Last year I bought a ticket from Northwest for flights on KLM that earned miles from Delta. They’re all part of the SkyTeam alliance, one of three large airline alliances in the world that are gaining influence in how and where we fly, and how much we pay.
Business travelers have known and worked with airline alliances for years, and it’s common for savvy business people to ally themselves with one alliance over the others. Not only can they manage their valuable airline miles within a single alliance, but they can often get elite perks from one airline in the alliance and carry them over to the others.
Leisure travelers seem less inclined to learn the ropes of these alliances and turn them to their advantage. But it’s not difficult to do.
Market forces often cause airlines to charge pretty much the same fares for the same routes. So even if your airline doesn’t fly the route you want, you can often find an alliance partner that does.
When I booked my KLM trip, I had to do it through Northwest, which handles KLM’s ticketing in the United States. But when it came to entering my frequent flier information for the reservation, I was allowed to enter my Delta account number. And when I want to redeem the miles I’ve earned, I can get flights with any alliance member airline, not just Delta.
These alliances have become so important to the member airlines that they can wield substantial influence. A major reason that Northwest Airlines is considered a better merger partner for Delta than United is that Northwest and Delta already belong to the same alliance.
The SkyTeam Alliance includes Aeroflot, Aeroméxico, Air France, Alitalia, China Southern Airlines, Continental Airlines, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air and Northwest Airlines.
The Oneworld Alliance includes American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, LAN, Malév, Qantas and Royal Jordanian
The Star Alliance includes Air Canada, Air China, Air New Zealand, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Austrian, bmi, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, Shanghai Airlines, Singapore Airlines, South African Airways, Spanair, SWISS, TAP Portugal, THAI, United and US Airways
Each alliance also has associate or regional members that may share miles benefits with one or more, but not all, of the full alliance members.