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Continental Says Goodbye to Skyteam…I’m Going to Stick Up for Skyteam for a Moment

Continental ended their association with Skyteam and headed on over to the greener pastures of Star Alliance yesterday.  It seems that most folks see this as a positive move for travelers (Gary Leff at View from the Wing outlines the reasons, with first class options, lounge access and choice of carriers leading the way).  He’s right – those are all good things.  As is the ability to book many Star carriers on Continental’s website.  That’s a great thing.  Well done all around.

But I’ve read quite a bit of Skyteam bashing (Gary, again) and I feel a slight twitch where I need to defend Skyteam for a bit.  Was it the best alliance out there?  No.  Did they have a large array of world class carriers associated?  No.  Did Continental and Delta have miserable – truly miserable – reward availability, especially in business?  Yes.  That all said, I was never unable to book a reward ticket where I wanted to go.  Air France, Alitalia, and KLM (to an extent) all had pretty good availability, even in business class.  Gary loves (understandably) first class awards to Asia and the insane pampering that goes with that.  Star is great for that with first class awards available on a number of top airlines to Asia.  But for many of us (especially with twin 3 year olds), a 10-day trip to Asia isn’t in the cards.  I cared more about quick trips to Latin America, or a long weekend in Europe.  And Skyteam served that need for me, with a great choice of flights and availability.

Don’t get me wrong, Star will be great…but Skyteam wasn’t nearly as bad as we think.

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  1. I’ve had some luck with Skyteam partners, too. But it was definitely getting worse — especially with DL buying NW. DL had pretty much “zeroed out” standard (low) int’l advance award availability in its new 3-tier system. So if you wanted to buy a couple tickets to Asia (any class) a few months ahead of time, there was nothing. Once CO flipped the Star switch, there were suddenly a zillion options. Award availability to Europe also dramatically improved. No CO elite will miss Skyteam — with the exception of those few CO travellers who flew a lot of NW routes, and got upgrades and bonus miles for them.

  2. Sure, SkyTeam has a few things going for them, but they are decidedly worse than Star Alliance when it comes to reward availability, premium cabin options and global coverage. That doesn’t mean that SkyTeam is bad – they certainly provide a passable alliance and partnership – but they just aren’t as good as Star Alliance.

    As for Latin America, Delta and AeroMexico combine for pretty decent coverage, but Continental and Copa – and US Air – have a TON more.

    That doesn’t mean that SkyTeam should just fold up and go home. But they realistically don’t have the same coverage – even in the western hemisphere – as Star Alliance or really even OneWorld. They’re great in North America and Europe. And then things fall apart in a hurry.

    There are winners and losers in the real world. In this case SkyTeam loses badly to Star Alliance. Such is life.

  3. IAHPHX – actually, before the NW/DL merger, anyone with Silver Elite on CO was upgraded flying just about anywhere domestically on NW. Those were the days…

    And I’m not at ALL suggesting that Skyteam is better (in any way) than Star. I’m merely saying that we didn’t have it as bad as been discussed. Especially for those of us who burn miles primarily in coach internationally — the options were there. As was the (formerly) amazing Qantas redemption option. And the useful Emirates option. It wasn’t Star, but, again, you could get where you wanted to go. Remember the days before alliances?

  4. As my travel has changed (and some airlines have stopped flying to where I live), I’ve accumulated lots of miles and been top tier on American, Delta, British Airways, and now United. I stopped flying on Delta and avoided other Skyteam airlines because I could never get a free ticket for a reasonable amount of miles. On other airlines it’s not exactly easy, but usually possible with some effort. On Monday I’m flying to Australia in business class for 135,000 miles. By comparison, earlier tonight Delta’s website told me that a coach class ticket only to Puerto Rico would have been 70,000 miles. I’ve always like Continental but usually avoided them because they were in Skyteam, but will now fly on them because they are in the Star Alliance.

  5. The useful Qantas option has been gone for over a year now. The Emirates option still exists, though good luck getting a seat from them these days.

    Even flying internationally in Y – and I’ve done a fair amount of that quite successfully with CO – there are more options now with *A. More options is better, right?

    SkyTeam doesn’t completely suck, but the *A move has incredible potential. It should be much better, even for the folks who were doing OK with the old scheme. The little things that were lost – upgrades for top tier on domestic rewards on NW metal – don’t really offset the flexibility and increased coverage that *A brings to the table.

    I was generally able to get the awards I wanted with SkyTeam and really have no complaints about how I was treated with that alliance. But *A has been better already, and that’s only after the first reward I tried to redeem.

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