All about SkyTeam- Comparing airlines and Elite Earning

MEA Lounge at Beirut airport

Of the seven airline alliances, Skyteam is the one  I have had the least to do with. You will usually find me on a OneWorld plane before a SkyTeam flight! Of my 1200+ flights, almost half have been on a One World carrier, a fifth with a Star Alliance airline and fewer than ten percent have been via a Skyteam partner. This is caused by three things:

  1. Australia and New Zealand have never had a Skyteam member,
  2.  I have had elite status with Qantas /One World and Star Alliance carriers for over a decade
  3. My concern/perception that Skyteam carriers do not provide as good a service as One World or Star Alliance carriers, in almost every market.

So, as a result, while it is the second biggest airline alliance after StarAlliance) with  20 members, I have flown just six of them. Most of my Skyteam flights have been with one carrier: Delta who I have a frequent flyer account with that sees little action.

Source: Skyteam

Skyteam Statistics

Started by five carriers in June 2000, Skyteam partners now collectively operate 4300 planes to over 1,000 destinations around the globe.  52 aircraft carry the actual SkyTeam livery. They transported 569 million passengers last year. Frequent Flyer Programs Each of the airlines operate some sort of Frequent Flyer program.  Four airlines share the same program:

Each of the airlines operate some sort of Frequent Flyer program.  Four airlines share the same program: FlyingBlue. This scheme emerged from the Air France-KLM 2005 merger when Air France’s Fréquence Plus and KLM’s Flying Dutchman were combined. Kenya Airways in which KLM has been a major shareholder joined Flying Blue followed by  Tarom. Flying Blue now has about seventeen million members.

Each Skyteam program allows a member to earn points irrespective of which airline they fly.  Earn rates do vary though, with some airlines being more generous than others. Always check earn rates! You cannot combine miles earnt in different programs. You can also use miles to buy flights on any SkyTeam airline.

My 778th flight ever on a Delta CRJ700 en route Los Angeles to San Francisco

Frequent Flyer Status The SkyTeam Alliance offers two status levels:

  1. SkyTeam Elite
  2.  SkyTeam Elite Plus
Each individual carrier’s Elite membership program has a link to one of these two tiers. A higher status can be earned (and kept) by flying a minimum number of miles or flight segments per year.  The tables below show the comparative number of miles or segments required to earn the two status levels. The variation between Skyteam airlines for qualifying have significant variations. Likewise, the earn rates across airlines are quite different across the airline.
Five Star Airlines

Only one of the Skyteam airlines is considered to be a “Five-Star airline” by Skytrax, an airline rating service. Garuda Indonesia gained that rating last year after a turnaround focussed on overcoming poor practice and reputation.  I almost flew them last Christmas, after years of avoiding them because of safety fears but in a country which has a poor reputation for air safety, Garuda has just 4/7 for safety according to airline ratings. I flew Qantas instead.

To qualify for SkyTeam Elite, you need to fly 30 thousand miles (30K) or 3o segments (30S) with Garuda. 65 thousand miles or 65 segments gets you SkyTeam Elite Plus.

Four Star Airlines

Eight airlines qualify for  Skytrax’s four-star ranking, which means they are considered to be “Good Airlines”. They are  Aeroflot, Air France*, China Airlines*, China Southern AirlinesKorean Air,* KLM* Saudia, Vietnam Airlines.

My table shows the Airline, my rating of them where I have flown them plus their Skytrax passenger rating, Frequent Flyer Program Name, what each airline calls their Tier status and how much you need to earn status. 25K means 25,000 miles and 25S means 25 segments or flights flown. The four marked with a * are the Skyteam carriers, I have actually flown.

Korean seems to have the most onerous qualification, requiring you to fly almost exclusively with them to get to SkyTeam elite status. They do give people two years to get to SkyTeam Elite Status. Moreover, you need to fly half a million miles before you can get SkyTeam Elite Plus!

Air France/KLM offers the easiest way to get SkyTeam Elite Plus Status particularly if you fly a lot of short flights over a year. with just 40 thousand miles or 30 flights.

Three Star Airlines

Twelve Skyteam airlines are what Skyteam call “Fair airlines”, in other words, average. I would further divide them into two camps:

  1.  Carriers with acceptable service including Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines*,  Middle East Airlines,  TAROM, Xiamen Airlines
  2. Mediocre airlines which I spend my time avoiding: Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aeroméxico, Alitalia*, Air Europa, China Eastern Airlines, Kenya Airways,

My table again shows the airline’s Frequent Flyer and the earning levels required to gain one of the two SkyTeam Status levels!

Lounges

One of the best things about SkyTeam Elite Plus is access to almost 600 airport lounges when you are departing on an international flight for yourself and a guest. Of course, you can also get access if you are booked on an international first class or business class flight!

The  Air France First Class Lounge at Paris Charles de Gaulle made it into Skytrax Top Ten First Lounges at spot four but no Skyteam Business Class lounge made the Top Ten. The alliance has opened some combined lounges in Beijing, Dubai, Hong Kong,  Istanbul, London Heathrow and Sydney. They look great and I would be keen to try them out!

How many Skyteam Airlines have you flown? Who is your most and least favourite SkyTeam airlines? Also, let me know if you see any additions or corrections to my table.

Next Friday,  I will write about One World and the week after the Value Alliance. After that I will do a comparison across the seven alliances.

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Comments

  1. I would love to know which SkyTeam carriers have the best earning opportunities and award charts. Where should we put our attention, either with flying or via credit card earning/transfers?

    BTW – having flown Kenya Airways on seven segments — admittedly only in business class and within Africa/Indian Ocean — I think you’re selling them short. I was surprised by the superb courtesy of their service, the legroom, and the comfort of their seats (better than on most domestic U.S. narrow body planes). Their food wasn’t particularly good, but I am looking forward to flying them again, this Summer.

  2. Thanks Tom-As you saw, I have not flown Kenya. I am basing my comments on the passenger feedback I have read which has not been flattering. Glad you have had good experiences. I think putting together a chart that incorporates all earning opportunities and credit card earning rates would be a full time job! Love to see it appear though!

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