SkyTeam: Airline Alliance Members and Benefits

Skyteam KLM Boeing 737 Schiphol airport Amsterdam
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Founded in 2000, SkyTeam was the last of three airline alliances established to unify airline companies around the world. With a slogan of "Caring for You," the 20 carrier members (and 10 cargo-only members of SkyTeam Cargo) of this airline alliance links travelers with over 1,000 destinations in 177 countries, operating some 16,000 daily flights for over 730 million passengers annually.

Members that join the SkyTeam alliance can expect access to over 600 airline lounges around the world, expedited check-in and security screening, and even priority reservation waitlisting, booking, and boarding, provided these members earn enough points in affiliated airlines' frequent-flyer programs.

The 20 airlines that are currently members of SkyTeam include Aeroflot, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Aeromexico, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Airlines, China Eastern, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Garuda Indonesia, Kenya Airways, KLM, Korean Air, Middle East Airlines, Saudia, TAROM, Vietnam Airlines, and XiamenAir.

History and Expansion

SkyTeam was first established in 2000 by founding airline members Aeroméxico, Air France, Delta Air Lines and Korean Air, who met in New York City to establish the world's third (and final, as of now) airline alliance. Shortly thereafter, the team established SkyTeam Cargo which featured Aeromexpress, Air France Cargo, Delta Air Logistics and Korean Air Cargo as founding cargo members.

The first major expansion in the SkyTeam fleet came in 2004 when Aeroloft joined the ranks, marking the first Russian carrier in such an organization. China Southern Airlines, Continental Airlines, KLM and Northwest Airlines all joined the SkyTeam later that same year, marking a new era of expansion for the newest airline alliance.

SkyTeam continues to expand and change, as new airlines are included, such as China Eastern, China Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, Aerolíneas Argentinas, Saudia, Middle East Airlines and Xiamen Airlines, which all joined in 2010 or later. With the addition of these new airlines, SkyTeam has much stronger coverage in the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America, and the partnership is looking to continue to expand in areas like Brazil and India.

Airline Membership Requirements and Customer Benefits

SkyTeam members must meet the over 100 specific safety, quality, IT, and customer service standards (covering things from elite mileage recognition to lounge access) that are set by the organization; additionally, audits of member airlines are performed routinely to ensure that all requirements are being fulfilled.

Benefits of flying on SkyTeam airline alliance partners include the organization's Inter-Airline Through Check-in. The Inter-Airline Through Check-in lets an agent from any SkyTeam airline assign seats and issue boarding passes for a traveler's connections on other alliance airlines. Perhaps even more important for business travelers, if you're a SkyTeam Elite Plus member, you are actually guaranteed a seat (economy class) or reservation on any SkyTeam long-haul flight, even if that flight is sold out—all you need to do to take advantage of that perk is call the airline at least 24 hours in advance.

For those who travel even more than most business-class passengers that earn enough rewards points in the frequent flyer programs, priority reservation waitlisting, standby, boarding, baggage handling and check-in are offered along with preferred seating, additional free checked luggage, lounge access, and guaranteed reservations on sold-out flights.