A Glance at Global Travel: Through The Joint Venture Among American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia
By Lavanya Sunkara
“I don’t spend a nickel, if I can help it, unless it somehow profits my mileage account,” says a suave George Clooney in Up in the Air as he explains his goal of achieving ten million frequent flyer miles with American Airlines. Thanks to the joint venture between oneworld members American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia, gaining miles for traveling the world is easier than ever. You can even save money by choosing the best fares between the participating airlines for your transatlantic trips.
In fact the new joint business, as it is called, opens up the world for travel by New Yorkers in a number of new ways.
In the changing landscape of international travel, loyalty to alliances is on the way to becoming more prominent than to any single carrier. With closer relationships between the airlines under an alliance, and in this case oneworld, customers benefit from additional opportunities. Michael Blunt, Vice President of oneworld said, “oneworld is a leader in terms of quality over quantity providing optimal coverage to places our customers want to travel to. With antitrust immunity, our carriers are able to schedule together and provide the most flexible travel choices.” The recently signed joint agreement between American Airlines, British Airways and Iberia allows the three airlines to work together on joint scheduling, and in providing more routes to exotic destinations, best possible fares, smoother connections, a linked online network for reservations, and the chance to earn and redeem miles while using any of the airlines under the pact.
No single airline can fly everywhere. American Airlines on its own goes to 250 destinations. With the trilateral joint venture, the number goes up to 433 destinations in 105 countries with 5,178 daily departures. oneworld, with its 11 airline entities and three pending, reaches over 900 destinations. From American’s JFK Terminal, travelers can now fly direct to or make connections through other oneworld carriers to major airports to all but one of the 68 iconic destinations depicted on the 397foot Skyline of the World mural some of you may have seen at the Terminal. For example, passengers could travel from JFK to Heathrow via American with a connecting flight to Cape Town via British Airways. Or go to Delhi from Chicago on American and then to Mumbai via Kingfisher, which will join oneworld next year.
The joint venture is making possible new routes that didn’t exist or seem useful before. Art Torno, Vice President for American Airlines in New York stated, “The joint business really does broaden opportunities. A British Airways flight from London to San Diego now seems more valuable given it will have connecting flights to other locations in the western United States with American Airlines.” Additional new routes that will be available in April include daily flights on American from New York to Budapest, a second daily New York flight to Barcelona, and a daily flight from Chicago to Helsinki. Iberia will fly from Madrid to Los Angeles.
With recent tentative approval granted for antitrust immunity for American Airlines and Japan Airlines in the Pacific, the two carriers are expected to collaborate in a similar way in scheduling and sales, opening new routes in the Asian market. Also, starting January of 2011, American Airlines will be operating direct flights from JFK to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, which is an hour closer to central Tokyo than the current Narita Airport.
Back in the transatlantic region, next Spring, the 11 daily flights by both American and British Airways between JFK and London Heathrow airports will be realigned to operate at different times, making it convenient for business travelers. Michael Blunt calls it the “transatlantic shuttle” between two major cities where planes will be leaving at roughly every hour in the morning, and every half hour later on. Beginning next summer, hubs in London, New York, Chicago and Miami will feature joint scheduling that allows travelers to pick the best fares between these two airlines and easily connect with their onward flights.
Those seeking exotic travel can benefit from the wide choice of flights and easier transfer capabilities through American Airlines’ oneworld relationships.. Passengers can use any of the oneworld carriers to travel to destinations such as Easter Island from both Santiago and Lima, Chile, by LAN Airlines, Moscow and St. Petersburg through Russia’s leading S7 Airlines, Rovaniemi via Finnair, Ayers Rock or the Great Barrier Reef in Australia via Qantas. By this point, you may be wondering why the airlines are joining forces. Joint business is good for both the airline industry as well as the traveler. By working together, the airlines are not only able to operate routes that would not have been possible to do individually, but also share the seats and the revenue generated by providing the best possible schedules and fares for consumers. Some may worry that these close relationships between major airlines could create dominance over the busiest routes, which might increase costs for passengers.
In fact, competition is more than ever the name of the game. The three joint business partners within the larger oneworld Alliance compete fiercely with the Star and Sky Team alliances, which had transatlantic antitrust immunity considerably before the oneworld partners. As American Airlines’ Art Torno notes, “The antitrust immunity granted to American, British Airways and Iberia just levels the playing field.” Even though the partner airlines are doing business together, the traveler still has the option of choosing the best fares among them. For instance, one may mix and match fares by choosing to fly to Chicago on British Airways and return to the UK via American depending on who is offering the better price. Not only will the travelers be getting optimum prices, but at convenient times as well.
Although price is a key factor in traveling, one would have to take into consideration some of the additional benefits being presented such as coordinated frequent flyer miles, easier online booking, smoother transfers, and access to lounges around the world.
Under the immunized agreement, members of the American’s AAdvantage program, British Airways’ Executive Club and Iberia Plus will be able to earn and redeem miles on each airline’s flights regardless of which airline they are flying on. Previously, those traveling across North Atlantic on British Airways were able to get only 25% AAdvantage miles, but now they will get 100%. Michael Blunt from oneworld noted, “For an AAdvantage member, all of the frequent flyer privileges are extended throughout the joint business. Top level members can have access to the 550 airport lounges worldwide, and get other privileges such as priority check in, boarding, and wait listing.” Also, regardless of which cabin they fly, oneworld Emerald cardholders will have access to the British Airways Galleries Arrivals lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 5 and the American Airlines arrivals lounge at London Heathrow Terminal 3 when they travel on AA or BA transatlantic flight.
Ticket bookings are now only a few clicks away, thanks to the linked websites among the joint business partners and oneworld. Customers are now able to search and compare flight fares either on BA or AA or Iberia websites, or book their multi-city journeys using oneworld’s itinerary planner. The airline websites provide links to the operating carrier’s information pages, and arrival and departure data for all joint business flights. Online check-in and printing of boarding pass is also available. The three carriers placed code shares on a significant number of additional routes to further the destination choices available to customer. AA added its code to 322 British Airways and Iberia flights going to 101 destinations, and BA added its code to 2,063 American and Iberia flights reaching 181 destinations and Iberia added its code to 354 American and BA flights, expanding its reach by 96 destinations. More code sharing is anticipated in the near future with other oneworld alliance members.
“Carriers work together to make it easier to reach anywhere in the world by making connections between the networks as easy and simple as possible,” said Michael Blunt. Through the oneworld Transfer Support Centers in New York, London, Madrid, Chicago and Miami, the three airlines jointly ensure travelers catch their connecting flights, along with their luggage. And in the event of a missed flight due to weather conditions, for example, the trained professionals at these airports will meet the passengers at the gate and help them with catching later flights. In some cases, they have already rebooked the travelers on the next available flight and printed the new boarding passes. Those with less time between connecting flights are also met at the gate and fast-tracked through customs, immigration and security to connect with their next flight in time.
Nearly 12,000 customer service employees at American, British Airways and Iberia hubs worldwide have been trained ahead to meet the needs of those with oneworld and the joint ventures. Furthermore, Art Torno of American Airlines said that negotiations with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey are underway to expand American’s Terminal 8 at JFK to have all the oneworld member airlines that operate from JFK under one roof. He added that this expansion will make it easier for passengers to connect to flights and have access to costumer service from personnel representing all the airlines of oneworld alliance.
Whether you are planning to go up in the air across the Atlantic on your next business trip or on a whirlwind tour of the globe, oneworld and its member airlines are an appealing option for smooth traveling experiences.
Please visit oneworld.com, AA.com, Britishairways.com and Iberia.com for more information.