Am I Being Too Hard on Skyteam?

Jared Blank thinks that in my excitement over Continental’s entry into Star Alliance that I’m too hard on Skyteam.

He agrees that Star will be better for Continental Onepass members in terms of “first class options, lounge access and choice of carriers ”

And he agrees with some of the limitations of Skyteam

Was it the best alliance out there? No. Did they have a large array of world class carriers associated? No. Did Continental and Delta have miserable – truly miserable – reward availability, especially in business? Yes.

But he defends Air France, KLM, and Alitalia business class availability. And his priorities were “quick trips to Latin America, or a long weekend in Europe.”

But I think the defense of Skyteam here is a bit of a straw man.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to redeem for business class transatlantic, though I do find it much easier to do so with Star than with Skyteam. Air France and KLM availability aren’t terrible, but Lufthansa and Swiss availability are in my experience better. And have you ever tried to redeem miles for more than one person in business class to Asia on the same flights? It’s relatively easy with Star, an incredible challenge with Skyteam.

Jared liked the Skyteam Latin America route network, but in fairness much of this was provided by Continental which is obviously retained by the move to Star. Sure, perhaps the loss of partner Aeromexico is a blow for the pure Latin America flyer, but those people are better off with oneworld to begin with.

Folks used their Continental miles before, they just have many more and better options to do so now. The world is much much better for Onepass members.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Agreed! Wholeheartedly! Though I do my best to accumulate miles according to my travel plans for the upcoming 2 years, Skyteam redemption repeatedly thwarted my plans. Sitting on a pile of Delta miles that I haven’t been able to redeem makes them quite worthless. Finding free biz class freebies is a challenge with any program but with flexibility, research and diligence, I had never failed until the last year with Skyteam. As such, I have thrown my loyalty behind One World and Star Alliance. The alliance websites are most helpful in determining routing and flights when planning for redemption of miles. My guess is that Delta will have to make their program more attractive by allowing easier redemption or they will find themselves losing their customer base. Continental made a wise decision and it should benefit us all.

  2. Hey Gary,

    I don’t at all disagree – I’m thrilled that Continental is moving over to Star. My point (which I don’t think was made clearly enough when I wrote it) was that Skyteam was not the end of the world. It was certainly functional, and as you have written repeatedly about booking reward tickets, with enough diligence (and your suggestions on how to find the seats) you could usually find a seat available.

    As much as all of us who have had a bunch of miles on Continental complained, I think almost anyone who accumulated miles with them can recall a couple of great trips they were able to take for free (Vietnam, Sri Lanka, Croatia, and Albania are just a handful that come to mind for me). It served its purpose…

    That said — trust me, I’m looking forward to booking my first trip in First on Turkish…can’t wait.

  3. And let’s not even get into the difficulty of earning significant miles on Flying Blue on anything but full fare and the amount of miles it takes to get anywhere. Delta with their most recent changes is marginally better.

    Star Alliance airlines simply offer a much, much better deal.

    The lack of redemption opportunities after having flown all those miles / spent all that much money on a Sky Team carrier are then just a slap in the face. I tell all the Sky Team fliers to change to Star because of this.

  4. In defense of Skyteam, as an elite you earn bonuses on all carriers, which (I think) is not the case for Star and OneWorld.

    In terms of coverage, Skyteam is hands down the best for Africa – Delta is the only US carrier w/ nonstops to Africa (important if you’re subject to the Fly America act). Air France covers west Africa well. KLM has good coverage to East and Southern Africa, and Kenya Airways will get you most places intra-Africa

  5. But if you’re not on a government contract and subject to silly legislation, then Star has oh, I don’t know, SOUTH AFRICAN AIRWAYS. Just sayin’.

    Not to mention Lufthansa, Swiss, and EgyptAir.

  6. Coming off some KL/AF flights, I realized why I fly ST and it’s not a purely rational reason. It’s just that being based in Holland and France it just feels nice to be on my “home” carriers. Star Alliance pretty much means flying LH/LX within Europe although I’m also BD Gold thanks to a Status match. It’s purely personal but I prefer French and Dutch to Germans or Swiss…. Have rarely flown any Oneworld carriers except for the odd BA flight, but also much prefer flying through AMS than LHR or FRA… CDG is a mess, but it’s usually my final destination so I don’t have any transfer hassles. Just wish there was a decent FF program now that NW has disappeared. I only redeem FB 50% off promo awards btw. If they take those away I’ll definitely focus my earnings elsewhere.

  7. South African – true, but it doesn’t really make sense to fly a hop, skip and a jump from Antarctica to get to Ethiopia or Kenya

    Also, let’s talk hubs: Schipol has got to be the easiest transit point in Europe. Heathrow is like getting stabbed in the eye, and Frankfurt smells like a bus station in Newark

  8. You dig at South African and fail to mention EgyptAir. And we’ll probably wind up with Ethiopian in Star, they’re already partnered with LH.

    AMS isn’t a bad airport, but Star member Austrian hubs at VIE and that’s got to be even easier to change planes. And MUC is a dream for connections, LH doesn’t just hub at FRA.

    Diss LHR, but while Star does have a decent presence there it’s primarily a oneworld hub.

    And how about Asia? SIN is probably the best airport in the world! (Star hub) And perhaps I’m controversial in ths regard but I LOVE BKK (another Star hub).

    And even PEK with the new T3 is decent. Another Star hub.

    NRT is great but that’s a wash as it’s sort of a Skyteam and Star hub (though Star’s presence is larger). ICN is wonderful too but again a hub for both Skyteam and Sar.

  9. I don’t find AMS better than MUC either.
    And I’ve flown KLM via AMS to get to Africa for a project as well so my problem isn’t the actual travel it’s the mileage program. And to John.

    Luthansa will give it’s bonus to their frequent fliers regardless of the airline flown.

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