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For much of the past couple of years, international travel hasn’t been practical for many. Fortunately that’s starting to change, with a huge number of people traveling abroad again.
When I think of my international flying memories, the perks I’ve received on account of my oneworld Emerald status are among my favorites. I wanted to dedicate this post to why I love oneworld Emerald status so much, as I’m sure I’m not alone.
In this post:
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:
Personally I think oneworld Emerald status is the most valuable of those by far, so let me share why.
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:
Below I wanted to go into a bit more detail on the benefits above that I value most.
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
…to Qantas’ First Lounge Singapore.
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.
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 I only travel with hand luggage a vast majority of the time, for those times where I check luggage, the extra oneworld Emerald baggage allowance comes in handy:
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.
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:
While there’s huge value to airline status in general, I find that reciprocal alliance perks really shine with 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. It’s too bad that Hong Kong continues to remain largely closed, because Cathay Pacific probably has the strongest oneworld Emerald recognition of any airline in the alliance.
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?


We found having OW status immensely helpful for flying Finnair recently as it allowed us to book the cheaper Business basic ticket but still have lounge access and checked luggage we would have otherwise had to pay for with the next ticket tier price.
3 bags up to 70 pounds each?
It would be impossible to carry that much baggage!
The lounge benefit is (mostly) covered by Sapphire these days, based on how lounges are merging (e.g. Flagship, Qantas)
Cathay lounges HK stand out as a true Emerald benefit (once open again..)
But the other perks are nice to haves for sure. Whether it’s worth all the extra flying / $$ / routing about for those not just hitting it with work travel is debatable
The problem is , for UK members, its difficult now to get to top tier on AA as there is no co-branded UK credit card to help with status. Can you write a guide Lucky please, for UK members?
Thanks
Truth be told for UK folks, you’re better off aiming for BA Gold as it offers extra benefits over AA Exec Plat such as the domestic US lounge access that Lucky mentioned as well as domestic AA Flagship check-in
From an EU standpoint, OWE is almost useless. BA Galleries First is a zoo on most days, and you simply don’t get Concorde Room Access unless flying first specifically. Yes, QF First in both Singapore and LAX were (are) great, same with HKG – although the latter got downgraded over the years when switching catering companies.
As a first time HON, having access to FCT/FCL (FRA,MUC,ZRH) and HON lounge in VIE is simply better than…
From an EU standpoint, OWE is almost useless. BA Galleries First is a zoo on most days, and you simply don’t get Concorde Room Access unless flying first specifically. Yes, QF First in both Singapore and LAX were (are) great, same with HKG – although the latter got downgraded over the years when switching catering companies.
As a first time HON, having access to FCT/FCL (FRA,MUC,ZRH) and HON lounge in VIE is simply better than spending any time in those dreadful CX/JL lounges at FRA.
What’s the best frequent flyer program for me to obtain Oneworld Emerald status, I live in Australia so I can’t qualify through American Advantage due to the spending requirements & I don’t want to fly to the other side of the world to keep status, eg. Alaska, BA & Qatar have minimum segment requirements. I don’t want to stick with Qantas since their points are worthless so the only option I can think of is Iberia, does anyone have other suggestions?
I agree, flying mostly with Finnair as an Emerald card holder, the benefits and services are very good. Lately, I am flying AirFrance using its busines class… very good too!
Just returned from MBJ, arrived in LAX and had a transfer RT in MIA.
A few months ago, no problem accessing the Admiral Lounge on a domestic flight when flying on AA with AS 75K at MIA D30.
Not anymore!
This flight was to the Caribbean aka International and NO access.
It’s all about purchasing the Lounge+ with Alaska to gain access to all the Lounges.
$500 / yr. Emerald…
Just returned from MBJ, arrived in LAX and had a transfer RT in MIA.
A few months ago, no problem accessing the Admiral Lounge on a domestic flight when flying on AA with AS 75K at MIA D30.
Not anymore!
This flight was to the Caribbean aka International and NO access.
It’s all about purchasing the Lounge+ with Alaska to gain access to all the Lounges.
$500 / yr. Emerald doesn’t get you very far when in the US… only on International trips minus the Caribbean and Mexico.
@Lucky I am simply curious. Long time loyal and avid reader (much better than Loyalty Lobby). You are so learned in the FF world, so you know the FF programs around the world very well. Why would you (and others-as I am interested in other opinions as well) stay with the FF programs of US based airlines? Why stay on the hamster wheel every year with the minimum minimum spending requirements, devalued awards, and non…
@Lucky I am simply curious. Long time loyal and avid reader (much better than Loyalty Lobby). You are so learned in the FF world, so you know the FF programs around the world very well. Why would you (and others-as I am interested in other opinions as well) stay with the FF programs of US based airlines? Why stay on the hamster wheel every year with the minimum minimum spending requirements, devalued awards, and non access to lounges when flying domestically? TPG had an article about why it may be better to have elite status with non-US airlines. A lot of these airlines especially in Asia give you two years of status instead of one and you can access the lounges in America even on domestic flights with these international airlines when you have top tier status with them. Is it that because you have been so loyal to AA for so long that you are working on your lifetime status with them? You always talking about dropping AA but you do not. You say it is for OWE, but you can earn OWE with other OW airlines such as CX or JL. So, is it really for the lifetime status or because you have had such a long history with them? Thanks.
I concur with this point plus as mentioned in the article, there’s the additional benefits available to non-US OWE members but not Exec Plat or MVP 75K/100K. I think maybe BA Gold might be easier to obtain than JL or CX status. Plus there are strategies available to earn BA Gold without ever touching a single BA plane.
Hi. Can you share your thoughts on how to strategize getting and maintaining BA Gold without ever stepping onto a BA plane? Thank you for that.
I agree. As an US citizen who used to live overseas in eastern europe, I had elite status with Aegean and Qatar. Whenever I was back in the US, I really appreciated that I had lounge access (especially AA’s flagship lounges) plus I got upgraded once on a domestic United flight. Now I’m US-based, and while I’m likely going to lose my Qatar status this year (sad face), I still feel like the benefits of…
I agree. As an US citizen who used to live overseas in eastern europe, I had elite status with Aegean and Qatar. Whenever I was back in the US, I really appreciated that I had lounge access (especially AA’s flagship lounges) plus I got upgraded once on a domestic United flight. Now I’m US-based, and while I’m likely going to lose my Qatar status this year (sad face), I still feel like the benefits of status on a non-US airline outweigh the benefits the US carriers offer. Sure I’m not going to get lifetime status and I’m less likely to get upgraded, but I still get the other perks PLUS lounge access which is quite nice.
I am a oneworld emerald (exec platinum with AA) and I just booked a business promotion fare on long distance with Iberia and when I wanted to choose seats the system wanted to charge me despite having provided my AA number.
Hey Nick, I’m AA Exp and fly Iberia a few times a year. The seat charge thing is kind of weird, but what will happen is if you pick your seat in the app and click through all the way to where it asks you to pay, and then just exit the app and restart it, it will show that you have been assigned to your new seat. At this point, you could change seats…
Hey Nick, I’m AA Exp and fly Iberia a few times a year. The seat charge thing is kind of weird, but what will happen is if you pick your seat in the app and click through all the way to where it asks you to pay, and then just exit the app and restart it, it will show that you have been assigned to your new seat. At this point, you could change seats again for free at no charge. It’s a very bad setup, and the IB app is glitchy.
If you want to be sure, you can also call IB and have them assign you the seat. You won’t be charged, but I find the above to be an easy work around.
I agree – I have Gold Star Alliance and OneWorld Emerald – OneWorld wins hands down.
That said, does anybody know which OneWorld Emerald benefits would be conferred on a domestic (6 hours) flight on Alaska Air on a Main (not Saver) cabin booking?
Thanks
Whilst it has the best perks of the three alliances, it also has the most hopeless network. Just AT in Africa and now nothing in Latin America following LA departure. It should rename itself as the world is not ‘one’ with OneWorld. The others are at least more global.
Agreed. While OW partners in Asia, Middle East and Australia are as good as they come, cutbacks at LAX make them less valuable for west coast flyers. Europe partners, led by the unreliable and surcharge-addicted BA, are inconvenient. Africa and South America options are a wasteland, again, especially for those based on west coast.
A minor correction: As an emerald of no matter which airline you can always use American flag ship first check in. The website reads: “You can use Flagship® First Check-In if you’re flying on any flight operated by American (regardless of cabin).”
@ Lars — What am I missing? Here’s the page listing the rules:
https://www.aa.com/i18n/plan-travel/extras/flagship-first-check-in.jsp
There it says that Executive Platinum members can only use this for qualifying international itineraries.
My Emerald Status years (2012-2014) were my best flying years. I earned it through AA and found it was “good to be the king”. HKG lounges, the gluttony on offer in BKK (CX F, BA F)…was next-level. I sure miss OW Emerald! It was/is just better.
Yes. Champagne bar at The Wing followed by afternoon tea on the CX 747 in F on my way to BKK. Complete with delicious scones. Good times.
I booked JAL award tickets using AS miles. I could only select Aisle seats and cannot book windows seats on their Skysuite.
Will having OW Emerald help ? Its really pain reaching JAL CC currently with their 3-4 hrs hold times.
@ Ram — Indeed, oneworld Emerald members can select these seats in advance, while non-elite passengers on award tickets can only select them at check-in. So try to get your oneworld Emerald frequent flyer number on the reservation, if you can.
@Lucky, this isn’t true across the alliance. As a AS emerald on a AA ticketed QR flight, unable to pick any seats without fees at all. My AS number is in the reservation. Called AS and they said their agreement is only with AA, not other airlines in the alliance. Called QR and they said they can’t do anything about this and asked me to await a seat assignment at checkin.
Do you just copy and paste this post every 3-4 months? I swear I’ve seen it several times already.
I agree OWE is the best.
@ JJ — I last published a post about oneworld Emerald status roughly two years ago, at a time when there was virtually no international travel. I wanted to write an updated post to reflect the times and all that has changed.
Fully agree with you on this comparison. I have lifetime *G from when I used to fly UA and reached MM status, switched to AA/OW 7-8 years ago so I’ve a decent sample size on both and OneWorld >> *G and a lot of that is the OWE lounge benefit. While *A has some nice FC lounges (LH FCT/FCL, SG Private Room) they are not accessible by status and there’s only a small number of…
Fully agree with you on this comparison. I have lifetime *G from when I used to fly UA and reached MM status, switched to AA/OW 7-8 years ago so I’ve a decent sample size on both and OneWorld >> *G and a lot of that is the OWE lounge benefit. While *A has some nice FC lounges (LH FCT/FCL, SG Private Room) they are not accessible by status and there’s only a small number of them. Another reason for fewer *G benefits I think comes from the fact *A only has 2 tiers, so the *G population is going to be much larger than OWE.
Did you get concierge key with the simply miles promo (or maybe you are saving that for a seperate post)?
I understood OneWorld Emerald’s were equivalent to AA Executive Platinum Pro v Executive Platinum?
One World status stems from a person’s frequent flyer program status. In the case of AA, both Executive Platinum and Platinum Pro qualify as One World Emerald.
Thanks… but I meant that OneWorld Emerald earned on BA, Qatar etc. appears on AA as Exec Plat Pro. Lucky mentions it was AA Exec Plat.
@ Khatl — Sorry, I’m not sure I follow? What would the distinction here be when it comes to flying American between the tiers, since it’s not like oneworld Emeralds with other airlines (other than Alaska) are eligible for complimentary first class upgrades on American?
@khatl, I’m a BA gold card living in the USA. When flying on AA in the USA oneworld emerald are now mapped to platinum pro following the upgrade for platinum pro to OWE. It means we lost free snacks (AA why won’t you provide food on cross country flights???) But have access to lounges. Perhaps this answers your question.
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@Lucky I am simply curious. Long time loyal and avid reader (much better than Loyalty Lobby). You are so learned in the FF world, so you know the FF programs around the world very well. Why would you (and others-as I am interested in other opinions as well) stay with the FF programs of US based airlines? Why stay on the hamster wheel every year with the minimum minimum spending requirements, devalued awards, and non access to lounges when flying domestically? TPG had an article about why it may be better to have elite status with non-US airlines. A lot of these airlines especially in Asia give you two years of status instead of one and you can access the lounges in America even on domestic flights with these international airlines when you have top tier status with them. Is it that because you have been so loyal to AA for so long that you are working on your lifetime status with them? You always talking about dropping AA but you do not. You say it is for OWE, but you can earn OWE with other OW airlines such as CX or JL. So, is it really for the lifetime status or because you have had such a long history with them? Thanks.
@ JJ — I last published a post about oneworld Emerald status roughly two years ago, at a time when there was virtually no international travel. I wanted to write an updated post to reflect the times and all that has changed.
I agree. As an US citizen who used to live overseas in eastern europe, I had elite status with Aegean and Qatar. Whenever I was back in the US, I really appreciated that I had lounge access (especially AA's flagship lounges) plus I got upgraded once on a domestic United flight. Now I'm US-based, and while I'm likely going to lose my Qatar status this year (sad face), I still feel like the benefits of status on a non-US airline outweigh the benefits the US carriers offer. Sure I'm not going to get lifetime status and I'm less likely to get upgraded, but I still get the other perks PLUS lounge access which is quite nice.

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