Guide to getting status. SkyTeam.

This is the third in a series of posts looking at the three major alliances and how to quickly and efficiently get status so as to not be without the following:

  • Priority check-in
  • Lounge access
  • Priority boarding

The guide to oneworld is here and the guide to Star Alliance is here.

Alliance Overview

Like Star Alliance, SkyTeam has two levels in their programme that are consistent across the alliance:

  • SkyTeam Elite
  • SkyTeam Elite Plus

Only the ‘Elite Plus’ level comes with lounge access across all carriers, however there’s one very important exception.

With both oneworld and Star Alliance, if you’re an elite traveller, with a non-North American carrier and you’re travelling domestically in the US you get lounge access.  For example, if you’re an Aegean Gold card hold travelling on United, then you’re entitled to access.

This is not the case for SkyTeam Elite Plus members of any country; you’ll need some form of paid membership to access a Delta SkyClub when travelling within North America.

Therefore if SkyTeam is your primary programme and you do a considerable amount of US Domestic flying, it’s worth considering either a SkyClub membership, or a card such as an American Express Platinum card which you get access to both the Centurion Lounges, as well as Priority Pass.

Personally, I’ve never been a fan of SkyTeam, it’s always seemed to be full of second (and third) rate carriers, essentially the alliance of left-overs.  However Delta has a solid business class product and Air France’s La Premiere is arguably the best first class experience both on the ground and in the air.  But that’s it.

Potential Programmes

There are two programmes that I’m going to focus on in this article, both of which have the lowest requirements for earning Elite Plus status across the alliance.  The first is Air Europa’s SUMA programme.  They’re a small Spanish carrier, with their headquarters in Majorca.  Spain is somewhat of an IAG and oneworld strong-hold with both Iberia and low-cost carrier Vueling being based there.

The other programme that I’m going to focus on is Air France / KLM’s Flying Blue scheme.

Like with the Lufthansa Group, Air France / KLM restricts reward redemptions into their first class cabin heavily.  Only elite members of Flying Blue (silver or above), can redeem miles, or upgrade from business class into First.  If this is important to you, then like with Lufthansa, Flying Blue will have to be your programme.

I discounted the Delta programme as they have a minimum threshold of $6,000 to get to gold status.  They also are rather opaque as they don’t publish any reward charts and have form for changing key details of their programme at very short notice.

Programme Synopsis

Air Europa’s SUMA programme has four tiers:

  • SUMA
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum

The difference in benefits between Gold and Platinum from their website appears reasonably marginal.

The other programme worth considering, as long as you’re not resident in France is Air France / KLM Flying Blue.  Like that larger programmes, that has five tiers:

  • Ivory
  • Silver
  • Gold
  • Platinum
  • Platinum Ultimate

Like with the star alliance programmes, these also use the more traditional concept of level miles which take you from tier to tier, and are typically reset every year (or twelve months) and award miles which can be redeemed for flights.

Status Requirements

Status is rather more challenging that with either British Airways or Aegean as Air Europa requires you to attain 32,000 status miles and Flying Blue requires 40,000 status miles to get to gold status.

What makes this harder is that with the Air Europa programme, nearly all SkyTeam partners discount business class fares earn between 100% and 150%.  There isn’t a single one that earns 200% at the lowest levels.

Flying Blue is even more gradual with its own earnings on Air France and KLM flights, however has a broadly very similar earning ratio to Air Europa’s with most discount business class cabins earning only 100% to 125% of the miles flown.

Suggested Itinerary

From my research, you’ll need to take two long-haul trips in a premium cabin, in a year in order to get to SkyTeam Elite Plus status.

The best fare that I’ve found so far is from Milan (either Linate or Malpensa) via Paris, down to Santiago in Chile.  Ironically, Chile is one of my favourite places in to the world to visit, so I highly recommend visiting.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 17.10.24

If you’re crediting to Air Europa, then you could do this trip, plus then one to the West Coast of the USA for a similar amount, such as the one below.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 17.19.34

Do note that you get flights operated by Air France or KLM and not Delta as the accrual with Delta is 25% less.

Also, if you want to credit these flights to Flying Blue, then that wouldn’t be sufficient to visit the US west coast for your second trip, so you’d need a second trip somewhere equally far afield like Singapore.  That would tip you over the 40,000 miles required.

Summary

SkyTeam is my least favourite global alliance.  As with Star Alliance, you’re looking at two long-hauls in a premium cabin to get status, roughly £3,000 to £3,500 worth of spend to get Gold.  Oneworld status can be had for roughly half that.

Star Alliance also wins in that renewing Aegean status is much more inexpensive than qualifying in the first place, where as all the SkyTeam programmes don’t have a short-cut for renewing.

8 comments

  1. I don’t think you should overlook Delta Skymiles. I know I’m in a minority here, but I genuinely think it’s the best choice of program for non-US travellers.

    Firstly, there’s no minimum spend requirement if you live outside the US. The introduction of MQDs almost certainly caused a thinning out of elites, making it more likely to score an upgrade when flying Delta metal. (They offer “unlimited free upgrades” to Elites, although these are more scarce since they started being more aggressive at selling upgrades. And remember business / first class in the US is a much better product than intra-EU.)

    Secondly, Delta awards minimum 100% MQMs on almost all ticket classes for their main partners (although reduced rates on others).

    Thirdly, due to the partnership with Virgin Atlantic, you can accrue status and receive benefits when flying VS in addition to those airlines in the Skyteam Alliance.

    Finally – and this is the clincher for me – Skymiles rolls over any “unused” MQMs once you’ve hit status. This means you start the year with a head start and makes it much easier to maintain status thereafter. This year, I’ve deliberately stopped just short of Platinum so that I start 2018 with fewer then 1,000 needed to hit Silver and only 26,000 away from Gold.

    The moniker Skypesos is definitely deserved but that doesn’t mean there’s no value in the program. I’ve been to Australia twice from LAX in Virgin Australia’s excellent biz class product and have return tickets for London-Vietnam booked for next year. They cost 160,000 Skymiles plus ~£200 taxes per person in Air Vietnam business class. A lot less cash than an equivalent BA redemption!

    Accruing redeemable miles is easy enough, especially if you book non-DL flights where miles are still calculated based on distance not spend. They’re also an transfer partner for Amex, SPG and Marriott so it’s easy to top off an account.

    As a Leeds-based traveller, KLM, Delta and Virgin offer far better options than OW or *A and I reckon Skymiles is the best program to work towards.

    (PS I recently discovered that Flying Blue has a rollover offer for elites too. They don’t promote it very well but it would definitely help to maintain status. But I find their reduced level miles for so many ticket classes too punitive for my needs.)

    1. You make some really excellent points there. However it’s very subjective, but there’s just something about Delta SkyMiles that I really don’t like. The no notice changes, the lack of award charts, the very variable prices, married segments on awards meaning that single sectors hub-to-hub are more expensive than connecting itineraries. Oh, and no first class with any SkyTeam carrier. All of those mean that it’s far more opaque as a programme and thus hard to recommend or invest in.

      If I was back to commuting regularly to the US, then I suspect it may be worth it for the recognition on board when flying Delta.

  2. Current Saudia business promo out of Geneva to Jakarta, Manila or Kuala Lumpur for £770 return earns 150% in Flying Blue. Two such trips and you’ve got Flying Blue Gold for ~£1540 + the cost of positioning to/from GVA. Worth noting though that FB is rumoured to go revenue based next year.

    1. For me, I’m afraid anything to do with Saudia, or Saudi Arabia in general is an absolute red line for this site.

      Their vile and degrading treatment of gay people and subjugation of women is utterly unacceptable.

      I guess you could legitimately ask the question about why such the positive coverage of Etihad and Qatar given their own record on human rights and LGBT equality?

      For me, it’s a matter of extremes, and I think the lengths that Saudi goes to, compared to other countries in the region.

      Perhaps this is worth a full post.

      But in summary, Saudia will never ever appear on my blog.

  3. Also worth mentioning is that for economy KLM/Air France fliers the easiest way to earn Gold status is through flying 30 qualifying segments in a calendar year.

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