Choosing a loyalty program is an emotional decision. It’s a long term commitment and almost assuredly, you’ll go through some tough times together. So when it comes to choosing which airline is best for you needs, it’s nice to know who offers the best deal. When it comes to a loyalty program, there are a few key decisions: easiest status to earn, upgrade opportunities, value of points and travel benefits. We’ve broken down each category, to give you an easy peek into which program will work best for your travels. The answer? You’ll probably be best off joining three or four…
For frequent flyers, the sooner you can reach exclusive perks the better. For SkyTeam, the real benefits kick in when you reach SkyTeam ElitePlus, which grants airport fast track, business class check in and other privileges. When it comes to earning, your two best bets are Delta and Air France/KLM Flying Blue.
Air France/KLM Flying Blue: For travelers outside of France or Monaco, you’ll need just 40,000 miles in a year to reach Gold Flying Blue status. You’ll receive all SkyTeam Elite Plus perks once you do and the perks are valid all over the world, on all SkyTeam airlines. Miles are based on type if ticket and distance, so be sure to check how many you’ll earn for a flight.
Delta SkyMiles: Delta SkyMiles Gold is the next best opportunity to score Elite Plus. You’ll need to fly 50,000 miles and spend $6,000 annually – unless you spend enough on a Delta Amex credit card. The minimum spend is waived if you do not live in the US. Delta also offers a Platinum fast track, if you already have elite status with another airline. These miles are also calculated by distance and ticket type.
It’s getting harder and harder to earn frequent flyer points and miles by actually flying. It’s far easier to earn these points from credit card spending, online shopping and other non flying methods. The other major consideration for choosing which points to earn, is about how easy and lucrative it can be to spend them. Here are a few good options to spend SkyTeam points…
Korean SkyPASS: We value Korean SkyPass miles at 1.6 cents per point. Korean offers some of the best rates in travel for business and first class seats using points. You can use Korean miles to fly business class on Air France, Delta, Alitalia and more between the US and Europe for 80,000 round trip. You can also fly first class for less than 100,000 points on Korean, which is fabulous. You can instantly create Korean SkyPASS points from American Express or Chase Ultimate Rewards, which makes it a great option.
Air France/KLM FlyingBlue: We value FlyingBlue miles at 1.3 cents per point. This mileage program is great, because you can instantly create points from Amex, Citi or Chase credit card points, making the miles very easy to earn. The program offers “promo awards” where flights using points are discounted each month. You can unlock excellent rates in all cabins on all SkyTeam airlines, and find exceptionally good deals for business class using points.
Delta SkyMiles: We value Delta Skymiles at just 1 cent per point. However, the airline has a few great ways to use points still under its sleeve. One of the best things about Delta points is that they can be used towards the cash cost of any ticket. Even if a seat using “points” isn’t available, you can book a ticket using cash and apply some points to offset the price. This is valuable for travelers with less flexibility than others, even if it’s not necessarily “maximizing” your points. You can also instantly create Delta SkyMiles using Amex Points and for each Delta Amex purchase.
For non frequent flyers, virtually every airline will be the same in terms of “perks” Airlines that offer credit cards will often throw in priority boarding and a free checked bag, which can make them appealing options. But other than that, you’ll need frequent flyer status to unlock nice perks. Without a doubt, Delta offers some of the best perks for the least flying…
Alitalia Air France/KLM, Delta Discounts On Best Seats: Alitalia, Delta, KLM and Air France offer either free or discounted “extra comfort” seats with increased legroom or located in the front of the cabin. This can be a meaningful perk for travelers who find themselves in economy on longer flights. The higher the tier, the less you pay (if anything) in each program.
Delta SkyMiles Complimentary Domestic Upgrades: All Silver, Gold, Platinum and Diamond members are eligible for complimentary upgrades on most flights within the United States. The higher your status, the higher you are on the upgrade ladder. Free upgrades aren’t offered on any other airlines within SkyTeam, so if an elusive domestic upgrade in the USA is what you’re after – this is your best bet.
Delta, Alitalia International Upgrade Certificates: Delta and Alitalia each offer their top tier Freccia Alata or Diamond Medallion flyers four certificates per year, valid to upgrade international flights from economy to business class. This is an extremely valuable perk, which can turn a $400 ticket into an incredible $5,000 business class experience.
In our view, the best overall SkyTeam loyalty program is FlyingBlue, the loyalty program of Air France and KLM. But depending on your personal goals, we’d make two other suggestions. If you will not earn any frequent flyer benefits and solely care about earning points: Korean SkyPASS is the best program to earn miles for flying on all SkyTeam airlines. Enter your Korean Airlines SkyPASS number every time you fly Delta, Alitalia, Air France and anyone else. If you care about domestic upgrades, Delta SkyMiles is your best bet. The points aren’t the most valuable, but upgrades are powerful and elite status is fairly easy to attain. Good to go?