Your complete guide to the SkyTeam alliance

With SkyTeam, one frequent flyer card can be your ticket to earning points and enjoying perks across 21 different airlines.

By Chris Chamberlin , August 3 2020
Your complete guide to the SkyTeam alliance

Founded in 2000, the 19 member airlines and two affiliate carriers of the SkyTeam alliance usually fly over 676 million passengers every year to 1,000+ destinations around the globe.

When taking those flights, travellers can earn miles in a SkyTeam frequent flyer program, and work their way towards SkyTeam Elite or even SkyTeam Elite Plus frequent flyer status.

Here's what you need to know about SkyTeam, whether travelling with well-known members such as Air France, Delta, KLM and Korean Air, or some of its 'hidden gems' such as China Airlines and Aeroflot.

Which airlines are members of SkyTeam?

SkyTeam is comprised of 19 full member airlines from countries across the world, as below.

  • Aeroflot (based in Russia)
  • Aerolíneas Argentinas
  • AeroMexico
  • Air Europa (based in Spain)
  • Air France
  • Alitalia (based in Italy)
  • China Airlines (based in Taiwan / Republic of China)
  • China Eastern (based in China / People's Republic of China)
  • Czech Airlines
  • Delta (based in the United States)
  • Garuda Indonesia
  • Kenya Airways
  • KLM (based in The Netherlands)
  • Korean Air (based in South Korea)
  • Middle East Airlines (MEA) / Air Liban (based in Lebanon)
  • Saudia (based in Saudi Arabia)
  • TAROM (Romanian Air Transport, based in Romania)
  • Vietnam Airlines
  • XiamenAir (based in China / People's Republic of China)

In addition, SkyTeam has two affiliate airlines, Alitalia CityLiner, and Shanghai Airlines (an affiliate of China Eastern), making for 21 total partners across the alliance.

These affiliates are generally treated the same as their parent airline, as far as SkyTeam is concerned.

Notably, while some websites and materials still list China Southern as a SkyTeam member, its last day in the alliance was December 31 2018.

What are the SkyTeam frequent flyer tiers?

Each SkyTeam airline operates its own frequent flyer program, and in doing so, can choose the names of its own set of frequent flyer tiers.

Because members of one SkyTeam frequent flyer program can enjoy benefits when travelling on another SkyTeam airline, the alliance itself maintains two alliance-wide tiers: SkyTeam Elite, and SkyTeam Elite Plus.

Almost all travellers with elite frequent flyer status in a SkyTeam frequent flyer program will therefore also be a SkyTeam Elite or SkyTeam Elite Plus frequent flyer.

Here's how that looks for members of several popular frequent flyer programs, comparing their membership tier in that 'home' frequent flyer program, and how that aligns across SkyTeam.

Program / SkyTeam Tier

SkyTeam Elite

SkyTeam Elite Plus

Air France/KLM Flying Blue

Silver

Gold, Platinum, Platinum Ultimate, Platinum for Life, Platinum for Life Ultimate, Club 2000, Club 2000 Ultimate, Club 2000 Skipper, Club 2000 Skipper Ultimate

Alitalia MilleMiglia

Ulisse (Club, Corporate and University)

Freccia Alata (Club, Corporate and University), Freccia Alata Plus (Club, Corporate and University), Freccia Alata Per Sempre

Delta SkyMiles

Silver

Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Delta Diamond 360°

Garuda's GarudaMiles

Gold, Gold EC+

Platinum

Korean Air Skypass

Morning Calm Club
(Skypass Silver, from Feb 2022)

Morning Calm Premium Club, Million Miler
(Skypass Gold, Platinum and Diamond, from Feb 2022)

To see how the SkyTeam levels align in other frequent flyer programs, browse the SkyTeam Frequent Flyers page and select the program and tier from the drop-down menus.

Aeroflot's Platinum tier aligns with SkyTeam Elite Plus, for example.
Aeroflot's Platinum tier aligns with SkyTeam Elite Plus, for example.

Benefits of SkyTeam Elite

Across the alliance, SkyTeam Elite members enjoy fast-track perks on the ground including priority check-in and bag drop, as well as priority boarding – just look for the lanes marked "Sky Priority".

In addition, SkyTeam Elite members can pack either 10kg of extra baggage under the 'weight' system, or one additional bag under the 'piece' system, when travelling with a SkyTeam airline.

SkyTeam Elite members may also be able to select more favourable seats on board versus non-frequent-flyers, and if waiting on airport standby, will take priority over non-elite members.

Benefits of SkyTeam Elite Plus

SkyTeam Elite Plus builds upon the base benefits of SkyTeam Elite.

For instance, SkyTeam Elite Plus members also get an increased checked baggage allowance, but on flights using the weight system, the boost is 20kg, rather than 10kg for Elite.

There's also priority baggage handling, priority processing at immigration and security lanes (where available), priority at airport transfer desks, and the ability to make guaranteed reservations on sold-out flights.

Added to that, of course, is airport lounge access.

However, in most cases, access to lounges is only offered when the member is travelling internationally, not on domestic-only bookings.

While there are some exceptions to this rule, this unfortunately positions SkyTeam behind both Oneworld and Star Alliance, which both offer domestic lounge access as standard across the alliance, when a frequent flyer from one airline travels with another member airline.

Read: SkyTeam considers lounge access for domestic travellers

Earning and redeeming frequent flyer points across SkyTeam

In addition to enjoying benefits right across the alliance, SkyTeam frequent flyer members can earn and spend frequent flyer points across SkyTeam, when travelling on eligible fare types.

Earning frequent flyer points across SkyTeam

When it comes to earning miles, you'll do so in your chosen airline's frequent flyer program: for example, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Korean Air Skypass, or one of the many other options.

By attaching this frequent flyer number to your SkyTeam bookings, you'll be able to earn miles when travelling on an eligible airfare, right across the SkyTeam network.

Exactly how many miles you can earn will firstly depend on the structure of your 'home' frequent flyer program, as well as the airline that operates your flight, the type of fare purchased, the cabin flown.

The distance of your flight, the price paid for the ticket or the region of your travel may also be taken into account, depending on your chosen frequent flyer program.

Using frequent flyer points for flights across SkyTeam

Much as you can earn frequent flyer points when travelling on paid airfares across the SkyTeam network, you can also use your hard-earned SkyTeam miles to book reward flights across the globe.

As always, this is subject to availability, and the number of points or miles needed will depend on your frequent flyer program, when and where you're travelling, in which cabin, and with which airline.

It's important to realise that you may not always be able to book your preferred flight using miles, as airlines decide whether or not miles can be spent on each flight, based on the expected load of fare-paying passengers.

It's fair to say that you'll have a much better chance of spending your miles when hoping to travel on off-peak times or on less popular routes, rather than in the middle of busy school holiday periods: but, that may still be possible.

Upgrading flights with frequent flyer points across SkyTeam

Unlike Star Alliance, SkyTeam doesn't operated a unified, alliance-wide upgrade system for travellers hoping to use their SkyTeam miles from one member airline to upgrade a flight operated by another SkyTeam airline.

Various SkyTeam airlines do maintain direct partnerships between themselves, making upgrades the subject of those direct partnerships, rather than being under alliance-wide standards.

To see whether the miles you've earned can be used to upgrade your flight, check with the airline that operates your frequent flyer program.

Where are the SkyTeam branded lounges?

In some airports, the SkyTeam alliance operates its own-brand SkyTeam Lounges – separate to those operated by a particular SkyTeam member airline.

These can be found in Beijing (currently closed), Dubai, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London, Sydney (currently closed) and Vancouver, with a lounge in Santiago also expected to open in 2020.

SkyTeam Lounge, Istanbul
SkyTeam Lounge, Istanbul

Where a SkyTeam Lounge exists, it is normally shared between a number of member airlines. SkyTeam Lounges are most commonly found in airports popular with its member airlines, but where a member airline is not itself based.

Also read: The new Alitalia could leave SkyTeam, join Star Alliance

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.


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