Change Your Altitude


Airlines & Alliances

Airlines & Alliances

Generally speaking, in the United States, there are three major carriers that run international and domestic flights and are partnered with the three main airline alliances:

Aside from those two, you’ll find a couple airlines with a smaller footprint domestically, and limited (or no) international flights:

  • jetBlue Airlines
  • Alaska Airlines (who recently acquired Virgin America)

So where to start? Which one is right for you?


There are lots of factors that make one alliance or carrier the best fit for you:

  • Your home airport
  • Where you travel to frequently domestically
  • Where you travel to the most internationally
  • Any preference for international carriers

In short – you’ll want to select an airline that runs numerous flights out of your home airport (if you’re lucky it’ll be a hub or focus city for an airline). If you tend to travel to the same cities (internationally or domestic), you’ll want to consider selecting an airline (or one that’s part of an alliance) with nonstop flights between your home and target city.

For example, if you fly between New York and Amsterdam often, United, and Delta all fly nonstop routes (2 and 3 daily, respectively) between the two cities. However, since KLM calls Schipol home, banking your miles with SkyTeam might make the most sense, since you’ll have an extra 2 flights to choose from, run by KLM on top of Delta’s own operations.

There are other more qualitative factors that can help you decide which alliance makes the most sense for you and your travel habits, and the level of importance of each can shift which you select – but when starting out, the ones listed above will definitely narrow down your choice airline to at least a couple.

Below is a list of each major alliance, partner airlines, hubs, and focus cities. (See our page on helpful definitions for details on these if you’re not sure!)

Here’s a rundown of what airlines are based where and what would serve your best interests given where you are and where you go…

But first – we mention SkyTrax ratings in our description below. It’s not the be all end all of airline rating by any means, but it’s a helpful to measure airlines based on some rankings. (More on SkyTrax on our definitions page)

So without further ado, here we go:


oneworld has some of the best airlines in the world within the alliance

oneworld has some of the best airlines in the world within the alliance

  • Air Berlin – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs: Berlin, Dusseldorf
  • American Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 3 star 
    • Hubs: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York (JFK), New York (LGA) Charlotte, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Washington D.C
    • Focus cities: Las Vegas, Orlando, Memphis
  • British Airways – Skytrax Rating: 4 star 
    • Hub: London
    • Focus city: Manchester
  • Cathay Pacific – Skytrax Rating: 5 star 
    • Hub: Hong Kong
  • Finnair – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hub: Helsinki
  • Iberia – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs: Madrid, Barcelona
    • Focus cities: Sevilla, Zaragoza, Palma de Mallorca
  • Japan Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Tokyo (NRT), Tokyo (HND)
    • Focus cities: Naha, Sapporo, Osaka, Miyakojima, Sendai
  • LATAM (formerly LAN and TAM) – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs: Santiago de Chile, Lima, São Paulo, Bogota
  • Malaysia Airlines – Skytrax Rating: not rated (pending review)
    • Hub: Kuala Lumpur
    • Focus cities: Penang, Kota Kinabalu
  • Qantas – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Melbourne, Sydney
    • Focus cities: Brisbane, Perth, Darwin, Canberra, Alice Springs, Cairns, Adelaide
  • Qatar Airways – Skytrax Rating: 5 star 
    • Hub: Doha
  • Royal Jordanian – Skytrax Rating: 3 star 
    • Hub: Amman
  • S7 Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 3 star 
    • Hub: Moscow
    • Focus cities: Novosibirsk, St. Petersberg

Average Skytrax rating: 3.6 stars (2 Five Star airlines) 

Visit the alliance website here.


Logo SkyTeam e Companhias Aéreas Membros

The member airlines of SkyTeam come from 5 continents

  • Aeroflot – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Moscow (SVO), Moscow (DME)
    • Focus cities: St. Petersberg, Vladvistok
  • Aerolíneas Argentinas
    • Hubs: Buenos Aires (EZE), Buenos Aires (AEP), Cordoba
  • Aeroméxico – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hub: Mexico City
    • Focus cities: Guadalajara, Cancun
  • Air Europa – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hub: Madrid
  • Air France – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Paris (CDG), Paris (ORY), Lyon
    • Focus cities: Marseille, Nice
  • Alitalia – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs: Rome, Milan
    • Focus cities: Genoa, Venice, Bologna, Naples
  • China Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Taipei (TPE), Taipei (TSA)
    • Focus city: Kaoshung
  • China Eastern Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs: Shanghai, Kunming, Xi’an
    • Focus cities: Shenyang, Beijing, Guangzhou, Zhenging
  • China Southern Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Guangzhou, Beijing
    • Focus cities: Urumqi, Shenzen, Xiamen
  • Czech Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hub: Prague
  • Delta Air Lines – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs: Atlanta, Cincinnati, New York (JFK), New York (LGA) Salt Lake City, Detroit, Mineappolis/St. Paul, Memphis, Tokyo (NRT)
    • Focus cities: Los Angeles, Seattle, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando
  • Garuda Indonesia – Skytrax Rating: 5 star
    • Hubs: Jakarta, Makassar, Denpasar, Medan, Kalimantan, Surubaya
    • Focus cities: Yogyakarta, Jayapura, Dili
  • Kenya Airways – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hub: Nairobi
    • Focus city: Zanzibar
  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hub: Amsterdam
    • Focus city: Rotterdam
  • Korean Air – Skytrax Rating: 4 star 
    • Hub: Seoul
    • Focus cities: Pusan, Busan, Jeju
  • Middle East Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hub: Beirut
  • Saudia – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Jeddah, Damma, Riyadh
    • Focus city: Medina
  • TAROM – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hub: Bucharest
  • Vietnam Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City
    • Focus city: Nha Trang
  • Xiamen Air – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs: Xiamen, Fuzhou

Average Skytrax rating: 3.6 stars (1 Five Star airline)

Visit the alliance website here.

Star Alliance

Star Alliance has a wide array of airlines to choose from

Star Alliance has a wide array of airlines to choose from

  • Adria Airways – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs: Ljubljana, Pristina
    • Focus citiy: Riga
  • Aegean Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Athens, Thessaloniki
  • Air Canada – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary
  • Air China – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai
    • Focus cities: Shenzen, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Lhasa
  • Air India – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs: Hub Airport(s) Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad
  • Air New Zealand – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hub: Auckland
    • Focus cities: Los Angeles, Hong Kong
  • All Nippon Airways (ANA) – Skytrax Rating: 5 star
    • Hubs: Tokyo (NRT), Tokyo (HND)
    • Focus cities: Osaka (KIX), Osaka (ITM), Sapporo Chitose, Naha Okinawa
  • Asiana Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 5 star
    • Hub: Seoul
    • Focus cities: Pusan, Jeju, Busan
  • Austrian Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hub: Vienna
  • Avianca- Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs:  Bogota, San Salvador, Lima, Brasilia
  • Blue1 (affiliate) – Skytrax Rating: not rated (pending) 
    • Hub: Helsinki
  • Brussels Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hub: Brussels
  • Copa Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs: Panama City, Bogota, San Salvador
    • Focus cities: Managua, Tegucigalpa
  • Croatia Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hub: Zagreb
  • Egypt Air – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hub: Cairo
    • Focus cities: Alexandria, Sharm El Sheik
  • Ethiopian Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs: Addis Ababa
    • Focus cities: Lomé, Lilongwe
  • Eva Air – Skytrax Rating: 5 star
    • Hub: Taipei
  • LOT Polish Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hub: Warsaw
  • Lufthansa – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Frankfurt, Munich
    • Focus cities: Leipzig, Dusseldorf
  • Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm
  • Shenezen Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs:  Shenzhen, Guangzhou
  • Singapore Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 5 star
    • Hub: Singapore
  • South African Airways – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hub: Johannesburg
    • Focus cities: Cape Town, Durban
  • Swiss – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Zurich, Geneva, Basel
  • TACA Airlines (affiliate) – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Lima, San Jose (SJO)
  • TAP Portugal – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs: Lisbon, Porto
  • Thai Airways – Skytrax Rating: 5 star 
    • Hubs: Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hat Yai
  • Turkish Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 4 star
    • Hubs: Istanbul, Ankara
  • United Airlines – Skytrax Rating: 3 star
    • Hubs: Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington D.C., New York (EWR), Houston, Cleveland and Guam

Average Skytrax rating: 3.8 stars (5 Five Star airlines) 

Visit the alliance website here.

There you have it – a summary of the three major alliances, their airlines, where their hubs and large operations are at and their overall service quality ratings.

These sort of decisions are both objective and subjective. Objective in that where you are based plays a major role pragmatically speaking in terms of what alliance and subsequent airline you choose – but subjectively speaking we all have our preferences of what we like in an airline.

Do you prefer the clinical efficiency of Lufthansa, who offers a solid product but mostly leaves you to your own devices, or Singapore Airlines whose crew will be effusive and dote on you? If you like to indulge on a flight you might like Austrian’s and Turkish’s lavish Do&Co catering but if you’d rather just rest and catch up on sleep, maybe JAL’s Apex Suites in Business Class is for you – it’s the largest bed in the sky in its class and offers maximum privacy.

So first things first – choose your alliance.

Up next, we’ll give you the lowdown on which airline has the most generous benefits and pave the way for the quickest path to elite status within each alliance. Some, like Singapore Airlines are extra stingy – others, such as Air Canada are very liberal. If we’re doing current events, United and American have both recently devalued their programs quite extensively whereas Delta continues on as is and is not killing their frequent flier program for their elites.

There’s much to talk about.

Stay tuned!