Over the past few months, I've talked up Delta as I prepare to move my loyalty from American Airlines to Delta. I've been pretty positive about Delta and the negative aspects of American Airlines seems to continually grow and grow. Delta is not a beauty pageant winner by any means though, there are deep problems on their side as well.
One of the biggest downsides to Delta is their partner airlines. Delta partners with a signifiant number of airlines through the Skyteam Alliance. In comparison, American Airlines partners with One World, and United partners through Star Alliance. Alliance members determine who you can redeem miles and points with through Delta. Not only that, but loyalty benefits transfer on some level between the partners, so having great partnerships is important for reaching those destinations not served directly with Delta.
Skyteam, plain and simple, doesn't have great partner airlines. When compared to One World or Star Alliance, the Skyteam Alliance falls way short. If I look over the list or airlines on all the alliances, Skyteam is certainly the least attractive of the three. One World and Star Alliance are on par with each other, with a major portion of each partnership being attractive. When Skyteam is reviewed, the list is short and uninteresting.
Lets look at Skyteams partner airlines:
- Aerolineas Aregentinas
- China Airlines
- China Eastern
- China Southern
- Czech Airlines
- Garuda Indonesia
- Kenya Airways
- Korean Air
- Vietnam Airlines
- Xiamen Air
Let me start on this list by saying who the hell is MEA? Same goes for Tarom, who are they? And those questions exemplify the issue, who are some of these airlines? I don't even know some of the airlines on the list and I travel extensively.
Worse yet is that the airlines I'm actually interested in flying are maybe 5 of these; Air France, China Eastern, Delta, KLM, and Korean Air. Korean Air is notoriously hard to use points with, so they might not get much use, and China Eastern is merely a curiosity since I've heard some great and some horrible reviews.
Skyteam is not a good alliance and by far the weakest of the three. This is a big drawback to becoming loyal to Delta. Do keep in mind that Delta does have additional partners outside of the alliance as do many airlines, so your miles might be able to be used beyond the Skyteam, but the use of loyalty benefits with those airlines can be spotty. I for instance will be flying with Virgin Atlantic in October using Delta miles, and they are not part of the Skyteam, so there is some hope left here.
On the other hand, Delta partners with Alaska Airlines, but has been actively destroying that relationship. Alaska Airlines remains a partner airline, but the miles don't earn well there anymore, and the partnership is tenuous at best.
The beauty about flying on points and miles is that you can bypass some of the restrictive nature of being locked in to a single airline. So while Delta will likely carry me almost exclusively in the US, when it comes to international, Delta may not make up much of my flights beyond a few MQM runs. Diversification of miles is the name of the game, and that will help get around the issue of a poor airline alliance.