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:
- Australia and New Zealand have never had a Skyteam member,
- I have had elite status with Qantas /One World and Star Alliance carriers for over a decade
- 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.
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.
Frequent Flyer Status The SkyTeam Alliance offers two status levels:
- SkyTeam Elite
- SkyTeam Elite Plus
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 Airlines, Korean 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:
- Carriers with acceptable service including Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines*, Middle East Airlines, TAROM, Xiamen Airlines
- 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!
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.
- Who is the best One World airline?
- The World’s Best Airlines -My experience vs Skytrax
- Delta First Class Delight