Although airlines were among the first travel industry suppliers to embrace Affiliate Marketing, not all airlines offer affiliate programs. This is particularly true in the United States, where as a result of intense consolidation and competition brought on by airline deregulation beginning in 1978, today 10 airlines hold more than 82% market share*, and of these, only four offer affiliate programs.
Airline affiliate programs are far more prevalent in Europe, and to a certain extent, are key elements of some airlines’ distribution strategies in Latin America, AsiaPac and the Middle East.
Here’s a tip that may help you determine which airline(s) you choose to work with: typically, airlines pay less (or in many circumstances, nothing) for distribution channel support in their home countries, but those same carriers will pay handsomely when competing for travelers to fill their planes in non-home markets. For example, a non-US headquartered airline is likely to be more aggressive and pay higher commissions and spiffs to travel affiliates in the US than most US ‘flag’ carriers; these sales channel opportunities are likely to be reversed when the US carriers are competing in that same international carrier’s home market.
Below we provide a short list of the airlines – large and small – that are strong supporters of travel affiliate marketing and rely on affiliates as a key element of their distribution strategy. Check-out each program and see which ones are potentially the best fit with your customer base and brand.
U.S Based Airlines
- Alaska Airlines / Horizon Air - Known for their service and dependability, Alaska Air Group’s Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air have won numerous awards over the years, including the JD Power Award for Highest Satisfaction Among Network Carriers in North America in 2008 (awarded to Alaska Airlines) and the Conde Nast Business Travel Award for the ‘Top Single Class Airline 2002 – 2008 (Horizon Air). Collectively, they serve 92 destinations in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.Alaska Airlines Affiliate Program
- Delta Airlines – Recently merged with Northwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines is now the world’s largest airline, enplaning more than 170 million passengers last year. The two carriers operate hubs in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Detroit, Memphis, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York-JFK, Salt Lake City, Amsterdam and Tokyo-Narita, and together with its regional feeder carrier, Delta Connection, they offer service to 368 destinations in 66 countries around the world.Delta Airlines Affiliate Program
- Hawaiian Airlines – If you need to get around the Hawaiian Islands, you’ve essentially got two airline options, and Hawaiian is one of them. The oldest airline operating in the US’ ‘Pacific paradise’, Hawaiian Airlines also flies from Honolulu and Kahalui to several major gateways on ‘the mainland’.Hawaiian Airlines Affiliate Program
- JetBlue Airways – A true innovator in the airline industry whether in the US or internationally, JetBlue has been able to seamlessly meld the low-cost airline model with superior in flight service and amenities, much to the dismay of many traditional and low-cost US carriers.Jet Blue Affiliate Program
- Air France - Combined with it’s sister company, KLM (see below for KLM’s affiliate program), Air France KLM is the world’s largest airline by revenue ($31 billion) and 3rd largest by passenger miles, and they fly more than 74 million passengers annually on 607 airplanes to more than 258 destinations around the world. Their network is particularly strong in Europe, Africa and the South Pacific.Air France Affiliate Program
Air France Affiliate Program FAQs
- Air New Zealand - Air New Zealand is often cited by industry leaders and travelers worldwide as among the top airlines in the world. Despite its small size and the relative remoteness of New Zealnd’s geographical location, the airline provides a solid east-west global network that spans 5 continents. We also admire them because of their (and their country’s) strong stance on and commitment to global environmental responsibility.Air New Zealand Affiliate Program
- British Airways – As the 6th largest airline in the world (as measured by revenue), flying more than 35 million passengers on 245 airplanes to some 550 destinations around the world, British Airways (or ‘BA’ as everyone across ‘The Pond’ refers to them), is a key proponent of affiliate marketing and works with affiliate marketers around the world.US Affiliate Program for BA
UK Affiliate Program for BA
- Cathay Pacific (UK only) – Boasting one of the youngest fleets in the world, Cathay Pacific ranks among the most prestigious airlines. Based in Hong Kong, they operate 105 aircraft and fly to more than 104 destinations in 35 countries.UK Cathay Pacific Affiliate Program
- Condor (Europe only) – Germany’s ‘other’ major airline, Condor sole focus is on the vacation / leisure air travel market. Operating out of its home base of Frankfurt and a hub in Munich, Condor offers the most leisure flights from Germany to destinations in the Mediterranean, Africa, North America, the Caribbean and Asia. It is a subsidiary of The Thomas Cook Group, Europe’s second largest tour operator.Condor Affiliate Program for Europea-based affiliates
- Emirates – One of the youngest airlines in the world (barley 15 years since its founding), today Emirates is the world’s fastest growing airline, and flies to 101 destinations in 61 countries around the world. The airline operates 123 aircraft (with another 214 on order), and expects to be the largest operator of the the Airbus 380, the largest airliner in the world, with more than 58 A380s expected in Emirates’ fleet within the next 10 years. Emirates is headquartered in Dubai, the commercial and tourism capital of the Middle East.Emirates Affiliate Program
- KLM – The sister company of Air France (see above), KLM operates as a stand-alone business, and it holds the distinction as the world’s oldest airline company. As the flag carrier of The Netherlands, KLM is unique in that although it does not operate any domestic routes, from its bases in Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, travelers can fly to more than 146 destinations on six continents. KLM offers affiliate programs in a number of countries, including the UK, however currently, there is no comparable program in the US.UK KLM Affiliate Program
- LAN Airlines (US) – As one of the leading airlines in South America, LAN Airlines Group is comprised of 6 airlines (LAN Peru, LAN Ecuador, LAN Argentina, LAN Express, and LAN Airlines), which collectively operate flights from Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Argentina to the US, Caribbean, Europe, as well as 15 destinations in other Latin American countries, two in Europe and four in the South Pacific.LAN Affiliate Program
- Scandinavian Airline System (SAS): Offering 1,167 daily departures to more than 176 destinations in some 30 countries, SAS is Scandinavia’s leading airline. SAS has a strong focus on the business traveler, is highly environmentally conscious and has a stellar safety record. Although they do not have a US affiliate program at the moment, their pan-European program is worth looking into.SAS Affiliate Program – Europe
- Singapore Airlines - Consistently voted by business travelers, airline journalists and its peers in the aviation industry, Singapore Airlines is arguably the world’s preeminent airline. A perennial winner in a number of the most coveted business awards, such as ranking among the top 20 in Fortune’s World’s Most Admired Companies, named several times as Air Transport World’s ‘Airline of the Year’, among others, Singapore Airlines has built a strong brand name in the aviation industry. Currently, it ranks sixth in the world in terms of international passengers carried, fifteenth in terms of revenue per passenger kilometer, and flies to 60 destinations around the around. It does not offer a US affiliate marketing program.Singapore Airlines Affiliate Program
- Virgin Atlantic Airways – It’s not often the resume of the founder of an airline also includes creating successful companies in diverse industries as record label / music, telecoms, health care services, trains, and soft drinks, to name just a few. But that’s what Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of Virgin Atlantic has done (and, yes, he’s also been knighted by the Queen of England in recognition of his many accomplishments, ergo the ‘Sir’ in his name).Virgin Atlantic has the well deserved reputation for top notch service, both on the ground and in the air, and has originated many unique services that have been copied by competitors around the world. Check-out their product, route network and affiliate program at:Virgin Atlantic Affiliate ProgramConventional air travel not what you’re looking for? Well, reserve a ticket on Virgin Galactic, one of Sir Richard’s more ambitious start-ups, and be one of the first non-astronauts to fly in orbital space! Coming soon to a launch pad near you…
*Note: Market share measured in domestic revenue passenger miles, January – December 2008; source: RITA Bureau of Transportation Statistics