The Four Different Kinds Of American Airlines Airline Partnerships, Explained

American Airlines has numerous airline partners. There are 22 different airlines – besides American itself – that you can redeem your miles for travel on. But not all of their partnerships are the same. In fact there are (4) basic kinds of partnerships. American lays out what they mean in an internal update for staff.

oneworld Alliance

American Airlines is a member of the oneworld alliance, and that means the ability to earn and redeem miles on other alliance members. It also means priority airport services like check-in and boarding, as well as free checked bags and lounge access, for elite members across the alliance.

But not all relationships with oneworld members are created equal, for instance American has a tighter relationship with Qatar Airways than they do any non-U.S. member of oneworld that isn’t part o a joint venture partnership.

Joint Business Ventures

The closest sort of relationship is a joint business venture, where American partners with some airlines to coordinate schedules and share revenue. In those partnerships they’re also usually able to do a better job protecting passengers in the event of schedule changes, treating a British Airways flight between New York and London as the same as an American flight.

Aer Lingus is part of the transatlantic joint venture. It’s owned by the same company as British Airways and Iberia. And yet most Aer Lingus flights don’t even earn miles in the AAdvantage program. (Ironically you can credit Aer Lingus flights to United, and you can earn British Airways points flying United by crediting those to Aer Lingus and transferring them.)

Joint ventures are one way around limits that governments place on a foreign airline taking a significant ownership stake in a home country carrier. The U.S. will not allow joint ventures with an airline in a country with which there is no Open Skies treaty.

“Seamless” Partners

American Airlines and Alaska are partners in oneworld, but they have a deeper relationship than that, even extending extra legroom coach seats and upgrades to each others’ elites for instance. American has a hole in the Bay Area and Pacific Northwest that Alaska helps them fill.

American should even ultimately be forming a joint frequent flyer progam with Brazil’s Gol in which they’ve taken an ownership stake.

Meanwhile JetBlue is not a part of oneworld, but the two airlines coordinate which one flies a given route out of New York and Boston and there are reciprocal elite benefits – providing the Justice Department’s anti-trust case, currently awaiting a ruling after a trial, doesn’t derail things. The federal government had signed off on the deal before going to court to block it.

Other Partners

In American’s internal messaging about their partners this fourth category doesn’t even rate a mention which is odd considering the varied nature of their relationships.

China Southern Airlines is actually part-owned by American, since American took a $200 million stake in the giant Chinese mainland carrier.

Fiji Airways is a limited member of oneworld, with limited benefits so I mostly still think of them as a redemption partner.

Etihad Airways is a bit of an odd one. As with Qatar, they once tried to get the airline kicked out of the country. Yet the ability to earn (non-status) miles and redeem miles never disappeared, though redemption has only intermittently been reliably available on the American Airlines website and many of us have had to resort to calling U.K. or Australia reservations to get seats. Now with American closer to Qatar it’s odd in a different way that their Abu Dhabi-based airline partnership continues.

Hawaiian Airlines is a partner but not between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii. That doesn’t just mean intra-island flights, though, you can fly Hawaiian from Honolulu to the South Pacific.

IndiGo applies only to codeshare routes

Air Tahiti Nui gives you a way to use miles to get to French Polynesia (and if you ever buy tickets there, crediting to AAdvantage may be one option).

And then Cape Air and Silver Airways get customers to destinations American doesn’t reach on its own.

Additionally I’d note that JetSmart is pending but AAdvantage is expected to become their frequent flyer program.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Thanks Gary good job as always explaining the “web” of alliances and deals. I can say that many of us Alaska FF’s are not happy with “Ben’s” deal with American, as usual we are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to upgrades and availability of anything but coach on international let alone domestic. I for one was more than happy with the Delta connection especially international. There we were treated well and upgraded often where American is a dumpster fire waiting to happen.

  2. On the surface this web of alliances can be helpful in many ways. But deep inside, it is also a web of deceit.

  3. Will JetBlue and American Frequent Flyer programs ever allow award redemptions on each others programs?

  4. Hi Gary! Great article! However, I thought that with Loyalty Points being introduced, Etihad flight would earn loyalty points, since Loyalty points is technically based on the AAdvantage miles earned on a partner airline flight? This might be legal language thing to be honest, but any insight or data points would be great! (I’m trying to book some return flights from SE Asia, and interestingly enough EK has some great J one way fares. In my head I was calculating a hefty LP stash on those flights, but if they do not earn LPs, might look at other options, which is exactly what AA was shooting for in their new program jaja!)

  5. Appreciate the insights. A wish that will never come to fruition is to see AA and B6 expend their partnership nationwide (or at the very least in FLL). AA’s service in FLL is paltry at best with almost every itinerary routing me through Dante’s Inferno up in CLT.

  6. It would be helpful to clearly note which partners earn Loyalty Points and which don’t. I was very disappointed last year to discover that a business-class trip to New Zealand on Fiji Airways didn’t net me any.

  7. Without doubt, the finer details of all the alliances are now more complicated than ever. Maybe it’s time for a simplified review by OneWorld, *A and Skyteam? There seems to be fair to many partners some warning and some not. OneWorld is my go to and really I’m not even sure why Qantas remain in one world. Sure they are a founder of the alliance but seem to be in bed more with Emirates than anyone one world partner. Then Malaysian airlines, they don’t always offer on some fare basis even a handful of BA Avios of Tier Points, some fares earning zero. It’s a bit clearer between BA, IB and AY. Always amuses me when looking at some departure boards though, a recent London to Glasgow in UK flown by BA, but the code share was with CX, AY, IB, AA

  8. This Feb I flew to JFK to Rio on a Gol flight which had an AA number and AA metal. They hassled me at the flagship lounge (I’m lifetime Plat) but eventually let me in saying my flight doesn’t show as AA or OneWorld. And also I received zero AA miles for this flight. I’m curious as to when the Gol relationship will be normalized and what the terms will be.

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