Every boarding pass is plagued with numbers and letters all over the place. But there’s one detail you may have missed many times before.
There’s a number of aviation terms that really go over my head. It’s bad to admit, but I’m the girl who won’t remember what aircraft I flew. As long as it got me from A to B in comfort, I don’t really mind what type of plane it is. But there’s one geeky plane thing I usually remember and get excited about along with all the other aviation dorks, and that’s when an airline announces a new codeshare partnership.
What is a codeshare?
Airlines typically form alliances with other airlines. This allows them to offer customers more connections worldwide where they don’t offer routes. You’ve probably heard of the Oneworld alliance (which Qantas and British Airways are part of) and Star Alliance (Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways) – codeshare can be separate to this.
Codesharing is an agreement between two airlines that allows one airline to put its two-letter identification code on the flights of another airline.
If you’ve ever arrived at the airport and looked at the departures screen to see the right destination, flight time but a different airline code before the flight number, you were probably on a codeshare flight.
Why it’s worth knowing about codeshares
It’s worth knowing a little about codeshares as they can provide a great way to use points. With Covid, airlines are dialling back the frequency of their flights which means they need more partnerships to fly to all the destinations they market.
For example, there are obscure codeshare agreements such as Emirates and Qantas. While Virgin has a temporary pause on codeshare partners, it did have an agreement with Singapore Airlines, which is also good for Australian travellers.
The best way to use codeshares
Say you’re planning a holiday to Europe and you have Qantas points to burn. You login and surprise surprise, all the redemption seats are booked.
If you’re happy to land somewhere other than London, you can use your Qantas points and fly Emirates to Dubai, then onwards to its many destinations across Europe. Using Qantas points on Emirates can actually be easier on your wallet as you’ll likely pay less in airport taxes.
How do I know if it’s a codeshare flight?
This is the tricky part. Because the airlines want to make a seamless journey for passengers and save them the hassle of booking multiple times to get to the destination, it will seem as though you are flying the whole way with the same airline. But somewhere buried on the site, you’ll usually see the phrase ‘operate by’ which will tell you which airline will be getting you there.
The downside of codeshares
Unfortunately there are downsides, just because some airlines operate codeshares it doesn’t always mean using your points will be seamless.
For example, say you have booked an economy class flight on Emirates from Sydney to Athens via Dubai. You have lots of Qantas points and therefore assume that since they are codeshare partners that using them to upgrade will be a piece of cake. Unfortunately you can only upgrade on Emirates flights using Emirates points.
Wait a minute, I hear you say! You just told me I can use Qantas points to redeem for business flights on Emirates, so why can’t I use my points to upgrade?
Unfortunately like all things the terms and conditions come into play and there will be nuances. You might fly part of the journey with an airline that isn’t the same standard as the airline you initially booked with.
Occasionally, they may not recognise your status or allow you to upgrade. For example, Qantas has a codeshare with Cathay Pacific. If you’ve booked via Qantas and fly to Vietnam on a Cathay Pacific operated flight, you won’t be able to select your seat (whether it be paid or complimentary), check in online or select your meal.
If you have Qantas or Virgin status and you’re flying an airline which code shares, they will generally mirror the perks of the elite status programs. Say you have status with Qantas which gets you into the lounge and you’re flying a codeshare flight on Air New Zealand.
On my honeymoon I was able to use my Singapore Gold status to access airline lounges throughout Europe, it also afforded me business class check in as well as priority boarding. During a packed Europe summer season this literally saved me hours of my time.