Point Me to the Miles

Navigating the Path to Great Travel

The Truth About Codesharing

I ran across an article recently, on Christopher Elliott’s blog addressing the subject of codesharing.  Not often am I repulsed by an article, but I when it is flawed.   And Mr. Elliott, with all due to respect, had written a piece with blatant errors.  I will give him some credit—he is a consumerist, and not necessarily a points junkie, so I will give him a little leeway.  Still, the article is riddled with false statements.

But I am skipping ahead, and suppose I should first explain what codesharing.  The US General Services Administration (GSA) offers a decent explanation, (GSA), but essentially it is a commercial agreement between two (or more) partner airlines, to jointly operate the same flight.  The result is it allows an airline to put its two-letter identification code (i.e. “DL” for Delta) on the flights of another airline, as it occurs both in the reservation system and at the airport.

For example, a domestic flight within the US may include KLM and AirFrance Flight numbers, while being operated by Delta, complete with Delta Flight numbers, as all of these airlines are members of the SkyTeam Alliance.  Or to go with a OneWorld example, as the article in question does, an American Airlines Flight AA 6127 is actually operated by British Airways, as noted on American’s website:


Granted, the intricacies of codes haring could be quite vexing to your average passenger, especially with say, seat selection.  But, as I detailed in a recent post, Seat Guru is an incredible tool to use trying to select a perfect seat, even if the flight is operated by another airline.

Afterall, you don’t want to pay extra like the passenger in question, and receive a “poor” experience:

’These preferred seats were behind the wall of a toilet. So for nine long hours we heard flushing, door opening and closing, people standing in line to get to the one of only two bathrooms in coach. I could not even sleep.’

 On the American Airlines website, it didn’t note the toilets. But on the British Airways site, she says, they were clearly highlighted, and she would have never paid extra for the seats.”

Or maybe if they just used SeatGuru….

Christopher goes on to talk about the incident in detail and how the passenger requested a refund, but was denied.  It never hurts to ask, though I have found out having status doesn’t hurt either.  Anyway, the struggles of this poor soul are not where my beef lies.

It really begins when he sets out debunk some supposed “myths,” which I will address:

Myth: Codesharing gives you access to more destinations.

Fact: No it doesn’t. The airline you’re booking a ticket with is still flying to the same number of cities. Its codeshare “partners” are serving the rest and allowing your airline to claim those destinations as its own. That is a lie.

In reality, codeshares do grant you access to more destinations.  The fact that airline partners serve additional markets that other airlines (or a single airline) don’t, means more location and thus greater access.  If his point was that a single airline does not serve more destinations, I suppose this would be true, but he is really just splitting hairs.

Myth: Codesharing allows you to collect and redeem more award miles.

Fact: Oh really? Try redeeming your hard-earned frequent flier points for a flight and tell me how that goes. Unless you’re super-flexible or have an encyclopedic knowledge of programs and codeshare partnerships, you’re going to feel like a sucker for having bought that argument. It’s worthless scrip.

Yes, codesharing indeed means that I can redeem American Airlines miles for flights on Cathay Pacific.  It’s still a bit of a hidden gem, but evidently Mr. Elliott has not heard of my award booking service.  Or , on a more famous note, the services of others  like Gary, Lucky, and Matt.  The only thing required to redeem them is a destination, and you can leave all the hassle of booking to us!

Myth: Codesharing improves service.

Fact: No it doesn’t. Codesharing allows your airline to offer substandard service and blame a partner airline for its own incompetence.

It may improve service, it may not.  Really it just depends on the airline, the people you are dealing with, and likely whether you have status or not.  I will say though, that if you probably would get much better service on Thai, than on their codeshare partner US Airways.  Just a thought.

Bottom line is that, while confusing, codesharing does more good than harm.

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