The Skyteam has been rapidly growing over the last couple of years trying to gain on the larger Star Alliance. Recently Saudia joined the SkyTeam and a number of airlines have been annouced as future members. With all the growth, the SkyTeam recognizes they need to improve their “alliance offerings” and actually function as an alliance of airlines.
Middle Eastern Airline was one of the airlines that was quietly announced in Feb of 2011 as a future member in the rapidly expanding SkyTeam alliance. However since then there has been very little news about the actual date of entry into the alliance or if they were even on tract to enter. However on June 11, SkyTeam sent out a notice that the small Middle Eastern Carrier based in Lebanon was ready to join the Alliance and would do so on June 28, 2012! Although MEA isn’t adding a number of destinations to the SkyTeam, it will strategically help the SkyTeam grow their presence in the Middle East and Gulf.
In the same media release, the SkyTeam also announced that the official date for Aerolineas Argentinas to join will be August 29th! This will be very exciting for it will be the first carrier in South America to join the SkyTeam! And finally, Xiamen Airlines (60 % owned by China Southern) will join the alliance this coming November, bringing the number of Chinese carriers in the SkyTeam to 4.
Expanding and strengthening the global network
With the recent joining of Saudia, SkyTeam welcomed its first member from the Middle East, giving the alliance a strong foothold in this important economic region. On June 28th, Middle East Airlinesfrom Lebanon will be the next member to join SkyTeam. The alliance will welcome two additional members in 2012. Aerolíneas Argentinas is scheduled to join the alliance August 29th as the first South American member, strengthening SkyTeam network in the southern hemisphere. On November 15th, Xiamen Airlines, based in the flourishing Southeast China region, will further consolidate the alliance #1 position in Greater China.
With the rapidly growing Alliance, the SkyTeam has been working hard to make travel more seamless for travelers and synergize their product. In early 2012, the SkyPriority program (initally launched by Delta in 2010) was incorporated into the SkyTeam system as a whole and is now available in 550 airports worldwide and should be implemented in all SkyTeam locations by the end of 2013. SkyPriority offers red-carpet treatment ensuring travelers with SkyTeam Elite Plus status and first class passengers checked in faster and to/through security and onto the plane with less hassel.
In addition to SkyPriority, the SkyTeam has announced SkyTransfer and SkyPort. The idea between these two initiatives is to make transfers and flying on the Skyteam 100% seamless!
SkyTransfer, improving further on seamless, straightforward transfers of passengers and their baggage from one member airline to another….“Customers want seamless connectivity. And we want to deliver a superior airport experience, using the best practices of our top hubs.”…Some elements are organizing recognition and service recovery, monitoring critical transfers and staff training.
SkyTransfer will be initially rolled out in nine hubs across the SkyTeam. These hubs will be dubbed “excellence hubs” and were selected due to the high number of SkyTeam network transfers. They include: Amsterdam, Atlanta, Beijing, Guangzhou, Mexico City, Paris, Rome, Seoul and Shanghai.
Finally, SkyPort is another attempt for the SkyTeam to cohabitate terminals across the globe. Currently in airports such as London Heathrow T4, Tokyo Narita, and Beijing the majority of SkyTeam arrivals and departures are in the same Terminal. Such shared facilities allow passengers to check-in at SkyTeam areas or self-service kiosks. In addition, co-facilities ensure SkyTeam passengers who have lounge access can relax in a lounge before departure, no matter what partner airline they are flying. In 2012 the alliance plans to open two new SkyTeam branded lounges, similar to the one at London Healthrow. These will be in Beijing and Istanbul.
2012 Is clearly a big year for the Skyteam. Four new airlines and the expansion of SkyPriority, SkyTransfer, and SkyPort! Watch for these changes at an airport near you!