The SkyTeam has grown again, today welcoming Saudia Airlines, formally known as Saudi Arabian Airlines, as the 16th member to the SkyTeam family. The Flag carrying airline of Saudi Arabia is the first Middle East Airline to join the SkyTeam and is only the second middle eastern carrier, after Royal Jordianian to join a major airline alliance (unless you count Egypt Air located in Egypt or Turkish Airlines which are both arguable not the Middle East, depending on the text book/definition being used). With the welcoming of Saudia the SkyTeam adds 51 new destinations to their comprehensive global network, including 23 destinations within Saudi Arabia alone. This grows the Skyteam Global footprint to 958 destinations in 173 countries.
In addition to the new airline the SkyTeam also added two new SkyTeam livery painted jets representing Saudia Airlines and dedication to the SkyTeam. A B777-200 and an A320 were both revealed today in grey with the blue ribbon. Both Jets are primarily used on International routes such as those to NYC, Guangzhou, Europe and the UAE.
SkyTeam is thrilled to have their first Middle Eastern Carrier and are raving about the new destinations such as Islamabad, Pakistan; Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Alexandria, Egypt. However I ask myself has the SkyTeam sunk to a new low?
As a loyal Delta flyer (meaning I’m stuck with the SkyTeam) I’ve seen the SkyTeam rush to grow over the last several years and add partners such as China Eastern, Vietnam Airlines, Saudia, and soon to join Aerolineas Argentinas. All Skytrax 3 star airlines. Although there are worse airlines, where are the more luxurious airlines in the Skyteam? Star has airlines like Lufthansa, Swiss, and Singapore Airlines, and OneWorld has BA, Cathay Pacific, and LAN. Malaysian Airlines is on tract to join OneWorld and Eva is joining Star.
However, despite this, the SkyTeam keeps growing and with each new member comes more options to earn and redeem miles. Saudia has been on a four year brand refresher course and is scheduled to be complete by 2013. This four year project included product enhancements and upgrades to their aircraft and IT systems and a name change from Saudi Arabian Airline, back to the former name used from 1972-1996, Saudia. However, despite all this, the Alcohol Free Airline with poorly time flights for connections, still doesn’t have the best name or reputation. Yet somehow the Skyteam recruited this airline to be their first Middle Eastern Carrier and has faith that Saudia can live up the the SkyTeam requirements and will shine through with their slogan, “Welcome to your world”.