The Best Airlines for International Travel

International travel is a must-have life experience for millions of Americans, including Globe Aware volunteers. But which airline should you choose for your next volunteer vacation? Let’s look at a few popular U.S. airlines to see which ones fly to the most countries.

The Best Airlines for International Travel

By Ben Gran
The Motley Fool
May 24, 2024

International travel is a must-have life experience for millions of Americans. Whether you’re visiting another country for the first time or you’re a veteran globetrotter, it feels good to get your passport stamped in a new place.

But which airline should you choose for your next international trip? Let’s look at a few popular U.S. airlines to see which ones fly to the most countries.

1. United Airlines: 67 countries

United Airlines is the world’s largest airline by available seat miles and describes its network as “the most comprehensive global route network among North American carriers.” Basically, wherever you want to fly, United Airlines can help you get there — or at least get closer.

United Airlines offers nonstop flights to 67 countries and 134 international destinations, with more flights to destinations across the globe than all other U.S.-based airlines put together. If you want to fly to Europe, Asia, South America, or anywhere else in the world, United Airlines’ website could be a good place to start your search for flights.

United Airlines is also a founding member of Star Alliance, a group of 26 international airline partners serving 195 countries. So in case United can’t get you where you want to go, one of its international partner airlines probably can. Star Alliance partner airlines include:

  • Air India
  • Air New Zealand
  • ANA (Japan)
  • Asiana Airlines (South Korea)
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Lufthansa (Germany)
  • Singapore Airlines
  • TAP Air Portugal

If you sign up for the United MileagePlus® frequent flyer program, you can earn and redeem United frequent flyer miles on any Star Alliance partner airline. This gives you more reach to travel to other countries — and more value for your spending with United Airlines credit cards.

2. American Airlines: 60 countries

American Airlines is a close second in the rankings of which U.S. airlines fly to the most countries. It flies to more than 60 countries and 350 destinations (including the U.S.).

Some of American Airlines’ newest international destinations include:

  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Nice, France
  • Naples, Italy
  • Ocho Rios, Jamaica
  • Tulum, Mexico

Like United Airlines, American Airlines is also a member of a larger international partner network that can take you to even more countries. The oneworld® Alliance includes 13 member airlines, serving more than 170 international territories and more than 900 global destinations. If you join AAdvantage® (the American Airlines frequent flyer program), you can earn and redeem your American frequent flyer miles on any oneworld® Alliance airline.

Partners in the oneworld® Alliance include:

  • British Airways
  • Iberia (Spain)
  • Japan Airlines
  • Qantas (Australia)
  • Qatar Airways

If you’re a serious global traveler and want to earn discount flights or free upgrades on as many airlines as possible, it could be worth getting an American Airlines credit card.

3. Delta Air Lines (50 countries)

Delta Air Lines doesn’t have quite as wide of an international reach as American Airlines or United, but it’s not too far behind with service to 50 countries. And through its partnerships with other international airlines, Delta Air Lines can help you get to a total of 60 countries, six continents, and 1,000 destinations.

Delta Air Lines partners include:

  • Aeromexico
  • Air France
  • KLM (Netherlands)
  • Korean Air
  • LATAM (South America)

You can earn and redeem Delta SkyMiles® with Delta’s partner airlines. This is another reason why Delta Air Lines credit cards can be a good value — you don’t just earn frequent flyer miles for Delta flights; you can redeem those miles for award travel with more than 20 partner airlines.

Other airlines for booking international travel

United, American, and Delta are the three biggest U.S.-based airlines, and they have the largest international networks. If you want to fly to another country, you can often find tickets by starting with those “big three.”

But there are other options that can take you to other countries, sometimes at a more affordable price.

JetBlue Airways (30 countries)

JetBlue offers international flights to 30 countries, including Canada, Mexico, several countries in the Caribbean, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

Southwest Airlines (11 countries)

Southwest Airlines is one of the four largest U.S. airlines, but it hasn’t been known as a major player in international travel. However, Southwest offers flights to a total of 11 countries, including Mexico, Jamaica, Belize, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic.

International airlines

As an American air traveler, don’t assume that you should fly only on U.S.-based airlines. Most other international airlines can give you the same (or better) customer service, and you might even find better prices and adventurous deals.

I’ve personally flown on (and had a great experience) with Asiana Airlines, British Airways, Iberia, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, TAP Portugal, and others. Flying with Asiana gave my family an adventurous layover at the impressive Seoul Incheon Airport. Iberia gave us the occasion for a delightful overnight stopover in Madrid, and TAP Portugal let me see the gorgeous city of Lisbon for the first time.

Your choice of airline can be part of the spirit of discovery that international travel is all about!

Bottom line

The best airline for international travel often depends on where you want to travel and when you want to go. If you’re a frequent international traveler or digital nomad, you might want to use travel rewards credit cards. The best travel credit cards give you points and miles that you can transfer and redeem for cheap international travel — making any airline the “best” for your travel goals.


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