This is actually huge news. Just today at the IATA World Air Transport Summit in Singapore, Malysia Airlines was unanimously voted into OneWorld by the member airlines. They’re expected to formally join OneWorld by late 2012.
This came as a shock to me, since previously Malaysia Airlines partnered mostly with SkyTeam airlines. They were partners with Delta, and using Delta SkyMiles for travel on Malaysia Airlines was actually one of the better redemption options out there. Malaysia Airlines has a pretty good business class product and also first class product, though it wasn’t possible to redeem SkyMiles for international first class. I was expecting Malaysia Airlines to join SkyTeam, so this is yet another huge loss for Delta and SkyTeam, as that was one of their (few) decent partners.
This is great news for OneWorld though, and frankly as someone that just hit Executive Platinum with American today, I’m quite excited about this. This is great news for several reasons. First of all, it opens up a lot of new routes. For a long time OneWorld didn’t take Asia seriously. Yes, they have Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific, though there are still so many unserved routes in Southeast Asia, and Malaysia Airlines will certainly help to close the gap a bit. And their route network actually goes beyond that. They also fly Capetown to Buenos Aires, for example, a route that’s currently not served by any other OneWorld airline.
Beyond that, I expect this means it will be possible to redeem miles for first class on Malaysia Airlines, which is awesome. That opens up yet another great airline for award redemptions. It also increases the OneWorld lounge network, since top tier elites (Emeralds) will have access to their first class lounges, while mid tier elites (Sapphires) will have access to their business class lounges.
As a practical implication, a couple of weeks ago on my big trip I flew Qantas from Singapore to Sydney, though I was originating in Kuala Lumpur. I had to purchase a separate ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, while if they had already been a part of OneWorld, I could have included that segment in Malaysia Airlines business class at no additional cost.