What Is the Best SkyTeam Programme for British Travellers?
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Following our guides on the best Oneworld programmes for British travellers, as well as the best options within Star Alliance, today we are looking at the third major global airline alliance, SkyTeam, and its best programme options.
Who Is SkyTeam?
For British travellers, SkyTeam is probably the least well-known of the three major airline alliances. The group has 19 member airlines, including:
- Aerolíneas Argentinas
- Air Europa
- Air France
- China Airlines
- China Eastern
- Czech Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Garuda Indonesia
- Kenya Airways
- Korean Air
- Middle East Airlines
- Vietnam Airlines
- Xiamen Air
Together, these airlines have almost 15,000 flights every day, operating to more than 1,000 destinations in 175 countries.
While you may not be familiar with the likes of TAROM or Xiamen Air as a British traveller, the likes of KLM and Air France have huge UK networks. You may already fly them and could be considering an appropriate loyalty programme on which to focus.
Note that you can fly any SkyTeam airline and credit to any SkyTeam programme, so the programme you pick doesn’t dictate which airline within the alliance you have to fly.
Here are our best suggestions.
Air France-KLM Flying Blue
The combined loyalty programme of both Air France and KLM is a smart choice especially if you live in regional UK areas. TPG UK values Flying Blue miles at a solid 1.0p each, which is a similar amount to British Airways Avios. The programme publishes a list of Promo Rewards each and every month, offering discounts of between 20% and 50% for certain redemptions.
There’s also great redemption rates for business class flights to the USA — just 106,000 miles return to anywhere in the continental US. For Midwest and West Coast flights, this is significantly lower than British Airways charges for the same routes, as BA uses a distance-based award chart.
Flying Blue is also a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards in the UK, which can be a great way to boost your balance without flying.
You can read a complete TPG UK guide to Flying Blue here.
US airline giant Delta’s own loyalty programme SkyMiles is both loved and cursed by customers around the world. TPG UK currently values SkyMiles at 09.p each, which is slightly lower than Flying Blue miles. One reason for this is because SkyMiles frustratingly doesn’t publish award charts anymore. Instead, the programme simply lists an amount of miles for each available seat. This leads to some truly sky-high rates for some flights in high demand and then makes it difficult to work out what is even the lowest redemption rate for a particular route.
Still, if you can find availability for ‘standard’ award seats, there are some decent deals to be had, and given the enormous size of the programme, there are endless other ways to earn Skymiles without flying.
Unlike other US airline loyalty programmes, Delta SkyMiles is a transfer partner of Membership Rewards in the UK. So, you can accrue points in your SkyMiles account relatively easily.
So with several negatives, why did it make this list? That is because of Delta’s unique relationship with Virgin Atlantic. The two have a very close joint venture arrangement between the UK and North America. This means if you are flying Virgin Atlantic, you can credit the flights to SkyMiles. This adds another airline option to this programme (in addition to the 19 SkyTeam airline members). While this might not seem like a big deal, you are probably more likely to fly Virgin Atlantic as a British traveller than the likes of Aeromexico or Aerolineas Argentinas.
Virgin Atlantic has also this year started a joint venture arrangement with Air France-KLM, but as of yet, there are no Flying Blue redemptions available on Virgin Atlantic-operated flights, whereas you can redeem Skymiles for Virgin Atlantic flights.
Additionally, the SkyMiles programme offers some superior benefits for its most elite flyers — especially at the top Diamond Medallion tier. For example, unlimited complimentary upgrades, waived fees for baggage and ticket changes, lounge access and more.
Alitalia’s loyalty programme doesn’t receive a huge amount of publicity in frequent flyer circles, but it makes this list largely because it is one of only three SkyTeam programmes that are a transfer partner of Membership Rewards in the UK. This means even if you aren’t a regular flyer you still have the option of earning a decent stack of miles through Amex credit card spend.
As for the programme itself, TPG UK values MilleMiglia miles at 1.1p each, which is the same value as British Airways Avios (and slightly higher than both Flying Blue and SkyMiles). For redemptions, look at options flying Alitalia itself, as the rates are decent. You can fly from Italy all the way to West Coast USA for just 30,000 miles one-way in economy class.
Awards can be booked online, and you can even check redemption options, rates and fees and taxes by searching on its website without signing up for a MilleMiglia account, which may assist if you are still struggling to decide on a SkyTeam programme.
Featured image provided by SkyTeam.