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Around the World: The Pros and Cons of Booking Code Share Flights

Jennifer Merin on

 
The airlines tout benefits gained from their partnerships with other airlines. Mostly they boast about establishing networks that extend their routing to the far corners of the globe, while allowing you to fatten your frequent flyer account with more miles.
 
But weighing airline partnership benefits against what you actually gain from booking codeshare flights leads you to a deeper -- and often disappointing -- understanding of airline partnerships.
 
True, when you fly your primary airline’s partner carriers, you accrue frequent flyer miles. But note that on some codeshare flights, partner airlines don’t give full credit for number of miles flown, either because they have a different reward structure, calculate mileage differently and/or their agreement with your primary airline is that you get only a percentage (can be as low as half) of your primary airline’s specified frequent flyer miles.

In addition to shorting you on miles, some disadvantages to booking codeshare flights can impact your comfort and wellbeing -- whether you’re buying cheap tickets or paying full fare, and even if you’re an elite member of your primary airline’s frequent flyer program.

If you do your research, you may also find that booking flights directly with the carrier that’s the code share for your regular airline may save you come money.

And, there are substantial differences in fees and taxes charged to you when you’re redeeming frequent flyer miles for the trip.
 
Here’s the skinny on booking a roundtrip from NYC’s JFK to Amsterdam’s Schiphol, with a look at what the airlines that code share via the One World Alliance -- an airline partnership association consisting of American Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Air France, Iberia, Cathay Pacific, Air Berlin, Japan Airlines, Royal Jordanian, Qantas, LAN, and S7, and thirteen affiliates including El Al, Hawaiian, Alaska Airlines and Jet Blue, among others – have to offer.

Since the JFK to Schiphol itinerary originates in the US, most US-based passengers will be members of American Airlines’ Aadvantage program, and will book through www.aa.com, where a full array of American Airlines’ own and code share flights, schedules and prices are displayed.

If you’re looking for flights offered by American Airlines on American Airlines aircraft, you’ll probably be shocked to find out that American Airlines flies non-stop to Amsterdam from only one city – Philadelphia – and that the Philadelphia to Amsterdam direct routing is not available every day of the week and may be suspended during peak holiday travel.

The Philadelphia to Amsterdam flight is actually the only American Airlines or American Airlines code share flight that’s non-stop. The remainder of the US to Amsterdam flights offered by American Airlines involve code share flights – either for both the transatlantic leg of the itinerary and a connecting flight from a European to Amsterdam or with an American Airlines flight to Europe connecting to a code share flight continuing to Amsterdam.

Most often the transatlantic code share and connecting code share flights are on British Airways and involve transferring in London’s Heathrow Airport – often involving switching terminals and going through security again. Getting from one terminal to another usually requires a bus ride, and security lines are long. The experience can be quite stressful.

There are also JFK to Schiphol code share flights on Iberian Airlines – via Madria – and Aer Lingus – via Dublin. These avoid hectic Heathrow, but the trips generally take longer and involve longer transit times.

Booked through AA,com, the economy class main cabin fares for all roundtrip flights from JFK to Amsterdam are around the same, whether they’re on American Airlines or are code shares. They cost between $2,700 and $2,900 round trip. Oddly, the direct -- and ostensibly most convenient – flights from Philadelphia to Amsterdam are among the least expensive offerings.

If you’re redeeming frequent flyer miles for your New York to Amsterdam itinerary, note that the fees and taxes charged for code share flights vary significantly. On the JFK to Amsterdam via Philadelphia flight, frequent flyer tickets entail fees and taxes amounting to about $56. On the Iberian Airlines itinerary, fees and taxes come to about $144. And, the British Airways fees and taxes cost about $211. That’s a substantial difference if you’re using frequent flyer miles to travel on the cheap.

If you want to book that less expensive American Airlines Philadelphia to Amsterdam flight, there are plenty of short haul feeder flights originating at NYC’s JFK or LaGuardia, and others from DFW, LAX, Cleveland and other cities that raise the fare slightly depending upon the originating departure city. The connecting times are relatively short and the airport has a convenient layout.

If you’re an American Airlines’ AAdvantage frequent flyer buying a ticket on AA,com, you likely to assume that the online booking will allow you apply AAdvantage benefits to your trip -- not only for frequent flyer miles accrual, but also for seat selection, pre-boarding privileges and other such.
 
On the plus side your AAdvantage account will be credited for the total number of miles flown. However, if you book a code share flight on AA,com, you’ll find that you are unable to reserve your preferred seat – because American Airlines doesn’t have access to the partner airline’s seating chart.  So, even if you’re prepared to pay for your ticket on the spot and are a premiere class frequent flyer, you’re not allowed to choose seats on the partner codeshare flights.
 
There are disadvantages regarding special meals, too. American Airlines forwards special meal requests to code share airlines, but there’s no guarantee the requests will be filled, or filled appropriately.
 
One other thing you should know before booking code share flights on AA.com is that the code share airlines may actually charge less than American Airlines for your preferred flights. So, before purchasing code share flights on AA.com, compare prices with those posted on the British Airways, Iberian and Aer Lingus websites. If you choose to book through one of those airlines, you can pre-reserve your seat and request a special meal, and still submit the trip for American Airlines AAdvantage miles—although the number of miles you get may vary.

The bottom line is that airline partnerships and code shares are not as beneficial to passengers as they are presented to be. Booking code share flights is tricky and you’d be well advised to research all the variables before committing your hard earned money and/or frequent flyer miles to purchasing your code share ticket.

 

Copyright 2019 Jennifer Merin
 

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