SkyTeam CEO: we're not chasing new member airlines

By David Flynn, February 5 2015
SkyTeam CEO: we're not chasing new member airlines

SkyTeam CEO Michael Wisbrun says the coming year is not about adding new airlines to the alliance but rather boosting co-operation among its current roster and improving the "customer experience" of passengers.

With 20 member airlines in key markets around the world, Wisbrun says of SkyTeam "we are relevant in the US, relevant in Europe and relevant in Asia, especially in greater China."

"So at this moment it makes more sense not to go for scale but for scope and customer experience within the network, to get the basics right" he told Australian Business Traveller.

"Our focus is now on our customers, and especially the 26 million customers transferring each year from one SkyTeam member airline to another."

Speaking at the opening of SkyTeam's new Sydney Airport lounge – the alliance's first in Australia, and only its third in the world after London and Istanbul – Wisbrun spoke of the desire to encourage "seamless transfers" through growing airport hubs in China.

Apres ribbon cutting: Sydney Airport CEO Kerrie Mather and SkyTeam CEO Mr Michael Wisbrun at the opening of the new SKyTeam lounge
Apres ribbon cutting: Sydney Airport CEO Kerrie Mather and SkyTeam CEO Mr Michael Wisbrun at the opening of the new SKyTeam lounge

And while SkyTeam counts seven member airlines flying in Australian skies – among them China Southern, Taiwan’s China Airlines, Delta, Garuda Indonesia and Korean Air – Wisbrun shows no interest in signing up Virgin Australia

“It is not realistic to assume there will be a SkyTeam member here in Australia" he admits, adding that Virgin's own trans-Pacific alliance with Delta plus alliances between Qantas and China Eastern and China Southern are a more flexible arrangement.

Wisbrun also says that China Southern is considering flying the Boeing 787 to Perth this year, while China's ­XiamenAir is looking to begin Dreamliner flights to Sydney as its first Australian route.

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David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 701

More a case of VA CEO John Borghetti showing no interest in joining SkyTeam than SkyTeam CEO Michael Wisbrun not chasing their business I would have thought. VA has been very cool indeed on airline alliances, and given their links to SQ, *A would be more relevant fit if they went down that path. I think Borghetti prefers the freedoms and flexibilities of VA's partner airlines agreements.

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 439

SkyTeam is an alliance of airlines nobody really wants to fly.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jan 2013

Total posts 242

I think I’m about 70% in favour of VA’s disinterest in joining alliances. It seems like the big three give off the perception of ease of use and seamless benefits. However, going on various posts, stories and Q&A’s on this site, the reality seems to be that they are more a mind-bending, eye-watering trough of bureaucracy.  

For example, I just read a Q&A thread here on AusBT of people discussing lounge access on JQ if your CX Diamond (OneWorld Emerald). Nope, that’s not a thing. Yet someone posted afterwards saying if you are VA Platinum, you get access to the usual goodies on all their partners and affiliates regardless of codes etc.

In a world of consumerism, where everyone can access almost anything, my view is simplicity rules. The simpler a program is to understand, the easier it is to implement and the harder it is for people to find loopholes to exploit.

British Airways - Executive Club

02 Dec 2014

Total posts 14

JQ isn't a oneworld member which is why Cathay members can't access lounges when travelling on JQ... 

VA's programme isn't simple at all - just in Sydney the apparently send you to a different lounge depending on where you're flying to. Just try flying around Europe and South America on VA's 'partners' and you'll get next to no lounge access or privileges. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Mar 2014

Total posts 569

which raises the point, VA aren't a significant international airline, they are as appealing to an alliance as the alliance is to them - not at all!

They've got 3 proper international routes, only two of which are daily. (Not counting pacific / bali / NZ and the Perth to Phuket.)

Domestic connections would be in most cases covered by codeshare and interline agreements.

I think shunning alliances is a great thing for hub based carriers like Emirates and Etihad with massive global networks, i think the opposite for airlines at the end of the line, it's a catching system for customers. I will cheer the day VA join star alliance.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 701

You just look up the International Lounge Access page on VA's website which gives you a list by which carrier you fly on under their partnership arrangements.

Can't see how you can get more transparent than that.

The only drawback is that, unlike OneWorld or StarAlliance, you can't use a lounge of a different member (owned, not contracted) than you are not flying on. And it's not like the alliances don't have no problems there either, with "special case" exemption lounges breaking the general principle.

I would say I thought OneWorld good, before Qantas broke universal status credit earn. VA, thankfully, don't penalise me on status credits for flying their partners (status credits are of more importance to me than points, even lounge hopping).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer Platinum

09 Jun 2011

Total posts 64

Just a slightly different perspective on an alliance, my experience is mostly opposite.  As a QF Platinum, QF is my first choice and alliance members as my second choice, this covers 99% of my travel requirements and I get very consistent treatment and benefits across all member airlines.  Oneworld works really well for me. 


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 12

Ditto. Quality over quantity when it comes to airline alliances.

My personal travel and some business travel on OW (as QF Platinum) is generally seamless. My work travel with VA and partners as VA Platinum is hit and miss unfortunately.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 701

When it comes to lounge access, I certainly follow the Quality over Quantity maximum. What benefit is it to have a choice of three or five lounges at the airport to visit, if all those lounges are woeful (God knows there are plenty of lounges not much better than the general areas of the airport). What matters is whether there is any lounge worth visiting at any stop, and then working what airlines worth flying have access to them (alliance or otherwise). 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 701

Where alliances have broken down somewhat, creating those bureaucracies mentioned, is that a number of alliance partners are more fierce competitors than companions now and they seek to fend off market share theft against each other. It's changed what used to be a level benefits field to an uneven one. Shame really, as the idea is a great one.

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