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Smaller airlines may not have the resources or ability to join a major, global airline alliance. This is why some airline groups have created alternative alliances to piggy back off large alliances via partial membership. Oneworld Connect is exactly this: It is a small airline alliance designed so that regional airlines can join an alliance, but without the price tag.
How alliances are formed
Airlines around the world are only as strong as their network of destinations and the markets they serve. This is why many airlines codeshare with each other, that is — airlines sell seats on each other’s flights to expand their overall offerings (or "footprint"). In the late 1990s, a second type of partnership — beyond codeshares — was created: airline alliances.
These groups include airlines that partner together on a variety of functions, from selling tickets to handling baggage, while also sharing loyalty program perks and privileges, including the ability for frequent flyer members to earn and redeem miles on each other’s flights. An airline alliance's purpose is to create a more seamless experience for the flyer by aligning systems and policies.
Generally speaking, alliances exist to fill geographic gaps in their networks, as well as work with airlines that share similar philosophies. This is why you don’t see low-cost or budget airlines typically joining an alliance with full-service airlines — their operating models are quite different.
They can also be expensive to join. These substantial membership costs are often a barrier to airlines with smaller footprints.
» Learn more: When to fly low-cost versus full-service carriers
What airlines are in Oneworld Connect?
As of now, Oneworld Connect has only one member airline: Fiji Airways. This airline doesn't have a vast network around the globe. However, it does fill a particular hole in other Oneworld member airline route maps. Fiji Airways is based in Fiji, a country in the Pacific Ocean, and it flies to many smaller Pacific Island nations. These destinations tend to not have scheduled service from larger carriers.
By being a member in Oneworld Connect, Fiji Airways customers can tap into the larger Oneworld network of airlines.
How the reciprocal benefits work
Oneworld Connect's partial membership provides some of the flyer-friendly benefits of full alliance member airlines, but not all of them. It comes down to which airlines are sponsors of Fiji Airways in the alliance.
Fiji Airways is currently sponsored by:
American Airlines has plans to join in the near future.
Perks for frequent flyers
As a result, frequent flyers from these sponsor airlines receive benefits when flying Fiji Airways that other Oneworld flyers do not. Example perks include:
Easy connections between sponsor airline flights to Fiji Airways flights on the same ticket.
The ability to check bags all the way through.
The ability to earn and redeem miles when flying Fiji Airways.
Priority check-in for all Oneworld elite status members.
Access to priority boarding on Fiji Airways for Emerald and Sapphire elite status members (Oneworld's two highest tiers).
How lounge access differs
When it comes to lounge access for Oneworld elite members, things get a bit more complicated.
If you're flying in business class on Fiji Airways, you already get lounge access in many cities. But if you're flying in economy class and relying on your Oneworld elite status to get lounge access, you're granted access based on rules that are specific to the type of ticket purchased. Oneworld has a drop down menu on its website that outlines which ones are available for different mileage program members.
Only Emerald and Sapphire elite members in Fiji Airways’ sponsor airline programs can take advantage of lounge access when flying economy and using Oneworld elite status. For instance, if you're a Qantas elite member, your Fiji Airways flight needs to have a QF-marketed flight code to be able to use the lounge.
These types of confusing rules and restrictions are what constitute the difference between being a full Oneworld member airline versus a partial member.
» Learn more: Your guide to the Oneworld alliance
Is Oneworld Connect worth it for flyers?
Since you're assured more benefits, it's generally wiser to fly a full Oneworld alliance member instead of a Oneworld Connect partner. But Fiji Airways’ unique route network in the Pacific region means that there are often few other airline choices. That’s why even this limited Oneworld Connect partnership from Fiji Airways is better than none at all.
It is wise to review your flight itinerary before heading to the airport to understand what benefits you'll be entitled to when traveling.
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