This article is part of our ongoing Business Travel 101 series for newcomers to the world of business travel.
Although the global SkyTeam alliance doesn’t count an Australian airline among its ranks, eight SkyTeam members currently fly Down Under, on which travellers can earn and redeem frequent flyer points, and build benefits, through a variety of frequent flyer programs.
For example, passengers travelling with SkyTeam member Korean Air could join the airline’s own Skypass program, or credit their miles and status to other SkyTeam programs like Delta SkyMiles, China Eastern’s Eastern Miles or Alitalia MilleMiglia instead – but which is best for Aussies?
As it happens, several SkyTeam frequent flyer programs go beyond the usual SkyTeam alliance benefits to offer points and perks on Qantas or Virgin Australia too, potentially giving you one card to cover your domestic and international travels across multiple airlines.
Of course, if you’re regularly travelling with one particular SkyTeam airline, it’d make sense to consider the merits of that airline’s own frequent flyer program, but if your travels take you far and wide, here are three SkyTeam schemes that could prove a good fit for Australian globetrotters.
1. China Eastern Airlines’ Eastern Miles
Beyond the normal bevy of points and perks when flying on SkyTeam alliance airlines, China Eastern runs a separate partnership with Qantas, covering the earning and redeeming of points plus key benefits like airport lounge access, including on Australian domestic flights.
(China Eastern isn't to be confused with China Southern, which is leaving SkyTeam as of January 1 2019.)
Here’s what you’ll get when flying with Qantas at each membership tier.
Eastern Miles Silver:
- Qantas priority check-in on flights between Australia and Mainland China.
Eastern Miles Gold and Platinum:
- Qantas priority check-in and boarding on all Qantas domestic flights, and flights between Australia and Mainland China, and flights between Australia and Singapore.
- Access to all domestic Qantas Clubs prior to domestic Qantas and QantasLink flights, including on domestic-only itineraries.
- Access to international Qantas business class lounges when travelling from Australia to Mainland China or Singapore on a Qantas (QF) or China Eastern (MU) flight number.
For Eastern Miles Platinum members only:
- Access to all Qantas domestic business class lounges prior to Australian domestic Qantas and QantasLink flights, including on domestic-only bookings.
Eastern Miles can also be earned and redeemed when flying with Qantas, although miles expire three years after they were earned, and the number of miles needed to book Qantas flights tends to be on the higher side.
For example, a one-way Qantas domestic business class flight anywhere in the country costs 40,000 Eastern Miles, regardless of flying time – not bad for long routes like Sydney-Perth, but poor value for short hops like Sydney-Melbourne which require the same number of miles.
On international routes, the number of miles needed to book a Qantas flight also tends to be higher than the number of Qantas Points you’d need to book the same, with a few exceptions like the Roo’s seasonal Perth-Auckland flights, which can also be booked for 40,000 Eastern miles in business class.
Also be aware that ‘elite qualifying points’ and ‘elite qualifying segments’ – the measures by which Eastern Miles members attain Silver, Gold and Platinum status – cannot be earned on Qantas (QF) flights, so while you’ll be able to earn spendable miles when flying with Qantas and can enjoy the benefits of your status, the more you fly with Qantas, the less sense it makes to use Eastern Miles.
On the upside, while SkyTeam Elite Plus frequent flyers don’t normally receive SkyTeam lounge access on domestic journeys, China Eastern’s members do qualify for lounge access on flights within Mainland China (and between China, Hong Kong and Taiwan) when flying China Eastern, China Airlines and XiamenAir, making Eastern Miles a handy program for regular visitors to China, too.
2. Delta SkyMiles
Outside the usual SkyTeam benefits, Delta SkyMiles Gold, Platinum and Diamond members enjoy access to Virgin Australia domestic lounges prior to Virgin Australia domestic flights, including the use of Premium Entry facilities in Sydney and Brisbane.
Also extended is priority check-in, security screening, boarding and baggage delivery for the same members – plus priority check-in and boarding on Virgin Australia international flights for SkyMiles Silver – along with an increased baggage allowance on Virgin Australia flights.
SkyMiles Platinum and Diamond cardholders receive the same checked baggage allowance as Velocity Platinum members would on the same flights, while SkyMiles Gold members get the same allowance as Velocity Gold, and for SkyMiles Silvers, the same as Velocity Silver.
That’s broadly similar to how China Eastern’s partnership works with Qantas, except that Delta SkyMiles members can earn Medallion Qualifying Miles (MQMs) and Medallion Qualifying Dollars (MQDs) on Virgin Australia flights, helping to gain or retain their SkyMiles status.
As such, if you regular fly with SkyTeam airlines internationally, but also do some domestic flying with Virgin Australia, you’ll become closer to moving up the SkyMiles frequent flyer ranks or locking-in your status for another year every time you fly, whether it’s with SkyTeam or Virgin Australia.
Finally, SkyMiles can be earned and redeemed on Virgin Australia flights, as you’d expect.
Delta doesn’t publish a fixed ‘reward chart’ for these bookings, but Virgin Australia flights can be booked through the SkyMiles website, so search for your preferred route to see how many miles you’d need on the dates you’d like to travel.
SkyMiles never expire, making this a good option even for occasional SkyTeam travellers.
Of special note is that Delta offers a status match for Qantas Platinum, Gold or Silver frequent flyers to gain equivalent status in the Delta Air Lines SkyMiles scheme, which in turn matches up against the SkyTeam Elite and Elite Plus tiers in almost 20 other SkyTeam airlines.
3. Alitalia MilleMiglia
Another SkyTeam frequent flyer program with an Australian connection is Alitalia MilleMiglia, which again provides points and privileges when travelling with Virgin Australia.
That starts with Virgin Australia domestic lounge access for MilleMiglia Freccia Alata, Freccia Alata Plus and Freccia Alata Plus Per Sempre Club members prior to Virgin Australia domestic flights, again including the use of Premium Entry in Sydney and Brisbane.
While unconventionally-named, these tiers are essentially equivalent to the Gold, Platinum and above-Platinum levels in more traditionally-branded frequent flyer programs, so priority check-in, security screening, boarding and baggage delivery are standard here, too.
Additional checked baggage is available on some Virgin Australia flights (depending on fare, route and cabin), including for Silver-grade MilleMiglia Ulisse members, while all MilleMiglia cardholders can earn ‘qualifying miles’ on Virgin Australia flights, helping to gain or retain their Alitalia status.
When it comes to redeeming miles on Virgin Australia flights, you’ll need 20,000 Alitalia miles for economy or 40,000 miles for business class, one-way, anywhere within or between Australia, New Zealand and Fiji.
That’s not terrific value for short, popular routes like Sydney-Melbourne, but is quite lucrative for longer journeys like Perth-Sydney-Nadi (Fiji) – over eight hours of flying for just 40,000 miles in business class, compared to almost 60,000 points if you book through Virgin Australia Velocity.
However, Alitalia miles expire either when you’ve failed to earn or redeem any miles on your account for 24 months, or whenever the MilleMiglia program launches a ‘new edition’, with the ‘2018 edition’ set to end on January 31 2019, for all miles earned up to December 31 2018.