This week’s reader mail comes from Annette up in Canada. Annette asks “What’s the difference between a code share and interline agreement between airlines?”
Annette, in fact, a code-share and an interline agreement are quite different. I can go into depth, but that really doesn’t help travelers all that much … so I’ll stick with the simpler answers that actually impact you, the person flying where ever it is your headed.
A code-share agreement offers airlines the ability to use one flight, operated by a partner airline’s “metal,” with multiple flight numbers. Passengers on board these flights can accrue frequent flyer program miles, elite qualifying miles and other perks, such as priority check in, boarding, etc.
An example of a code-share flight can be found looking at American Airlines Flight 85, the 2:55pm flight from New York’s JFK to San Francisco International Airport. AA Flight 85 also operates as Qantas Flight 3087, Malev Flight 4148, and Alaska Airlines Flight 1288. All of these flights board an American Airlines Boeing 767-300…but the boarding passes for passengers simply have different flight numbers.
For those loyal to Alaska Airlines flying this route … then can also fly at 3:35pm on Alaska Flight 5534, which is operated on a Delta Air Lines flight, Delta Flight 141 … that is also operated as KLM Flight 8440. Much like AA 85, Delta 141 flies out on a Delta Boeing 757-200, but passenger-boarding passes just have different flight information.
Code-shares generally happen within an alliance, but not always, such as Air France, a SkyTeam airline, and Qantas, a OneWorld airline. For routes between France and Australia the two airlines operate code-share flights. For the first leg of the travel, from France to Singapore passengers board an Air France Boeing 777-300ER, flying as Air France Flight 256, which also operates as Qantas 3978. From Singapore to Sydney the passengers then board a Qantas Boeing 747-400, flown as Qantas Flight 6 with the code-share flight number of Air France Flight 8096.
Interline agreements allow passengers to book multiple segments on multiple airlines, and baggage to transferred between airlines. While interlining is fairly common among ‘legacy airlines’ it is quite rare among low cost carriers, although some low cost carriers are entering into limited interline agreements.
When a passenger purchases a multiple segment, multiple airline, ticket, generally the ticket is issued under the name of the first airline in the sequence of flights. Some travel agents might choose to have the ticket under the name of an airline operating a different segment due to a higher commission for the sale of the ticket.
When a passenger flies an interline flight their baggage will move from flight to flight with them and when they check in for the first flight, it means they’ve also checked in for all the flights.
It is important to note that flying interline flights does not mean that passengers will accrue frequent flyer miles. Agreements such as the recent interline between JetBlue and American Airlines, to move US domestic passengers on JetBlue to American Airlines international destinations, while convenience for flyers, earns no AAdvantage miles on the JetBlue segment or TrueBlue points on the American Airlines segments.
So, while code-sharing and interline flights may sounds the same … in reality the definition of both is quite different.
Hope that clears up the difference between a code-share agreement and an interline agreement.