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Frequent flyer: All you need to know about codeshares

What are the benefits of codeshare agreements, and how can you avoid ending up on a different plane to the one you book?

Published 8 Apr 2019, 23:59 BST
A codeshare lets airlines offer flights to destinations they wouldn’t normally cover
Photograph by Getty

What is a codeshare?

A partnership between two or more airlines that enables an airline to have its code applied to a flight operated by another airline. This arrangement allows airlines to offer flights to destinations they wouldn’t ordinarily cover.

How does this benefit passengers?

At the booking stage, this means they don’t have to go hunting for obscure airlines that connect cities. But the main hassle-reducing factor is in the seamless connections it offers for single, cheaper bookings. If you book a flight to Canberra in Australia with Etihad, Etihad will get you as far as Melbourne. The Melbourne to Canberra leg will then be with codeshare partner Virgin Australia. But — crucially — your luggage will be transferred through to the final destination. And you’ll get Etihad frequent-flyer points for all the flight legs.

Are there other benefits?

It also means airlines can reduce costs due to shared sales offices and maintenance crews. These savings, by and large, are reflected in lower fares. The airlines also coordinate flight times — meaning shorter transfers — and allow passengers access to each others’ facilities such as airport lounges.

What are the downsides?

To put it charitably, sometimes the codeshare partner isn’t up to the standards of the airline you’re booking with.

OK. How do I know which airline I’ll be flying with?

When booking, the flight number will probably be with your airline — that’s the code being shared. But buried away somewhere nearby will be the words ‘operated by’. That phrase tells you which airline’s metal you’ll be flying on.

Which codeshare partner should I book with?

In the vast majority of instances, it won’t matter all that much — you may as well go for the one you’re most familiar with, or you’ve got a frequent flyer account with. However, sometimes there can be a bizarre price differential — and so it’s worth checking with both.

What are the main codeshares I should I be aware of?

Most are part of one of the three main alliance schemes. But some airlines aren’t part of these alliances. These include Virgin Atlantic (which codeshares with Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Delta and Air China among others) and Emirates (which has 21 codeshare partners, including Alaska Airlines and Qantas).

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Published in the March 2019 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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