What’s behind codesharing?

Last week, we showed you how you could end up paying up to 50% more for booking a flight simply by clicking on a Swiss codeshare flight number instead of the original flight number. We have asked Swiss for a statement, but we haven’t received an answer yet. In the following, we explain what codesharing is all about and what purpose it serves.

Again and again, we receive requests from customers with the flight number of an airline that did not operate the flight in question.

Example: DLH5788

This is a Lufthansa flight number. This can be recognized by the abbreviation DLH.

In reality, this flight is sometimes performed by Helvetic Airways and, therefore, has another flight number: OAW1111 (OAW stands for Helvetic).

It is not surprising that this situation causes confusion on a regular basis. Some people are not even aware that they have not flown with the airline with which they may have booked their flight and which they, of course, assume they are flying with on the basis of the flight number (for instance, in the above example with Lufthansa).


What sense does codesharing make?

Codesharing is primarily a marketing measure. In this way, an airline can sell flights to another airline and massively expand its offerings.

Example: Swiss (SWR) offers the Zurich (ZRH) – Port Elizabeth Intl (PLZ) route with a change to Johannesburg Intl (JNB). The first route from ZRH to JNB will be operated by Swiss itself (flight number LX288), but the JNB – PLZ route will be operated by its partner, South African Airways. Nevertheless, this second flight also has an LX flight number (LX4132). As a result of this system, the customer departing from Zurich can book a flight from ZRH to PLZ and does not have to book flights separately with several airlines.


Further Details: The manual booking of several consecutive flights with different airlines is not recommended (e.g., from Zurich to Paris with Swiss and from Paris to Montreal with Air France). Should problems occur on the first flight and you miss the connection, neither airline will be held liable.


How can I tell if the airline I book with is actually operating the flight?

During the booking process, you will be shown which airline is actually operating the flight. If this is not the airline you are booking with, it usually says “Operated by…”. Greater flight numbers can also be an indication that the flight is operated by a partner airline. For example, Swiss flights operated by Edelweiss carry the flight numbers LX8000 – LX8999. “Normal” Swiss flight numbers, on the other hand, have the numbers 1 to 1999 after the abbreviation LX (e.g., LX008 = Zurich – New York or LX1576 = Zurich – Vienna).


Who is liable for flight irregularities, such as delays or cancellations?

The airline that effectively operates the flight is liable for any compensation payments due to delays and cancellations. Some of our customers who have tried previously to obtain compensation themselves may have failed because they turned to the wrong airline. It may not seem logical at first that although you have booked a flight with Lufthansa, you have to contact Helvetic after a cancellation.

Exception: There are airlines that rent the entire aircraft, including the crew, from another airline, which is called “wet lease”. Until recently, Austrian Airlines, for example, did this with Air Berlin planes/crews. Such a flight carries only an Austrian flight number (OS) and none from Air Berlin (AB). In case of an irregularity in this situation, you have to contact Austrian, because they sold a flight for their own airline and simply contracted the equipment and staff from someone else.

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