and SkyTeam down 14%.

A relative lack of presence in Asia and Europe influenced oneworld’s rebound, along with a stronger presence in North America – one of the best performing regions during the pandemic, at least in the US.

Which alliance do you favor and why? Let us know in the comments.

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