SkyTeam has announced new airlines will be joining the alliance in 2011, opening new travel doors in Asia Pacific. This is excellent news for travelers in Asia who find the SkyTeam flights to be minimal and non-existent for some routes. China Eastern Airlines signed a letter of intent in April of this year and now China Airlines has announced they will also be joining SkyTeam next year.
China Eastern Airlines
In April, China Eastern announced plans to join SkyTeam which is set to be completed in mid-2011. Headquartered in Shanghai, China Eastern will improve SkyTeam’s extensive Chinese domestic network. China Eastern services more than 150 destinations in China and abroad. China Eastern will bring 25 unique new destinations for SkyTeam members including places in Southeast Asia, Europe, North America, South Africa, and Australia.
China Southern, a current SkyTeam member, operates out of hubs in Guangzhou and Beijing and the addition of China Eastern will secure the three main China markets.
Based in Taipei, Taiwan, China Airlines operates flights all over Asia Pacific, along with some routes through Europe. China Airlines will become the third Greater China carrier in the alliance and will open doors to routes previously unserviced by SkyTeam carriers. Routes like Taipei to Hong Kong had no viable options for SkyTeam flights and other routes like Taipei to Tokyo only had one available flight on Delta Airlines. China Airlines operates direct flights from Taipei to both Los Angeles and San Francisco which are currently only available via more expensive codeshare flights with Delta.
China Airlines is the largest airline in Taiwan and has the potential to help cement Taiwan as a new Asian hub based on the number of flights they operate in and out of the small island. Travelers in Asia will now have additional options for flights to places like Australia and exotic destinations in Southeast Asia, like Bali and Borneo.
Vietnam Airlines and TAROM (Romanian Air Transport)
2010 brought two new active members of the SkyTeam Alliance as well – TAROM and Vietnam Airlines. TAROM recently celebrated its 55th anniversary and serves 53 destinations in 22 different countries, with an emphasis on Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.
Vietnam Airlines flies to 62 destinations in 19 different countries, bringing a huge presence to Southeast Asia. SkyTeam is working to increase its presence in Asia and the addition of Vietnam Airlines and China Airlines and China Eastern in 2011 will definitely make huge strides in covering strategic Asian cities and destinations.
Airlines that are active on the SkyTeam Alliance are connected with all SkyTeam member airlines (Aeromexico, Aeroflot, Air Europa, Air France, Alitalia, China Southern, Czech Airlines, Delta Airlines, Kenya Airways, KLM, and Korean Air).
For travelers, this means connecting frequent flyer programs, access to over 400 airport lounges worldwide, priority baggage handling, and becoming part of the SkyTeam Round the World pass. In all, it means more destinations, more connections, and more benefits.