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
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.
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.
Air Europa’s SUMA programme has four tiers:
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:
- 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.