British Airways is one of 15 major airlines in the oneworld alliance, alongside American, Qatar, Qantas etc. For you as a customer, the key benefit is that you can earn and spend Avios points on all 15 members. If you have status with one airline, you will receive reciprocal status benefits with the others.
In my view, oneworld is already the most generous airline alliance. This is driven by one key benefit – oneworld allows Silver or Gold (whichever is the middle tier – BA is Silver, Cathay is Gold) status cardholders to access the lounges of any member.
This is NOT something you can do with Star Alliance. A Silver (middle tier) Star Alliance status card only gets you lounge access with the airline group which issued your card. This means that a Lufthansa Miles & More Frequent Traveller (Silver) member can only access lounges when flying with Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, LOT or Adria. They are out of luck if they try it with Thai or United. You need to be a Star Alliance top-tier member to get universal lounge access.
oneworld has now improved its benefits even further.
From December 1st, holders of oneworld Sapphire and Emerald cards (BA Silver and BA Gold) are entitled to Priority Baggage tags when flying with any oneworld airline – even in economy.
Well, not EVERY oneworld airline. One airline is refusing to honour this benefit, because it is incapable of offering it even to its own premium customers. Yes, step forward British Airways.
If you have a Cathay Pacific Gold card and fly BA in economy, don’t feel bad when BA refuses to give you a Priority Baggage tag, even though every other oneworld airline will. BA’s priority baggage system doesn’t work for anyone, even full fare First Class customers. I am not even sure why BA bothers to put Priority tags on bags going into Heathrow because the service does not exist.
There is a second new oneworld benefit.
oneworld Sapphire (ie BA Silver, Cathay Gold) holders now receive a higher baggage allowance. This brings Sapphire members in line with the increased allowance given to Emerald (top tier) members last year.
The rules for this are a little complex:
On international or domestic itineraries using the baggage allowance “weight” system – you get an extra 15 kgs in addition to the ticketed Economy allowance
On international itineraries (including domestic sectors flown as part of international itineraries) using the baggage allowance “piece” system – you get a second bag, weighing up to 23 kgs, when the ticketed allowance is one bag
On purely domestic itineraries with flights using the baggage allowance “piece” system – you get the assurance of at least one piece of checked baggage, weighing up to 23 kgs, even when the regular ticketed allowance has no free allowance
This benefit does not apply if you are travelling on a Brtish Airways ‘hand baggage only’ fare. Even British Airways Executive Club elite members are not allowed a free case when travelling on those tickets …..