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Oneworld alliance guide: Learn about airlines, lounges and elite status

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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.

The Oneworld alliance was initially founded by American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Qantas. Now, the alliance has 13 member airlines and one Oneworld connect partner airline.

Oneworld airlines can take you to more than 900 destinations worldwide in 170-plus countries and territories. The Oneworld alliance is also the vehicle by which airline elite status with any Oneworld member airline is recognized when flying other alliance airlines. So, let’s take a closer look at the Oneworld alliance.

Oneworld airlines

The Oneworld alliance has 13 active members, though keep in mind that Oman Air will join Oneworld in 2024 and S7 was suspended in 2022. Here are the current Oneworld airlines:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Finnair
  • Iberia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Qantas
  • Qatar Airways
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Royal Jordanian
  • SriLankan Airlines
  • Fiji Airways (Oneworld connect partner)

This list of Oneworld member airlines is important for travelers, as you can usually book award travel on the member airlines through other Oneworld partners. For example, you can book an award flight that includes flights operated by other Oneworld airlines through American Airlines AAdvantage.

Related: What are airline alliances, and who’s in them?

Oneworld alliance status tiers

Oneworld has three elite status tiers: Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald. If you hold airline elite status with any Oneworld member airline, you’ll have one of these Oneworld statuses. Here’s a closer look at each of the Oneworld alliance status tiers.

Oneworld Ruby

The primary benefit of Oneworld Ruby status is access to business-class priority check-in queues. Look for the Oneworld logo with a ruby ellipse next to it, and you’ll be on your way to a check-in line that’s usually significantly shorter than the standard queue.

American Airlines priority check in at DCA
Oneworld Ruby members get access to the priority check-in queue when flying American Airlines. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Oneworld Ruby members may also get preferred or pre-reserved seating and priority on waitlists and when on standby. However, these perks aren’t offered consistently, as they’re provided based on the operating airline’s policy.

Some of the airline statuses that offer Oneworld Ruby status include:

  • Alaska Airlines MVP
  • American Airlines AAdvantage Gold
  • British Airways Executive Club Bronze

Oneworld Sapphire

Oneworld Sapphire is where the more impressive perks start to kick in. In addition to the benefits offered to Oneworld Ruby members, Oneworld Sapphire members also get access to business-class lounges on eligible tickets and priority boarding.

Boarding American Airlines
Oneworld elite members can enjoy priority boarding when flying with American Airlines. KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

You can also enjoy an extra baggage allowance and priority baggage handling when flying on Oneworld member airlines as an Oneworld Sapphire member. You’ll usually get at least 15 kilograms (about 33 pounds) more weight if the baggage allowance on your ticket is based on weight. You’ll also typically get at least one more checked bag weighing up to 23 kilograms (about 50 pounds) if the baggage allowance on your ticket is based on pieces.

However, you won’t get priority baggage handling when flying on British Airways flights, and you won’t get any additional baggage allowance if you book hand-baggage-only or basic fares with British Airways.

Here’s a look at some of the airline statuses that offer Oneworld Sapphire status:

  • Alaska Airlines MVP Gold
  • American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum
  • British Airways Executive Club Silver

Related: Elite status vs. miles: How to make the most of Oneworld partner tickets

Oneworld Emerald

Oneworld Emerald offers many of the same perks as Oneworld Sapphire status. However, in addition to the benefits given to Oneworld Sapphire members, Oneworld Emerald members get access to first-class lounges on eligible tickets, first-class priority check-in and fast-track or priority lanes at select airports.

BA first class check in
Oneworld Emerald members can use the first-class check-in area at London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR). KYLE OLSEN/THE POINTS GUY

Oneworld Emerald members also get at least 20 kilograms (about 44 pounds) more weight if the baggage allowance on their ticket is based on weight. However, Oneworld Emerald members still won’t get any additional baggage allowance due to status when flying on British Airways hand-baggage-only or basic fares.

These are some of the airline statuses that offer Oneworld Emerald status:

  • Alaska Airlines MVP Gold 75K and MVP Gold 100K
  • American Airlines AAdvantage Platinum Pro and AAdvantage Executive Platinum
  • British Airways Executive Club Gold

Oneworld Emerald is the primary reason why senior points and miles writer Katie Genter wants to earn at least AAdvantage Platinum Pro status. Katie loves visiting Oneworld first-class lounges — including Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class Lounge in Hong Kong, Malaysia Airlines’ First Class Golden Lounge in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Qantas’ International First Lounge in Los Angeles — when flying on eligible itineraries. Plus, some Oneworld airlines will automatically block the seat next to you when the flight isn’t full, which is a nice unpublished perk.

Related: The best websites for searching Oneworld award availability

Oneworld lounges

Oneworld and its member airlines have more than 600 lounges worldwide, including the new Oneworld alliance-branded lounge in Seoul, South Korea.

Before heading to the airport, research your Oneworld lounge options online. If you plan to gain lounge access based on your Oneworld status, look for the Sapphire or Emerald ellipse. As you look through the lounge options, check the lounge opening hours and whether you’ll have access based on the airline operating your flight.

Oneworld alliance lounge access

Most Oneworld lounges at the airport display the Sapphire or Emerald ellipses near the entrance. Since there are many Oneworld lounges at some airports — and often multiple lounges with similar names operated by the same airline — make sure to check the specific location of the lounge you want to visit on the Oneworld site.

For example, it would be disappointing to miss getting sushi if you could access the Japan Airlines First Class Lounge at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (NRT) but accidentally went to a different lounge.

Sushi in the Japan Airlines first class lounge in Tokyo Narita
The made-to-order sushi in Japan Airlines’ first-class lounges in Tokyo is certainly a treat. KATIE GENTER/THE POINTS GUY

First-class passengers and Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire members can bring one guest to the lounge if the guest also travels on a flight operated and marketed by an Oneworld airline.

Each lounge has its own access rules, though many provide access to eligible customers traveling on any Oneworld member airline. However, there are some cases when you may not have lounge access, even if you have Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald status or are flying in a premium cabin. Check the Oneworld alliance website for the most nuanced, up-to-date information on lounge access in addition to keeping these few things in mind:

  • Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan elite members who have Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald status only get lounge access when traveling on itineraries that include travel outside the U.S., Canada or Mexico.
  • American Airlines AAdvantage elite members with Oneworld Sapphire or Emerald status don’t usually get Oneworld lounge access when traveling solely on North American flights between the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean. However, you may get Admirals Club access when flying from the U.S. to Canada, the Caribbean and Mexico if your flight is operated by Alaska Airlines.
  • The Oneworld lounge access policy doesn’t include British Airways Concorde lounges; the Chelsea lounge at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)’s Terminal 8; Qatar Airways’ Al Safwa First and Al Mourjan Business lounges at Doha, Qatar’s Hamad International Airport (DOH); Qatar Airways Premium Lounges; arrivals lounges; spa facilities; and preflight dining facilities. However, you may have access to some of these lounges based on your operating airline and cabin class.
  • Qatar Airways Business Lite fares and Finnair Business Light fares aren’t eligible for lounge access.
  • Your flight must be both marketed and operated by an Oneworld member airline. Fiji Airways is an Oneworld connect partner, so you’ll only get lounge access before departure if your ticket also includes travel on British Airways, Cathay Pacific or Qantas (the Oneworld sponsors for Fiji Airways).

The lack of lounge access when flying within the U.S. and between the U.S. and some destinations near the U.S. is often disappointing for Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members who earn elite status through American Airlines AAdvantage and Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan. This is exactly why Katie has enjoyed having Oneworld Sapphire status through Malaysia Airlines Enrich since early 2019 despite also having Oneworld Emerald status through American AAdvantage. By having Oneworld Sapphire status from a non-U.S. airline, she’s gotten access to Admirals Clubs and even Flagship Lounges on flights to, from and within the U.S.

Related: Best credit cards for airport lounge access

Bottom line

The Oneworld alliance facilitates travel to over 900 destinations on a single ticket. Although the list of Oneworld airlines is noticeably missing a South American airline and only has one African airline, the Oneworld route map still provides good coverage worldwide.

Oneworld status and lounge access also mean travelers with elite status from any Oneworld airline will enjoy some perks when traveling with other airlines in the Oneworld alliance. One aspect that sets the Oneworld alliance apart from other airline alliances is that it provides first-class lounge access to its top-tier Emerald elite members. That said, Oneworld Ruby status also offers a valuable perk you don’t see with other airline alliances: access to business-class priority check-in queues.