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To help ease the way for connecting travellers, the alliance has adopted a “Move Under One Roof” initiative that takes on the expensive and time consuming task of shifting all member airlines into single airport terminals, which makes transfers and lounge access more seamless. All Star Alliance airlines are now under one roof at airports in Bangkok, Beijing, Miami, Tokyo-Narita, Seoul and Singapore. 

The downsides
While airlines are keen to promote the positives of these alliances, there are negatives. Airline frequent flyer programs, seating, aircraft and computer systems vary widely from airline to airline, which can make redeeming miles or points across programs, or even gaining access to far-flung airport lounges, inconsistent and frustrating. Similar to translating languages or exchanging currency, travellers may experience gains or losses since no two programs are exactly alike. Also, when airlines join together to set schedules and fares and jointly market themselves, it tends to stifle competition, which can ultimately lead to higher prices.

Not all airlines around the world play the alliance game — notable exceptions include the United Kingdom’s Virgin Atlantic and Emirates in the UAE, as well as many rapidly expanding low-fare carriers such as Southwest and JetBlue in the US, and EasyJet and Ryanair in Europe. So staying loyal to your frequent flyer program might not always lead to the greatest savings.

Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel

 

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