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There is an interesting read about the SkyTeam alliance on Economist that you can access here. It is about the Virgin Atlantic’s announcement that they are not in hurry to join the Skyteam and Aeroflot’s view that they would rather be in Star Alliance.

econmist-skyteam

Then the reporter interviews gulf carrier Etihad’s CEO that has rather negative opinion of the airline alliances as a whole and thinks that they have become too slow moving, bureaucratic and unable to provide value added to the members. [click to continue...]

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There was an article on Reuters yesterday (read it here) that was referring to a Russian publication Kommersant about Aeroflot’s preference of Star Alliance over SkyTeam due to unfavorable agreements with i.e. Delta.

reuters-aeroflot

The article also states that some board member had said that it was unlikely that they would drop the alliance unless there was a political reason to do so. The board member also continues that the airline would likely join the Star Alliance that would help it to become more competitive. [click to continue...]

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Xiamen Airlines, based in Xiamen China, became officially a SkyTeam member airline on November 21, 2012. You can read SkyTeam’s official announcement of this here.

xiamen-airlines-skyteam-press-release

The carrier currently flies mainly within China and has few international routes (you can access Xiamen’s route maps here) including Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Seoul and Taipei. According to the press release, the carrier has plans to start flying to United States, Europe, and Australasia once they have received the Boeing 787 airplanes on order.

xiamen-airlines-skyteam-plane

You can already earn and redeem miles from SkyTeam member airlines on Xiamen and vice versa. The eligible fare classes for earning miles are dependent of the frequent flier plan you credit the miles to. The following is a chart for Xiamen mileage accrual for Delta’s SkyMiles members.

delta-xiamen-air-accrual-chart

It has been a busy year for SkyTeam. The Xiamen is already fourth airline to join the alliance in 2012. Saudia, MEA, and Aerolineas Argentinas already joined the alliance earlier this year.

xiamen-skyteam-all-logos

Conclusion

It is always good to have more alliance airlines. This helps with earning and burning miles within China and North/South East Asia that the Xiamen Airlines serves at the moment. You will receive the SkyTeam elite benefits like lounge access and Sky Priority when flying on Xiamen.

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The news that broke before the announcement of Qatar joining the oneworld alliance was the agreement between Etihad and Air France-KLM about strategic codesharing partnership that will take place.

air-france-klm-etihad-airberlin

Air France and KLM will codeshare to certain destinations operated by Etihad via Doha. Etihad will codeshare to some European destinations operated by Air France and KLM. Airberlin will codeshare also with Air France and KLM.

Airberlin is oneworld member airline and both Air France and KLM are members of the competing SkyTeam. Etihad owns part of airberlin and has provided loans to the airline. It is on Etihad’s best interest to ensure that airberlin is successful and stops losing money.

The website airlineroute.net, which specializes to airline route news, posted the following route/codesharing update about Air France, KLM, Etihad and airberlin yesterday:

AIRFRANCE operated by ETIHAD
Abu Dhabi – Colombo
Abu Dhabi – Dhaka
Abu Dhabi – Kathmandu
Abu Dhabi – Male
Abu Dhabi – Paris CDG
Abu Dhabi – Seychelles

KLM operated by ETIHAD
Abu Dhabi – Colombo
Abu Dhabi – Islamabad
Abu Dhabi – Lahore
Abu Dhabi – Melbourne
Abu Dhabi – Sydney

ETIHAD operated by AIRFRANCE
Paris CDG – Bordeaux
Paris CDG – Copenhagen
Paris CDG – Madrid
Paris CDG – Nice
Paris CDG – Toulouse

ETIHAD operated by KLM
Amsterdam – Abu Dhabi
Amsterdam – Billund
Amsterdam – Cardiff
Amsterdam – Newcastle
Amsterdam – Oslo
Amsterdam – Stavanger

AIRFRANCE operated by airberlin
All AB Germany – France Routes
Berlin Tegel – Gdansk
Berlin Tegel – Graz
Berlin Tegel – Krakow
Dusseldorf – Dresden

airberlin operated by AIRFRANCE
Paris CDG – Bordeaux
Paris CDG – Lyon
Paris CDG – Marseille
Paris CDG – Montpellier
Paris CDG – Nantes
Paris CDG – Nice
Paris CDG – Toulouse

Service also operates from Paris Orly

KLM operated by airberlin
All AB Germany – Netherlands Routes
Berlin Tegel – Kaliningrad
Berlin Tegel – Kaliningrad
Berlin Tegel – Krakow

airberlin operated by KLM
All KL Netherlands – Germany Routes
Amsterdam – Edinburgh
Amsterdam – Glasgow
Amsterdam – Manchester

At first look the number of destinations that the airlines codeshare isn’t that great. Air France still has a codeshare agreement in place with Qantas regarding Australia. but Qantas has announced that it will drop it due to the agreement between Qantas and Emirates. Maybe Air France-KLM will tunnel their Australian traffic via Abu Dhabi on Etihad in the future?

The situation with the airberlin is just weird. The airline just officially joined the oneworld alliance earlier this year and was sponsored by British Airways. Now, the airline starts codesharing agreement with Air France & KLM that are both part of the SkyTeam alliance.

Conclusion

This is interesting development and might skew Etihad to join SkyTeam at some point in the future. These codeshare agreements aren’t that beneficial for the consumers unless the airlines are going to form a deeper partnerships and start honoring each other’s frequent flier benefits as well.

Etihad also has a codesharing agreement with American Airlines. Both airlines’ frequent fliers can redeem miles on each others flights.

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Aerolineas Argentinas decided to join SkyTeam back in 2010. Normally the process of joining an alliance takes from 12 to 24 months. The process was completed today when the Argentinean flag carrier was officially welcomed to the alliance. You can read the press release about the joining here.

aerolineas-argentinas-skyteam-member

From today all SkyTeam member airline frequent fliers can redeem and earn miles on Aerolineas Argentinas flight.  The same benefit apply for Aerolineas Argentinas frequent flier members on all SkyTeam member airlines. You should always check that the ticketed fare class is eligible for mileage credit. This often varies from airline to airline.

Route Network

aerolineas-argentinas-domestic-route-map

Aerolineas Argentinas has extensive route network within Argentina.

aerolineas-argentinas-international-route-map

The airline also serves 19 international destinations in 14 countries. The most interesting is the one from Buenos Aires to Auckland and continuing to Sydney. The airline has fifth freedom rights to carry local traffic for the Auckland-Sydney segment.

Argentinian Financial Problems

Argentina is again going through some financial difficulties. The current president nationalized and raided some pension funds. The inflation rate published by the government is fantasy and they have enacted “laws” to punish those that disagree with the official figures. The official currency rate is also unrealistic. The rate is about 4 pesos to USD but you can get close to 7 pesos in the unofficial market.

Eventually this financial turmoil will lead to a significant devaluation of the peso.  Aerolineas Argentinas probably has a significant amount of their revenue in other currencies so it doesn’t necessarily affect them

SkyTrax 3 Stars

aerolineas-argentinas-skytrax-3-star

I don’t normally pay too much attention to the SkyTrax ratings, but they are not very favorable for the Aerolineas Argentinas. The Airline is listed as having an “official” 3 star rating.

Conclusion

It is good that Aerolineas Argentinas is now officially a full member of SkyTeam alliance. The only problem is the unstable financial and political situation in Argentina.

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May and June saw two airlines based in the Middle East/Gulf joining the SkyTeam. Saudia joined on May 29th and Middle East Airlines (MEA) on June 28th, 2012. MEA is a relatively small airline operating a fleet of 17 aircraft and is based in Beirut, Lebanon.

mea-singing

As the airline is now a full SkyTeam member, earning miles on other SkyTeam frequent flier programs on MEA flights as well as using miles for MEA flights should be possible. Not sure, how long it is going to take Delta to update their website, as they still seem not to be aware of the fact that Saudia joined the SkyTeam more than a month ago.

skyteam-mea

The number of destinations the airline currently serves in Middle East, Africa, Europe, and Gulf is around 30. The airline operates two routes to Iraq that should make Baghdad and Irbil easier to reach using SkyTeam.

mea-middle-east

mea-gulf

mea-africa_0

mea-europe

Beirut is a wonderful summer destination to visit. I have been there twice, and have flown in once on MEA from Istanbul. When I was there last time three years ago, there were still some signs in the downtown area about the brutal civil war that the country went through. The new downtown area that was being built looked very nice, however.

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Saudia joined SkyTeam on May 29th, 2012 on a ceremony held in Jeddah. The airline is now a 16th member of the alliance that was founded on 2000.

skyteam-saudia-plane

Saudia has an extensive route network within the Saudi Arabia and the Middle East and Gulf Coast Countries. The airline serves both the Washington DC and New York in North America and number of destinations in Europe.

skyteam-saudia-route-map

The airline is “dry” as there are no adult beverages served on Saudia flights. It is always good to have more airlines joining one of the three alliances to have more options to earn and burn miles, and to take advantage of the elite benefits that alliance wide status recognition brings.

skyteam-logos