With international travel having more or less fully resumed, the value of airline alliance status has once again increased significantly. When I think of my international flying memories, the perks I’ve received on account of my oneworld Emerald status are among my favorites. I wanted to dedicate this post to why I love oneworld Emerald status so much, as I’m sure I’m not alone.
In this post:
What is airline alliance status?
There are three major global airline alliances — oneworld, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam — and combined they have dozens of airline members. Not all airlines belong to a global alliance, though many major airlines do.
One of the benefits of these alliances for frequent flyers is that there’s a certain level of reciprocity when it comes to elite perks.
You don’t earn elite status directly with an alliance, but rather you earn status with a member airline, and that status maps over to an alliance elite tier. Just to give some examples:
- American AAdvantage Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro, and Alaska Mileage Plan MVP Gold 100K and MVP Gold 75K, gets you oneworld Emerald
- Delta SkyMiles Diamond Medallion, Platinum Medallion, and Gold Medallion, gets you SkyTeam Elite Plus
- United MileagePlus Premier 1K, Premier Platinum, and Premier Gold, gets you Star Alliance Gold
Personally I think oneworld Emerald status is the most valuable of those by far, so let me share why.
What are the benefits of oneworld Emerald status?
The oneworld alliance has three elite tiers — Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald. Emerald is the top tier status, and is typically earned with having high level status in a oneworld frequent flyer program.
What are the perks of oneworld Emerald status? Here are the high-level benefits, roughly in the order that I value them:
- Access to first & business class lounges
- Access to preferred and pre-reserved seating
- Priority boarding
- Extra baggage allowance
- Access to first class check-in
- Fast track at select security lanes
- Priority baggage handling
- Priority on waitlists and when on standby
Below I wanted to go into a bit more detail on the benefits above that I value most.
Lounge access with oneworld Emerald
The single best perk of oneworld Emerald status is the lounge access benefit, as members receive access to oneworld first & business class lounges when traveling on a oneworld flight the same day in any cabin. They’re allowed to even bring one guest with them (also traveling on a oneworld flight).
Now, there are a few things to be aware of:
- Those earning oneworld Emerald status through American AAdvantage or Alaska Mileage Plan only get lounge access when traveling outside of North America, while other oneworld Emerald members get lounge access even when traveling domestically; in other words, non-AAdvantage and Mileage Plan oneworld Emeralds can even use American Flagship Lounges when traveling within the US
- Certain lounges are excluded from this benefit, including the Chelsea Lounge New York, British Airways Concorde Room, and Qatar Airways Al Safwa Lounge Doha, Al Mourjan Lounge Doha, and Qatar Airways Premium Lounges outside of Qatar
This ranges from Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class Lounge Hong Kong (which is expected to reopen in the coming months)…
Preferred & pre-reserved seating with oneworld Emerald
I wish this weren’t actually a benefit that I valued, but unfortunately some airlines in oneworld charge for seat assignments, even in business class. For example:
- British Airways charges for seat assignments in business class
- Qatar Airways sells unbundled business class fares, which don’t allow seat assignments in advance for non-elite members
While I’d probably otherwise usually book away from airlines with policies like this, oneworld Emerald status makes this a non-issue, as I can continue to select seats in advance for free.
Do note that each airline has a different policy when it comes to assigning oneworld Emerald members priority economy seats. Some will assign extra legroom economy seats for free (for example, American gives oneworld Emerald members with joint venture partners free Main Cabin Extra seats), while others won’t.
Priority check-in & boarding with oneworld Emerald
As a oneworld Emerald member you can generally check in with international first class, and also board with international first class. Personally I love this perk, because when I review flights it’s handy to be able to board business class when first class boards, so I can snap pictures of the cabin before it gets too full.
Note that the exact policy of each airline differs. For example:
- While British Airways and Cathay Pacific let oneworld Emeralds board with international first class, American only lets oneworld Emeralds board after all premium cabin passengers
- Those who earn oneworld Emerald through American AAdvantage or Alaska Mileage Plan can only use American’s Flagship First check-in facility when flying on select international flights
Extra baggage allowance with oneworld Emerald status
While I only travel with hand luggage a majority of the time, for those times where I check luggage, the extra oneworld Emerald baggage allowance comes in handy:
- For tickets that have a weight limit, you get an extra 20kg of luggage
- For tickets that have a piece system, you get one additional bag
For example, while American Airlines domestic first class passengers get two free checked bags up to 70 pounds each, as an Executive Platinum member (oneworld Emerald) I get a third free checked bag with the same weight limit.
How does oneworld status compare to others?
Why do I prefer oneworld Emerald status to top tier status with Star Alliance or SkyTeam? First of all, the oneworld alliance is the only one to have a true “top tier” alliance-wide status. For example, Star Alliance Gold is the highest Star Alliance status, and you generally get that with mid-tier airline status.
- Star Alliance Gold doesn’t get you access to international first class lounges with any airlines, while I consider that to be the single best oneworld Emerald perk (and please, no one tell me that Lufthansa Senator Lounges are in fact first class lounges)
- SkyTeam Elite Plus is just generally uncompetitive; for example, SkyTeam Elite Plus members with non-US airlines don’t even get lounge access when traveling domestically within the US, while elite members with oneworld and Star Alliance do
While there’s huge value to airline status in general, I find that reciprocal alliance perks really shine with oneworld Emerald. Any time I consider giving up on status with American Airlines, I’m reminded of how much I’d miss oneworld Emerald status. There’s something about the peak experiences that the status allows that makes me really value it.
It sure is nice to fly American business class out of LAX and use the Qantas First Lounge. With Hong Kong now having fully reopened, and all of Cathay Pacific’s lounges expected to reopen in the coming months, I can’t wait to enjoy my oneworld Emerald status at Hong Kong Airport again.
Anyone else love oneworld Emerald as much as I do? And anyone disagree with my take, and prefer status with Star Alliance and/or SkyTeam?