SAS will leave Star Alliance to join Skyteam on September 1, 2024. What impact will this have on loyalty programs and Eurobonus members?

It is finally on September 1 that, following its tie-up with Air France-KLM, SAS will leave Star Alliance to join Skyteam. But if things are clear about membership, they are much less so about loyalty programs and their benefits, for which a grey period seems to be looming.

SAS joins Skyteam

As we reported last November, it took almost a year for things to become concrete for customers, and for the consequences of Air France KLM’s acquisition of a stake in SAS to materialize in the form of a change of alliance for SAS, which joins Skyteam.

And at this stage, that’s pretty much all that changes. If Air France-KLM does indeed acquire a stake in SAS, it will only be able to take control after a two-year period, provided the Scandinavian airline’s financial situation is satisfactory. Should this not be the case, as we wrote, the French-Dutch group may well abandon its new toy to its fate.

However, this is a major change that will affect many people, as SAS is a founding member of the Star Alliance, and its passengers have benefited greatly from its commercial partnerships with other alliance members.

What impact will this have on SAS customers?

For SAS customers, loyal or otherwise, the big change will come in the form of commercial partnerships and code-sharing. Those accustomed to connecting via Zurich, Munich or Frankfurt, due to the Lufthansa Group’s strong presence in Scandinavia, will now be offered connections mainly in Paris and Amsterdam.

Neutral for some, but certainly not for business customers whose center of gravity leans much more towards Germany than Southern Europe….

It remains to be seen what new commercial partnerships they will benefit from, and here we’ve noticed something very interesting. Indeed, on the page of the SAS website that talks about this operation, it is clearly stated that the airline was in the process of making progress on these partnerships, in other words that nothing had yet been concluded.

And as you can see, there’s no such mention on the French site.

Maybe because things have already been decided with Air France-KLM, which is what counts for a French audience? Maybe, but you’ll see that this isn’t the only point where liberties are taken with the translation.

SAS customers can also expect a loss of comfort during these connections, especially in Paris, where we wonder how 2F, already partly saturated, could accommodate an additional airline, while SAS is unlikely to stay at T1.

We’ll also be keeping an eye on ITA’s situation in this respect. The Italian airline has logically moved to 2B in the run-up to its future takeover by Lufthansa, and in anticipation of its making the opposite journey to SAS between Skyteam and Star Alliance, perhaps precisely to make room for SAS.

Since then, the European regulator has been keeping a close eye on the case, and Lufthansa is threatening to drop out if its demands are too high, which would mean that ITA would remain in Skyteam and would logically have to join its partners at 2F.

For those who wonder why Air France KLM doesn’t have the same problems with the EU, it’s partly because this isn’t a takeover at this stage. Perhaps we’ll be talking about this subject with more concern in two years’ time.

Considerations on the periphery of this change of alliance, but it raises a lot of questions about the fluidity of connections in a 2F whose situation never ceases to worry us, and not good news for customers.

What’s the impact for SAS Eurobonus program members?

The good news for them is that Eurobonus will continue to exist and operate as it does today, which is a really good thing. Integration into Flying Blue would have been a disaster, as Eurobonus is so generous, especially when it comes to acquiring status, but more on that later. However, if Air France-KLM were to acquire SAS in the future, this situation would not be expected to persist.

If we refer to what SAS says, things couldn’t be clearer:

Until August 31, nothing changes.

From September 1, they will earn and spend points by flying on Skyteam airlines rather than Star Alliance airlines, according to scales which are not known at this stage, but which we hope will be as generous as those which exist with Star Alliance airlines today.

Eurobonus Gold and Diamond status will become Skyteam Elite plus instead of Star Alliance Gold.

They will enjoy similar benefits when flying on Skyteam airlines as they do on Star Alliance today. We insist on this “similar” which we find vague at the moment, and which we expect to be clarified.

But that’s not our only concern.

Here again, the French site repeatedly states that “you’ll enjoy similar benefits when you travel with a SkyTeam airline“.

And, surprise, the English site says “From September 1, 2024, you’ll enjoy similar benefits with most SkyTeam airlines.

“Most”. A word that changes everything. All of a sudden, the profits don’t seem so systematic, which is odd, but reminds us of the problems encountered when ITA joined Skyteam after it replaced Alitalia, before the situation gradually returned to normal. Some benefits appear to be subject to bilateral negotiation and do not systematically flow from alliance membership, and this can take time. On the other hand, we can guess that things have already been agreed with Air France and KLM.

However, for a large proportion of loyal business customers, the loss of the LH Group network will be perceived as a real blow and will complicate their travels. In general, Skyteam airlines are inferior to those of Star Alliance, the alliance’s footprint in Europe and Asia is much smaller (not to mention Oceania, but that’s more marginal), and it’s to be feared that many of SAS’s biggest customers will simply have to find another Star Alliance airline and change their frequent flyer program.

What impact will this have on Skyeam airline customers?

Nothing has been said about them, and for good reason: the subject doesn’t interest them at this stage.

Let’s just say that once the trade agreements are in place, they’ll have much wider and easier access to Scandinavian airports than they do today. With one caveat, however: if we can expect this to happen through the SAS network, they will have to expect a much more frugal quality of service on medium-haul routes than they are used to from their usual airlines.

SAS doesn’t offer a medium-haul business class either, just a premium economy (SAS Plus) with decent service but far from business-class standards. Their long-haul business class, on the other hand, is of excellent quality.

What impact will this have on the loyal customers of Skyteam airlines?

These will eventually be entitled to the Skyteam benefits linked to their status…once the bilateral agreements have been put in place, as mentioned above.

SAS Eurobonus, the best way to get Skyteam status?

For those wishing to obtain Skyteam Elite Plus status with less effort, or even for those who have it but struggle to keep it, joining Eurobonus can be an excellent plan, just as it was in the past to obtain Star Alliance Gold status.

– Low thresholds (45,000 points for Gold status).

– The possibility of lifetime Gold status after 10 years.

– The possibility for Diamond members (90,000 points) to offer a Gold and a Silver status.

– Generous points gains on partner airlines and in all booking classes. It remains to be seen whether this will remain the case with Skyteam.

– 25% bonus points for Gold and Platinum members when flying SAS (award points and status points).

– The possibility of earning points on certain award tickets.

Not bad, is it?

Bottom line

SAS will join Skyteam on September 1, 2024. Customers can expect a transitional period in the implementation of reciprocal loyalty program benefits. Eurobonus will remain independent, at least for the time being.

Photo : SAS A320 neo Robert Buchel via Shutterstock

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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