Upcoming Skyteam Additions: Saudi Arabian, Middle Eastern, Garuda and Aerolineas Argentinas
If you haven't been keeping up to date with the alliances, Skyteam has announced several new additions to their alliance. While it will take a while for these airlines to get fully integrated, you could see award redemptions starting to happen within the next year. From a points perspective, it only strengthens the value of your current Skyteam points when new members join the alliance. Here are my takes on the four new scheduled additions to Skyteam:
1) Saudi Arabian, which announced the move on January 1oth, fills the middle eastern gap and gives more access to Africa. With hubs in Jeddah, Riyadh and Damman, they service over 90 cities includin While my biggest gripe with Saudi Arabian is that their flights are dry (yes, you read correctly- no alcohol) and without delving into politics too much, their country has some questionable human rights issues (you know, like stoning a woman for having a child out of wedlock). And not to be a Debbie Downer, but they do have the title of having the largest mid-air crash in aviation history, when one of their 747s collided with a Kazakhstan Airlines flight, killing 349 people in total. While I'm generally a pretty adventurous traveler, you won't see me flying them anytime soon, but please do let me know your experience- I'd love to feature it on the site. They service US airports IAD (Washington Dulles) and JFK.
2) Middle Eastern Airlines, based in Beirut, Lebanon is a small Middle Eastern (duh) airline servicing 31 destinations in the Middle East, Europe and Africa. Further adding to Skyteams Middle Eastern presence, MEA opens up more availability to Beirut, which is on my top 10 "must visit soon" places. They operate a fleet of Airbus 320/321/330 aircraft and get decent reviews.
3) Garuda Indonesia is the national carrier of Indonesia. While the carrier was banned from flying to the EU up until 2009 due to safety violations, they've apparently turned things around and get pretty solid safety and service ratings. They have a mini-hub in Bali, which is also on my shortlist of must visit locations. They also service Australia, which is nice, especially if you are planning a Skyteam Round-the-World ticket. They mostly fly Boeing 737s around Asia and operate some 747s and A330s for longhaul. They have an order for 10 new 777s.
4) Aerolineas Argentinas is Argentina's flag carrier and is the largest carrier serving the country. I've flown on them twice and both experiences have been satisfactory. I'll have a full trip report of my short Punta del Este to Buenos Aires flight, but they actually handed out a juice/snack packet on the 40 minute flight. Their airplanes are a bit dated, but they have a pretty good safety record. In fact, the last time a passenger was killed was in 1992 when they distributed shrimp that were infected with cholera and a 70 year old man died from the illness. They fly from Miami to Buenos Aires as well as Madrid and Rome. Intra-Argentinian flights can be very expensive, so this addition may save you big bucks if you want to redeem Skyteam miles for Aerolineas flights. Overall, while not the nicest carrier in the world, a nice addition serving one of my favorite counties in the world.
Overall, Skyteam isn't adding the premium carriers that I'd hope (Virgin Atlantic, Emirates), but they are filling in the gaps. More options is a good thing and if you don't want to fly any of these carriers, no one is putting a gun to your head.
I'm glad Skyteam is actively working to catch up to Star Alliance which currently has 27 members versus Skyteam 13 and Oneworld at 12.