Oneworld Connect: This Is Too Confusing

This June it was announced that Fiji Airways would become a oneworld Connect member. Obviously it takes a little while for this to happen, though it’s now official.

Yesterday Fiji Airways officially joined as a oneworld Connect member, so the benefits associated with this are now live.

What is oneworld Connect?

Essentially oneworld Connect is intended to be an option for (mostly) smaller airlines to join the alliance without having to pay the full membership costs. Joining a global alliance is expensive, so Connect members are those that partner with some oneworld airlines and that can add value, without wanting to fully join.

Here’s how oneworld describes this concept:

oneworld connect partners will provide select alliance benefits to frequent flyers from any oneworld member airline travelling on their flights, with a more extensive range of benefits offered with a subset of oneworld member airlines, known as their “oneworld sponsors.”

Oneworld Connect benefits on Fiji Airways

We had a general sense of what the oneworld Connect benefits would look like, but we now have a detailed chart with all the benefits that oneworld frequent flyers get when flying Fiji Airways:

To recap, the following benefits apply on all oneworld airlines:

  • All oneworld elite members receive priority check-in and boarding

Then there are benefits that are exclusively for customers from American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas, when flying on Fiji Airways:

  • The ability to through check-in (including of bags)
  • The ability to earn and redeem miles (including earning status miles)

Then Fiji Airways frequent flyers will receive the following benefits when flying on American, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, and Qantas:

  • The ability to through check-in (including of bags)
  • Tabua Plus cardholders will receive priority check-in, priority boarding, and access to select lounges worldwide when traveling on flights that are both marketed and operated by the above four airlines

If all of that isn’t confusing enough, check out this oneworld lounge access chart for oneworld Connect:

Is this really the best they can do?

I get what oneworld is trying to do here. It’s expensive to join an alliance, and on top of that alliances are becoming less relevant than in the past (Royal Air Maroc was just announced as the first new full oneworld airline in six years), so they’re trying to get innovative with adding members.

Fiji Airways is the only confirmed oneworld Connect member, and then there are rumors that Alaska Airlines may soon join as a oneworld Connect member.

However, am I the only who finds the concept sort of confusing? I get it, because I write about this stuff all day. But the whole concept of alliances is to streamline the travel experience and deliver consistent benefits across airlines.

So are oneworld frequent flyers supposed to understand that they can get priority check-in and boarding on Fiji Airways, but for members of most programs, they can’t earn miles, can’t get lounge access, etc.? Isn’t that a bit confusing?

Also, do we really expect that airline employees will enforce this correctly? Many struggle with the simple rules (like a Delta agent not knowing Kenya Airways is in SkyTeam), let alone something as complex as this.

I imagine this all comes down to airlines just not willing to pay for the reciprocity, but I personally feel like the concept could use some fine-tuning, if they’re going to expand this.

It especially needs some more thought if they’re going to add several airlines under this concept, since remembering what benefits apply to which airlines will be even more challenging.

Bottom line

Oneworld Connect seems more like a marketing partnership than anything substantial. Fiji Airways already partnered with their “sponsor” airlines, and the changes we’re seeing are minimal.

Mainly this just seems like a way for them to market further without much substance or focus on the passenger experience.

What do you make of the oneworld Connect concept, as it has been implemented?

Comments

  1. Hilariously complex. And it’ll be even more fun, when staff at each and every one of the carriers messes up on lounge access, checked-through bags, priority boarding and other benefits. At some point, Oneworld should be embarrassed by the complexity of it.

  2. What does “customers from” mean? Does that mean people with tickets issued by, or connecting on flights from, those special set of carriers? Is it because they only choose to enable those features for those IT systems that have been connected / enabled?

    Otherwise, if it meant simply cardholders of elite status from those airlines, then it’s just to save costs / not have to pay benefit fees? Because if they can do it, they’re just choosing not to for other customers?

  3. What’s even funnier is that basically nothing is different for QF as they already had an agreeement in place that offered the same benefits – so maybe FJ just really wanted to use the Oneworld logo in their marketing?

  4. and this will be explained to a tourist clearly by a agent at check in– when asked about it. Right.
    Even a Delta Skyclub front desk agent has no idea about policy of Delta Diamond using Partner airline lounge outside of US. Or when calling Diamond desk, they have to ask supervisor about it. And that is suppose to be a much “simpler” policy.

  5. Lucky – I’m flying in biz to NAN on an AA ticket in February via LAX on FJ as an AA Plat Pro member. On the way back, I’m flying in biz on a Qantas-number, FJ-operated flight?

    What lounge access will I have in each location?

  6. Yep, a little confusing. I kind of get it, because I read about this stuff all day.

    They had better figure out how to present this to the public and prepare staff in a way that makes sense. FJ is a drop in the bucket, AS will be a hurricane if/when they become a Connect partner.

  7. What makes no sense to me is when these benefits would really come into play. Don’t all these “sponsor” airlines already codeshare? Since these airlines all categorically refuse to through-check on separate PNRs — even with OW or JV partners — I can’t imagine this extending to Fiji just because. Bottom line: how is this different from business-as-usual? (ok, CX will through-check if CX is first metal you fly)

  8. These alliances are so complex the full members can’t make it work. Example. I bought a ticket from Miami to Rome from my cruise line. The itinerary was MIA-LHR-FCO. Both flights were operated by BA. The MIA-LHR leg was marketed by Finnair. The LHR-FCO leg was marketed by BA. One record locator. One ticket number. My AA number printed out on both boarding passes. I took the flights over a month ago. The LHR-FCO leg was in my AA account in a couple of days. The MIA-LHR leg, not yet. Four times I’ve sent in ticket numbers and boarding passes. Three times I’ve called and been told it will process shortly. Good luck to those buying tickets on Fiji and hoping to get EQM’s, EQD’s and RDM’s. When I went to Fiji earlier this year Fiji marketed flights were half the price of AA marketed FJ flights. ARGHH!!

  9. I agree it is such a stupid stupid stupid concept and will confuse and catch out the most frequent flyers and the most knowledgeable employees as well as just the few time a year flyer.

  10. @David: we can only assume that when he “calls the diamond desk” he uses “the PAID number, not the toll-free one.”

  11. Endre calls the diamond desk, because he wants to pay to use the lounge as he pays first for everything including first for making nonsense.

  12. YES! Very complicated. My question is … I am a Marco Polo Club member (and consequently Asia miles), can I travel on Fiji Airways (non codeshare flights) and earn status points/miles? Furthermore, can I redeem flights on FJ using my Asia Miles (like a multi-carrier award ticket)

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