Admittedly status with a global airline alliance is less valuable right now than ever before, given how limited international travel is, and that many airline lounges are closed.

That being said, I wanted to dedicate a post to why I love oneworld Emerald status so much, even if it’s of limited value right now. Why am I posting about this now? Because I found myself daydreaming yesterday about some past travels, and for whatever reason several oneworld lounges came to mind, and those were accessed primarily through oneworld Emerald status.

What is airline alliance status?

There are three major global airline alliances — oneworld, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam — and combined they have dozens of airline members. Not all airlines belong to a global alliance, though many major airlines do.

One of the benefits of these alliances for frequent flyers is that there’s a certain level of reciprocity when it comes to elite perks.

You don’t earn elite status directly with an alliance, but rather you earn status with a member airline, and that status maps over to an alliance elite tier. Just to give some examples:

  • American AAdvantage Executive Platinum gets you oneworld Emerald
  • Delta SkyMiles Diamond Medallion gets you SkyTeam Elite Plus
  • United MileagePlus Premier 1K gets you Star Alliance Gold

Personally I think oneworld Emerald status is the most valuable of those by far, so let me share why.

I value oneworld Emerald status immensely

What are the benefits of oneworld Emerald status?

The oneworld alliance has three elite tiers — Ruby, Sapphire, and Emerald. Emerald is the top tier status, and is typically earned with having high level status in a oneworld frequent flyer program.

What are the perks of oneworld Emerald status? Here are the high-level benefits, roughly in the order that I value them:

  • Access to first & business class lounges
  • Access to preferred and pre-reserved seating
  • Priority boarding
  • Extra baggage allowance
  • Access to first class check-in
  • Fast track at select security lanes
  • Priority baggage handling
  • Priority on waitlists and when on standby

Access lots of great lounges with oneworld Emerald status

Below I wanted to go into a bit more detail on the benefits above that I value most:

Lounge access with oneworld Emerald

The single best perk of oneworld Emerald status is the lounge access benefit, as members receive access to oneworld first & business class lounges when traveling on a oneworld flight the same day in any cabin. They’re allowed to even bring one guest with them (also traveling on a oneworld flight).

Now, there are a few things to be aware of:

As far as I’m concerned this leaves some really phenomenal oneworld Emerald lounges, including some that I’d rank among the best first class lounges around the world.

This ranges from Cathay Pacific’s The Pier First Class Lounge Hong Kong

Cathay Pacific oneworld Emerald lounge Hong Kong

…to Qantas’ First Lounge Singapore.

Qantas oneworld Emerald lounge Singapore

Again, these lounges are largely closed right now, but that will change eventually, and I can’t wait for when it does.

Preferred & pre-reserved seating with oneworld Emerald

I wish this weren’t actually a benefit that I valued, but unfortunately some airlines in oneworld charge for seat assignments, even in business class. For example:

While I’d probably otherwise usually book away from airlines with policies like this, oneworld Emerald status makes this a non-issue, as I can continue to select seats in advance for free.

Do note that each airline has a different policy when it comes to assigning oneworld Emerald members priority economy seats. Some will assign extra legroom economy seats for free (for example, American gives oneworld Emerald members with joint venture partners free Main Cabin Extra seats), while others won’t.

Assign British Airways business class seats for free as a oneworld Emerald

Priority check-in & boarding with oneworld Emerald

As a oneworld Emerald member you can generally check in with international first class, and also board with international first class. Personally I love this perk because when I review flights it’s handy to be able to board business class when first class boards, so I can snap pictures of the cabin before it gets too full.

Note that the exact policy of each airline differs. For example:

  • While British Airways and Cathay Pacific let oneworld Emeralds board with international first class, American only lets oneworld Emeralds board after all premium cabin passengers
  • Those who earn oneworld Emerald through American AAdvantage can only use American’s Flagship First check-in facility when flying on select international flights

Board with first class as a oneworld Emerald member

Extra baggage allowance with oneworld Emerald status

While I only travel with hand luggage a vast majority of the time, for those rare times where I check luggage, the extra oneworld Emerald baggage allowance comes in handy:

  • For tickets that have a weight limit, you get an extra 20kg of luggage
  • For tickets that have a piece system, you get one additional bag

For example, while American Airlines domestic first class passengers get two free checked bags up to 70 pounds each, as an Executive Platinum member (oneworld Emerald) I get a third free checked bag with the same weight limit.

How does oneworld status compare to others?

So, why do I prefer oneworld Emerald status to top tier status with Star Alliance or SkyTeam? First of all, the oneworld alliance is the only one to have a true “top tier” alliance-wide status. For example, Star Alliance Gold is the highest Star Alliance status, and you generally get that with mid-tier airline status.

Big picture:

  • Star Alliance Gold doesn’t get you access to international first class lounges with any airlines, while I consider that to be the single best oneworld Emerald perk (and please, no one tell me that Lufthansa Senator Lounges are in fact first class lounges)
  • SkyTeam Elite Plus is just generally uncompetitive; for example, SkyTeam Elite Plus members with non-US airlines don’t even get lounge access when traveling domestically within the US, while elite members with oneworld and Star Alliance do

Bottom line

2020 isn’t the year where status with a global airline alliance is particularly valuable, but that won’t stop me from appreciating all the great perks I’ve received through oneworld Emerald.

Any time I consider giving up on status with American Airlines, I’m reminded of how much I’d miss oneworld Emerald status. There’s something about the peak experiences that the status allows that makes me really value it.

It sure is nice to fly American business class out of LAX and use the Qantas First Lounge, or fly Cathay Pacific business class on a short hop out of HKG and use the Cathay Pacific First Lounge. Again, go figure these lounges (and in some cases, destinations) aren’t open right now, but I do look forward to when it’s possible to enjoy them again.

Anyone else love oneworld Emerald as much as I do? And anyone disagree with my take, and prefer status with Star Alliance and/or SkyTeam?

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