ITA Airways is a member of Skyteam and as such is of interest to all passengers who are members of the frequent flyer programme of one of the alliance’s airlines and expect to enjoy the benefits associated with their status. But in practice this is far from being a reality.
ITA Airways was born in October 2021 and has just announced that its Volare frequent flyer programme, which is celebrating its first anniversary, has just checked-in its one millionth member (compared to 6 for Alitalia’s defunct MilleMiglia programme). It immediately joined the Skyteam alliance to replace Alitalia with the logical promise of allowing its members to earn and redeem miles on flights of SkyTeam member airlines. At least on some flights, as stated in the press release announcing the event.
And since the logic of an alliance is reciprocity in the recognition of loyalty programs and the application of benefits, it should have been clear from the start that something was wrong, but at the time this nuance went almost unnoticed. Until customers of ITA and other member airlines began to experience this in real life.
Serial bugs for ITA’s arrival in Skyteam
From the very first days, the specialised forums were filled with more than negative feedbacks from passengers. Passengers flying on ITA did not have access to the lounges of other airlines, it was impossible to enter a member number of a partner frequent flyer programme when booking a flight on the ITA website, members of other programmes did not earn miles when flying on ITA…
Some passengers have even been told by a fussy agent at the entrance to a lounge: “ITA? What kind of airline is that? “or “But they are not a member of the alliance”.
At first it was thought that this was a teething problem and that these were the inevitable passenger bugs in the integration of a new airline. Moreover, the official communication was that “the programme is in soft launch and everything will gradually get better”.
But more than a year later, the testimonies of dissatisfied passengers continue to multiply. What exactly is the situation?
ITA and Skyteam and Skypriority benefits
On paper, things are clear: Volare members enjoy Skypriority benefits when travelling on an alliance member airline.
And the reverse must logically be true.
In practice it seems that this continues to work in a very haphazard way. Passengers continue to testify that ITA only randomly and partially applies some of the benefits of premium status and, in particular, the additional baggage allowances.
There is every indication that this is just a computer systems issue: their status is simply not recognised in their records and most often things are sorted out over the phone or at the counter with an agent making the changes manually. Provided he is aware that ITA is a member of the alliance, which is not always obvious.
But more than a year after the airline’s launch, it is starting to look worrying.
Among the benefits preferred by passengers is access to the lounges. This is not a Skypriority benefit as such, but a status or travel class benefit, which is more or less the same thing.
ITA and partner airlines lounges
On the face of it, things seem clear, at least on the ITA side.
The only point that can be questioned is the first line with access to the lounges only if the passenger flies on ITA. What if you are a business class passenger on a flight marketed by ITA and operated by a partner airline?
Same on the Skyteam side: we can see that the ITA lounges (here Rome) follow the same rules as the other lounges of the alliance (Amsterdam for example)
And yet, reading the specialized forums, it seems that access to the lounges is not always easy when travelling on ITA. The most plausible reason is the one mentioned above: problems with the information systems that result in the eligibility not being mentioned on the passenger’s ticket.
Again, nothing serious but it is becoming worrying.
But the most important thing is still to come: the gain of miles!
Limited mileage earning on ITA Airways
While lounge access is a welcome benefit, earning miles is taken for granted by passengers: you earn miles when you fly on a partner airline. It is so obvious, it is the basis of reciprocity of recognition of programmes which is itself the basis of an alliance.
Well, in the case of ITA it doesn’t work like that. Remember the press release with the possibility of earning miles “on select flights”.
If you go to the Flying Blue website, the loyalty programme of Air France and KLM, this is what you see.
Miles and XP can only be earned on flights operated by ITA if they are marketed by Air France or KLM.
So if you buy a Rome-Catana directly from ITA you will not be credited.
Is this an isolated case? Let’s look at Delta Skymiles.
Same thing. And this is confirmed on the Skyteam website:
The earning of miles is not systematic at the alliance level but results from a bilateral negotiation between ITA and each member airline.
It’s even stranger when you look at the ITA website and the section reserved for airline partners. One might expect to see the Skyteam member airlines there, but no.
Well, the answer is simple: you gain absolutely nothing!
Actually it’s more complicated, ITA is not even listed in WheretoCredit, which is worrying. Let’s see what the ITA site says…
So an ITA member only earns miles by flying on a partner airline if the flight is sold by ITA.
So it would seem that mileage earning is limited for members of partner airlines flying on ITA and the same for Volare members flying on a Skyteam airline.
Will the situation improve?
If one believes the official discourse there are two points:
– For Skypriority benefits and lounge access everything should work normally and when it doesn’t it’s just an “administrative” problem in the information systems.
– For the mileage gain it is only a matter of time until the discussions with the other airlines are concluded.
The problem is that this has been going on for too long for our liking for it not to be suspicious. One example is the mileage gain which was to be global and systematic with all member airlines. Bilateral negotiations are usually with airlines outside an alliance, not for members for which reciprocity must be automatic.
Why is that? Did the other airlines balk or did ITA want to go it alone? This seems very strange and there is no objective reason for it.
Unless ITA knew from the beginning that its presence in Skyteam would only be temporary?
In any case, now that everything suggests that ITA will join the Lufthansa Group, there is no reason to make efforts on either side. The official discourse at Air France-KLM, which was at one time considered for the purchase of ITA, is to say that whatever happens, they want to keep a commercial partnership with this historical partner, which seems to us to be rather intended to avoid losing face, as we cannot see ITA, a member of the LH Group, remaining a partner of an airline in a competing alliance.
But that doesn’t explain why ITA’s integration into Skyteam was only partial, with a status closer to that of a partner airline of the alliance’s members than a full member.
And to answer our original question, we don’t know if ITA’s presence in Skyteam is a scam or not, but it is clear that the passengers, even if the initial complications seem to have been partly resolved, are not at all happy with the mileage gain.
The integration of ITA into Skyteam is only partial and it is not clear why, and there is every reason to believe that it will not go further if the Italian airline is taken over by Lufthansa.
And have you ever flown with ITA? How did it go?
Are you a Volare member? How are you treated by the other Skyteam airlines?
And what do you think caused ITA not to be fully integrated into the alliance?
Image Credit: Airbus