SkyTeam continues growth, picks some more from the bottom


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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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

4 Comments

  1. Would JAL contradict or contribute to the image of wooking the least attractive partners possible?

    Certainly having another member in Asia is good, but do you want to pick up the carrier that is on its death-bed and desperate for a turn-around?

    JAL used to bring some cachet with the name. Now they seem mostly like a liability to me. And Delta's apparent effort to rebuild the Pan Am route network seems like a terribly foolish endeavor.

  2. I very much doubt I'll ever have the need to fly TAROM, and I don't think I'd want to fly Garuda. I guess all of Indonesia's air transport system is (or at least was) rather sketchy — I remember seeing those signs at US airports announcing that the FAA had determined that the safety at airports X and Y wasn't in compliance with FAA standards (or something along those lines), and one of the airports was Denpasar. Haven't seen those signs in a while, but I recall quite a few Indonesia airplane accidents in the last ten years or so.

  3. Well, if DPS-SUJ is even on your itinerary then you'll have to pick up Tarom. Otherwise I can see it not being on your wish list.

    As for Garuda and Indonesian airlines in general, they had quite a bad run for a while. I think that with the fleet renewal in the coming years that will help out immensely. And I don't put a ton of faith in those FAA warnings ever since the fiasco with Venezuela and the retaliation of the USA against them with similar signage.

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