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Airline codeshare differences revealed

Tips on how to save money on flights

Travellers are paying the same prices for airlines with very different levels of service, a Which? investigation into airline codeshares has revealed. 

About one fifth of travellers have experienced a codeshare – which is when the same flight is sold by two or more airlines under their own brands – according to our survey. 

It means that when you buy your ticket, the flight will display the code of the airline you booked with, such as BA for British Airways, but you may fly on a plane operated by a partner airline, such as Qantas.

Before you make your choice about who to fly with, have a look at our survey of the best and worst airlines.

Airline codeshares

The biggest proportion of Which? members who experienced a codeshare had booked with BA. And their responses to the survey showed many were unhappy at the experience provided by two of BA’s key partners.

Of the people who booked with BA, but flew with Iberia, nearly two thirds (62%) thought Iberia’s standards were worse than BA. And more than half (54%) of people who booked with BA but flew with American Airlines (AA) thought standards were worse on AA.

Concerns mentioned by members included differences in baggage allowances, meal quality, problems with online check-in and having to pay for food and drink on partner airlines when it was free on BA.

BA codeshare partners

British Airways said customers were made aware at the time of booking of the differences between the airlines and customers could choose which one to travel with.

Despite the differences in service levels, there was little or no difference in price for the flights we looked at. For example, 12 flights from London to Madrid on the same Saturday in January were sold at £386 on the BA website and £384 on the Iberia website, regardless of which airline operated the flight.

Save money on flights

If two or more airlines are selling the same flight, you can sometimes save money by checking all of their respective websites to see what price they are offering.

For example, we found Flybe was up to £160 more expensive than Air France for the same flight package on four flights between Manchester and Paris for one day in January. 

This was because Air France included a 23kg luggage allowance in the price, but Flybe charged for bags. Flybe also charged £11 for paying by credit card, compared with the £4.50 charged by Air France.

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