It is hard to pick up top-tier airlines to join a global alliance these days. Most that want to be in an alliance already are and the others that are desirable are either happy going it alone or working slowly towards other options. So it is always interesting to read the announcements of which airlines are joining up. The past couple weeks have seen some announcements out of SkyTeam and, well, they are interesting.
First up is the official word that Vietnam Airlines and Tarom will become members in June 2010. I had the pleasure of flying on Vietnam Airlines for a couple domestic flights a few years ago and they seemed to be a pretty well run organization. They’ve announced orders for four Airbus A380s with expected deliveries in the coming years and they’re expanding their international coverage. Plus the economy in Vietnam seems to be still growing so they seem like a nice addition, especially if there are options for transit visas.
Tarom, on the other hand, is a rather notable question mark. They have one true long route – Bucharest to Dubai at just over 2100 miles. The next farthest destination is London at just over 1300 miles. OK, so they’re a regional player. More options is always a good thing and I’m sure it is great for them to get in the alliance, but it just doesn’t seem all that special to have them joining up. Coverage of Eastern Europe will be phenomenal with both Tarom and Czech Air in the alliance, so that is something. Tarom will be joining as an Associate member of the alliance and will be adopting the FlyingBlue loyalty scheme from Air France as part of this move. That probably isn’t great for their direct customers but it means having the alliance so a fair trade.
The last move – somewhat unexpected to me – is that Garuda has also announced intentions to join SkyTeam. Yup, Garuda, the Indonesian airline that just a couple years ago was blacklisted from flying to Europe because of safety and maintenance concerns. But now they’re back, with service from Jakarta to Amsterdam via Dubai returning in June 2010 and ten Boeing 777s on order to allow for non-stop service in the coming years. So I suppose they are getting better, but they really had nowhere to go but up. Maybe having them in the alliance will force them to continue their improvements.
So there aren’t a whole lot of options out there and SkyTeam is doing the best they can. Their coverage in SE Asia is about to get a serious boost and they own Eastern Europe. I suppose things could be worse.
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