Reader Email: Reminder To Pay Attention To Operating Airline When Booking Flights!

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A LoyaltyLobby reader sent me an email about booking she had made with TAP that ended up being mostly with Emirates and with no Star Alliance Gold benefits.

Emirates A380

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Here’s the email from the reader:

As an Elite Plus Member with Turkish Airlines, and previously a 1K member with United I have been availing Star Alliance Gold Member benefits for many years. As such, I generally fly on a Star Alliance flight when I am able to. So, I booked a flight on TAP from Dubai to Faro for my husband and myself in economy class. On the confirmation from TAP it clearly states that the tickets were issued through TAP airlines and includes flight numbers for all four TAP airlines flights, Dubai to Lisbon, TAP 6730, Lisbon to Faro, TAP 1909, Faro to Lisbon TAP 1902 and Lisbon to Dubai, TAP 6731.

When I booked I had no idea that the Dubai to Lisbon flight would be on Emirates airlines. There was no indication of this during the booking process. I do not like flying with Emirates and avoid them as much as I can. However, since I had booked through TAP I assumed that my gold star alliance benefits would make the journey on Emirates Airlines somewhat bearable. I was dead wrong with this assumption.

The first problem occurred when I was not able to book my seats in advance on the Dubai – Lisbon – Dubai flights. The system automatically generated two middle seats in the middle row of four. These seats are, as we all know, not very desirable to seats to have. Then, at check in in Dubai I was denied priority baggage, lounge access and priority boarding by Emirates Airlines since I was flying in Economy class. I showed them that my ticket was a TAP ticket but I was told it was not a code share but a “partner airline” that did not recognize Star Alliance.

On the return flights, I was given all the Star Alliance Gold benefits in Faro but was denied lounge access in Lisbon. This was particularly annoying since the Lisbon to Dubai flight was delayed by more than two hours thus extending our 2 hour stopover to more than 4 hours.

In addition, I was treated very rudely by the TAP staff at both the lounge in Lisbon and at the TAP customer service counter. Even though I paid for a TAP ticket, which is clearly noted on the confirmation email, they insisted it was an Emirates flight. I also pointed out to them flight information screen, both the Emirates and TAP flight numbers were listed but still they insisted it was an Emirates flight.

There are several level of partnerships and codeshares that airlines may have each other and often these are minefields especially for someone wishing to take advantage of alliance wide benefits IF the operating airline is not part of it.

You have to distinguish between:

1. Marketing Airline

and

2. Operating Airline

Marketing airline is under whose code the flights is sold (the ticketing airline can be different too). In this case the Emirates flights was sold under TAP code and thus TAP was the marketing airline and Emirates was the operating one.

Star Alliance Gold benefits only apply if the operating airline is part of the alliance. If the reader had purchased Emirates coded flight but the flight had been operated by TAP, she would have received the Gold benefits (and perhaps some miles as well).

There are arrangements with airlines for reciprocal elite benefits even when they are not part of the same alliance but these benefits do not usually extend to members from other programs.

Conclusion

My advice is to try to avoid codeshares UNLESS they are beneficial for you like those Qantas coded flights on Emirates that credit to all Oneworld programs without any issues (just make sure that the fare classes are eligible).

Oneworld credits based on the marketing airline (Star Alliance based on the operating) and Qantas is an exception where most codeshares on other airlines even when the operating airline is non-Oneworld is eligible for credit.

I just wanted to remind readers to be aware of the codeshare pitfalls and pay attention to the operating airline. The reader here pretty much experienced the worst that can happen with codeshares and received ZERO elite benefits.

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