In the Miles & Points world, we often focus on Star Alliance and Oneworld airlines. With great loyalty programs to choose from, such as Aeroplan, British Airways Avios, and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, it’s quite easy to earn and redeem points for some of the best airlines in the world.
While this covers two of the three major airline alliances, it leaves out redemptions for SkyTeam-member airlines.
Indeed, there are a fair few SkyTeam programs with points that are either relatively easy to collect in Canada, or offer the occasional pockets of value even if they may be more difficult to collect.
Individually, they aren’t necessarily strong enough for you to treat them as a primary program for earning and redeeming points, but the details are at least worth familiarizing yourself with, so let’s go ahead and do just that.
Air France/KLM’s frequent flyer program is known as Flying Blue, and while there are a few reasons why you should have the program on your radar, the number one reason is because of Promo Rewards.
Redeeming points for flights between North America and Europe can be a difficult task. With so much competition for flights, and with travel demand at an all-time high, it’s not unusual to run into hurdles when trying to find an award seat across the Atlantic.
Luckily, Air France/KLM Flying Blue has been rising in prominence in recent years, and for good reason.
To start, you can earn Flying Blue miles by the following methods:
Like Delta SkyMiles, Flying Blue is a dynamic award program, and the price point varies based on the underlying cash fare. Flying Blue also has the quirk of not being able to book mixed cabins – all of your flights need to be in the same class of service to count as a single itinerary.
By and large, the best reason to go out of your way to earn Flying Blue miles is to take advantage of the program’s Promo Rewards, which are special deals on certain routes and cabins that are refreshed every month. In the past, we’ve seen deals such as a one-way Toronto–Paris flight on Air France business class for 35,000 Flying Blue miles + about $300 (CAD) in taxes and fees, which is a pretty great deal for transatlantic business class.
We’ve also seen deals such as flights between Montreal and Europe for as few as 27,500 Flying Blue miles. It doesn’t get any cheaper than that for a lie-flat seat to Europe or back.
The Promo Rewards apply a fixed discount (usually 25% or 50%) to whatever the dynamic pricing model spits out. Therefore, if a certain date was going to cost 80,000 Flying Blue miles and there’s a 25% discount going on, you’ll pay 60,000 miles; if a certain date was going to cost 53,000 Flying Blue miles and there’s a 50% discount going on, you’ll pay 26,500 miles; and so on.
Air France and KLM’s routes to Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, and Quebec City can also be “in play” during Promo Rewards, and you’ll want to keep a close eye on the Promo Rewards page to see which new deals get released every month. If you find something that piques your interest, be ready to transfer any of your Amex MR points, Amex US MR points, Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Capital One miles, or Citi ThankYou points over to the program if you see a deal you’d like to book.
If you’re headed across the Pacific instead, you can also consider looking for a flight with China Airlines through Air France/KLM Flying Blue. While it might not be as good of a sweet spot as, say, the “Asia 3” sweet spot with Aeroplan, you’ll at least have another option at your disposal if your Star Alliance and Oneworld options are limited.
Aside from Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Delta SkyMiles is perhaps the most attractive SkyTeam program for Canadians. You can earn Delta SkyMiles in a fair few ways from north of the border:
In particular, if you’re a frequent WestJet flyer but don’t see much value in collecting WestJet Dollars, then crediting your flights to Delta SkyMiles may be more valuable in terms of eventually redeeming those miles for a high-value premium cabin.
The SkyMiles program allows you to book with any SkyTeam partner, including Air France/KLM, Korean Air, China Eastern, etc., as well as Delta’s non-alliance partners such as Air Tahiti Nui, Hawaiian Airlines, Mandarin Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, and of course WestJet.
The major limitation with Delta SkyMiles, however, is the fact that the program stopped publishing its award charts back in 2015, making it incredibly opaque and difficult to plan around.
Delta-operated flights tend to be priced based on a dynamic model, whereas partner flights technically have fixed prices, but these can be adjusted at any time without notice due to the lack of published award charts.
Keep in mind that Delta’s search engine isn’t the strongest, either. For example, you may not see any search results show up when you look for Toronto–Auckland direct, but perhaps you will when you search New York–Auckland and Toronto–New York separately.
A Delta SkyMiles phone agent should be able to help you piece it together for the same cost as New York–Auckland, although “should” is really the operative word here.
On the other hand, the Delta search engine does have a very useful calendar feature that allows you to easily identify the dates with the lowest-cost flight redemption.
If we were to compare Delta’s prices to, say, Aeroplan Delta SkyMiles might have an advantage in very limited circumstances, but not really when you look across the board.
One example may be for travelling within the United States or on flights to Hawaii. If the cost with Aeroplan is significantly high due to effects of dynamic pricing, be sure to take a look at Delta SkyMiles.
For example, you can fly in economy from New York to Maui for as few as 19,500 SkyMiles.
To other parts of the world, however, Delta’s pricing is much less competitive. For example, Aeroplan’s pricing for business class flights to Asia ranges between 55,000 and 87,500 points depending on the distance, whereas Delta SkyMiles charges much more for any transpacific flight.
However, if you’re interested in sampling as many different business class products as possible, then Delta’s program may another way to try out some of the lesser-flown SkyTeam partners, such as Korean Air business class or China Airlines business class.
(Note that SkyTeam programs generally do not have access to other partners’ First Class flights, so you couldn’t use SkyMiles to book Korean Air First Class, for example).
Something else to look out for is Delta’s SkyMiles Deals, which offer lower redemption rates on certain city pairs for travelling on Delta-operated flights. Essentially, these represent the occasions when Delta’s dynamic pricing model can actually work in your favour, although their unpredictability makes them difficult to plan a trip around.
Overall, keep Delta in mind as an option if you fly within the United States or if you’d like to add some SkyTeam airlines to your flight log. Otherwise, the other programs we usually talk about, like Aeroplan, Alaska, or Avios, are probably a better bet.
Aeromexico Club Premier is another SkyTeam program that may be of interest… but only for the truly dedicated mileage geeks.
That’s because of the very unique Aeromexico round-the-world award that they offer, which allows you to book up to 16 flights on SkyTeam partner airlines around the world on a single ticket, with a stopover of extended duration between each flight.
That’s right, you can have 15 stopovers on the same ticket with the Aeromexico round-the-world award. We’ve actually written a detailed post about this sweet spot in the past, so head over there for the full details, list of examples, etc.
The Aeromexico round-the-world award costs 224,000 and 352,000 Aeromexico points, respectively, for economy and business class. Since you’re most likely going to be interested in business class if you’re going out of your way to book this behemoth of a redemption, you should note that 352,000 points is equivalent to 303,448 Amex US MR points, due to the unique 1:1.16 transfer ratio there.
However, I’d only recommend tackling this award if you’re a very experienced with booking award tickets: first of all, mixed-cabin awards are not permitted, so you need to find business class space all the way if you want to book a business class award.
Then, the Aeromexico round-the-world award can only be booked over the phone, and the call centre agents, by all accounts, aren’t the easiest to work with in the first place are likely to be unfamiliar with this award as well. You’d definitely need to have strong drink or two in hand, both for planning out the trip and for actually getting it ticketed over the phone.
Outside of this very niche but potentially very attractive sweet spot, the Club Premier program presents minimal value. For travel to Mexico, you can expect to pay 28,000 or 52,000 Aeromexico points one-way in economy class or business class, respectively.
Factoring in the 1:1.6 ratio from US MR, and that’s equivalent to 17,500 or 32,500 US MR points. Bus since Aeroplan is priced even more favourably, starting at 12,500 or 25,000 points, respectively, there’s no reason to burn your highly valuable US MR points here.
OK, so Virgin Atlantic isn’t really a SkyTeam airline… yet. The UK-based airline is set to officially become an official SkyTeam member in early 2023, but the Flying Club loyalty program represents arguably the best way to book many SkyTeam-member airline flights.
To earn Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points, you’ll need to get involved in US credit cards. Amex US MR, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou points, and Capital One Venture miles all transfer to the program with a 1:1 ratio.
Otherwise, you’ll have to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points at the ideal ratio of 60,000:25,000.
Once you’ve earned the miles, you can then book some of SkyTeam’s best products at a lower cost.
For example, you can fly in Delta One from North America to Europe for as few as 50,000 Flying Club points.
If you’re okay with flying in economy, you can get some outstanding deals on flights to or from Europe. For example, you can get a flight for as few as 12,000 points between Eastern North America and Western Europe with Delta, Air France, or KLM.
The trick is going to be finding award space, especially for higher classes of service. However, if you can find the coveted seat, you’re probably getting the best deal around by booking with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
It will be interesting to see if any changes come with the full integration of Virgin Atlantic Flying Club into SkyTeam. We’ll be sure to keep you abreast of any changes and developments as they come along.
At the moment, the SkyTeam alliance doesn’t quite offer as many opportunities to redeem points for outstanding value compared to the more familiar domains of Star Alliance and Oneworld’s airlines and award programs.
Of all SkyTeam-member airlines, Air France/KLM’s Flying Blue loyalty program is the most attractive option, with monthly Promo Rewards that can offer significant discounts on flights to Europe.
Otherwise, there are some niche redemption opportunities available with Delta SkyMiles, Aeromexico Club Premier, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. Some programs have points that are easily to come by than others, while others have better redemption opportunities.
It would be great to see more opportunities to come in the future for SkyTeam airlines, including both the earning and redemption opportunities. Until then, make use of the sweet spots as they exist, and be sure to consider your options across all three airline alliances when redeeming your points.
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