In the past few weeks I wrote about ITA Airways (Alitalia clone) having established a new frequent flyer program called Volare but several months after the carrier has gained SkyTeam membership, both the airline and the program are still unknown to other alliance partners such as Delta Air Lines.
I have contacted several airlines including Delta and ITA as well as SkyTeam to ask for their side of the story and an explanation of the situation which is rather unacceptable at this point in time.
With the help of the Delta Air Lines press office I eventually got in touch with both SkyTeam and ITA but the news and revelations were not very encouraging.
ITA is basically the Phoenix rising from the ashes of Alitalia as the airline finally disappeared after decades of burning hundreds of millions in both taxpayer and investor money.
The carrier even offers a rather generous status match to a whole range of other programs but as the matched members are now trying to apply their benefits at certain SkyTeam partners during check-in they are met with blank stares – nobody knows this airline or the program!
Here is my initial article about this issue from late January:
The situation of an official alliance partner that prints SkyTeam logos on their membership cards and issues Elite Status yet nobody knows about them or recognized the airline code to be entered is more than bizarre so I started to follow up with some of the parties involved.
First I contacted Delta Airlines’ Press Liasion and asked them about this.
Dear Sebastian, Thank you for your question.
ITA loyalty is still in development. As you’re aware ITA was created last October. I understand from SkyTeam that ITA is in rebuild mode currently but it is being worked on. …
Doesn’t really say or explain much, does it!? I decided to asked again and requested a more precise answer:
so is it SkyTeams and the member airlines official position that effective right now ITA is not a SkyTeam partner and no Elite benefits will be conferred when traveling other airlines (including Delta)? Despite having a valid membership card that says they are Elite+?
Last October is now half a year away, maybe they shouldn’t have been allowed to bear the SkyTeam logo until things have been fully in the clear. Obviously this is SkyTeams fault and not Delta’s responsibility. I think this is what most people are concerned about including many readers who ran into exactly this issue when traveling.
At this point Delta pointed me to SkyTeam (not explaining why they themselves not recognizing ITA right now):
Dear Sebastian, I’m e-introducing you to Katie from SkyTeam comms as not sure the below characterization per your email is correct.
I addressed the following questions to the SkyTeam liaison:
The primary part is the concern about ITA and the recognition of the program/level alliance wide.
I’d also be interested in why a carrier is allowed to bear the SkyTeam logo/designator without being able to accept/confer alliance-wide standard benefits. Shouldn’t the acceptance of ITA into the alliance have been delayed until all the necessary agreements have been put in place?
Delta is only one airline. Korea Air is another and if I dig deeper there are probably many more that don’t recognize ITA at the moment.
They are now half a year in and members are reporting these issues. At the same time AFKLM Flying Blue doesn’t give any miles for ITA flights unless booked as a codeshare.
It gives the impression as if they really need to step up their game or exit the alliance again until these matters are resolved. The same goes for Alaska Airlines in oneWorld too by the way but at least they recognize all other OW membership tiers, only the award redemption is a mess.
Have a great day and thanks again,
Sky Team responded:
Hi Sebastian,Thanks for your patience. Here is the information that we’ve got from ITA and SkyTeam’s own Loyalty team regarding the Volare program.
- Volare is no longer work in progress, The program was launched and activated earlier this year. The program launched in January but became available only in March.
- The program while up and running still needs to be integrated with SkyTeam and member airlines and this activity has only started in march’22. So this is work in progress.
- Recognition of SkyTeam Elite and Elite Plus by ITA Airways started in December 2021.
- Recognition of Volare Elite and Elite Plus by SkyTeam members will be progressively rolled out starting Q2 2022
- Reciprocal earn and burn/redemption with ITA will be progressively launched starting H2 of this year.
As I understand it (since there is no timeline for any partner integration) the program is currently not a decent choice for anyone except for those customers who exclusively fly ITA but no other “partner” carriers. I also communicated this to SkyTeam and ITA.
ITA itself also sent us a statement:
What you say is correct. As you know our company is a ‘start-up’ which began operations approximately five months ago. Given this special status, in agreement with the team at SkyTeam it was decided to develop the different contents of the program step by step until the achievement of a full system integration with Sky Team and SkyTeam members and integration of services. This comprises the different services offered as reciprocal earning and redemption of points between ITA Airways and partner airlines’ flights, lounges access, recognition for Elite and Elite Plus Volare customers, and other alliance benefits.
Fair enough. I wish there would be a more definitive schedule with actual dates as customers will hardly select a frequent flyer program with an uncertain program structure.
This is the first time in my 15+ years in the loyalty game I see a frequent flyer program being initiated that isn’t recognized by the alliance partners, yet is allowed to bear the alliance logo and even confers status tiers.
I wish them the best but this isn’t a good look and from the optics of it ITA starts like just as much a disaster as Alitalia always was. You can change the cloth but you can’t shake off what’s within.
It would have probably been wise to shelve the joining date until all agreements between carriers have been signed and their SkyTeam membership is actually recognized.
ITA Airways Volare program has been live for several months but from what it looks like right now there is still an acceptance issue with some carriers who haven’t heard of the new carrier despite having been admitted to SkyTeam. From the statements of the parties involved that are privy to internal details, it seems like their membership was rushed through without appropriate agreements in place.
To excuse this by saying “we’re still a brand new startup” doesn’t really fly with all due respect. I have worked with various startups before and launching a flawed product/business before all aspects of the corporate structure are finalized is just asinine. Plenty of people are getting paid handsomely at that company and they can’t even get the basics right.
You don’t have to be an alliance member, some of the world’s most successful airlines aren’t in any alliance so why rush it? Just for the optics of having the logo as a credential while none of the alliance benefits are in place?