SkyTeam is one of the world's three major airline alliances. Founded in June 2000, SkyTeam was the last of the three alliances to be formed, the first two being Star Alliance and Oneworld, respectively. Its annual passenger count is 630 million (2019), the second largest of the three major alliances. As of January 2019[update], SkyTeam consists of 19 carriers from five continents and operates with the slogan "Caring more about you". It also operates a cargo alliance named SkyTeam Cargo, which partners ten carriers, all of them SkyTeam members. Its centralised management team, SkyTeam Central, is based at the World Trade Center Schiphol Airport on the grounds of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol in Haarlemmermeer, Netherlands.
As of November 2019[update], SkyTeam flies to more than 1,150 destinations in more than 175 countries and operates more than 14,500 daily flights. The alliance and its members have 750 lounges worldwide.
On 22 June 2000, representatives of Delta Air Lines, Aeroméxico, Air France, and Korean Air held a meeting in New York to form a third airline alliance. These became the four founding carriers of SkyTeam. Upon its formation, SkyTeam would offer its customers a total of 6,402 daily flights to 451 destinations in 98 countries. In September 2000 (2000-09), the alliance established a cargo alliance, SkyTeam Cargo. The group's inaugural members were Aeromexpress, Air France Cargo, Delta Air Logistics and Korean Air Cargo. The following month, the newly established airline alliance announced its intentions to incorporate CSA Czech Airlines as the 5th member in April the following year.
The alliance saw the joining of CSA Czech Airlines on 25 March 2001;Alitalia entered SkyTeam on 27 July the same year, with its membership scheduled to become effective 1 November that year. On 30 September 2001, the alliance received KLM's application for membership, following the airline's plans to create a leading airline group with Air France. In 2003, Delta's subsidiary, Delta Express, was replaced by Song. That same year, SkyTeam also launched an improved website focused on providing passengers with more information, increased interactivity and other resources.
2004: First major expansion
On 24 May 2004, Aeroflot, the flag carrier and principal airline of Russia, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with SkyTeam as it intended to become a full member. The event took place in Kremlin following the airline's application earlier in the year for membership. SkyTeam expressed that Aeroflot has not met the consortium's standards, but that the airline's large hub networks made it ideal for the alliance, and made up for its deficiencies.
On 28 August, China Southern Airlines, the largest carrier in the People's Republic of China, signed a preliminary agreement in Guangzhou in its bid to become a full member. In the presence of a number of Chinese and airline officials, Yan Zhiqing, the chairman of China Southern Airlines, said, "This agreement-signing event is an important step forward into the future for China Southern Airlines to adapt itself to the need of further reforms and opening to the international community, as it will strengthen the airline's international cooperation and global competitiveness."
On 13 September, Continental Airlines, KLM and Northwest Airlines joined the alliance. Their simultaneous entry was the largest expansion event in airline alliance history. As a result of the three new members, SkyTeam surpassed Oneworld to become the second largest airline alliance, serving more than 341 million customers with 14,320 daily flights to 658 destinations in 130 countries.
Following a 23-month joining process since May 2004 (2004-05), Aeroflot joined on 14 April 2006. It was the first Russian airline to be associated with any airline alliance. Aeroflot has increased its operational standards, passing International Air Transport Association's (IATA) Operational Safety Audit (IOSA). Delta's subsidiary Song continued to operate as Delta Air Lines. In June, it was announced that Portugália would become the alliance's next associate member candidate. However, in November, rival airline and Star Alliance member TAP Air Portugal, purchased 99.81% of the airline, bringing a sudden end to its candidacy.
On 4 September 2007, Air Europa and Copa Airlines,[nb 1] and Kenya Airways became members of SkyTeam's Associate program, which was launched to serve airlines in strategic regions which intended to become affiliated with the alliance. China Southern Airlines joined SkyTeam on 15 November to become the 11th full member and the first carrier from Mainland China to join the alliance.
2008-2009: Departure of airlines and new initiatives
In June 2008 (2008-06), following an agreement between Continental Airlines and United Airlines, the former, as well as Copa Airlines, announced their intentions to move to the Star Alliance after Continental's final flight with SkyTeam on 24 October 2009. That day, as announced, Continental Airlines and Copa Airlines simultaneously left SkyTeam. Continental Airlines joined Star Alliance three days later; at the time, it was rumored that the switch was Continental Airlines' initial move in a United-Continental merger.
In April 2009 (2009-04), the alliance signed a preliminary agreement with Vietnam Airlines for the airline to become a full member in 2010. Also in 2009, Alitalia-Linee Aeree Italiane re-launched operations as the new Alitalia, and the alliance announced initiatives towards a centralized management based in Amsterdam. The consortium also named a new managing director, Marie-Joseph Malé, outlined a timeline for the opening of its co-located facilities at London Heathrow Airport, and unveiled a new special livery.
On 10 June, Vietnam Airlines became a full member following a joining ceremony held in Hanoi. The airline became the first SkyTeam carrier from Southeast Asia, where Star Alliance has a strong presence through Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways International. With an extra 20 unique destinations added to SkyTeam's route map, Vietnam Airlines helped to strengthen the alliance's foothold in the region.
On 22 June, the CEOs and chairmen of the 13 member airlines gathered in New York to celebrate the alliance's 10th anniversary. During its first decade of operation, the world's second largest airline alliance more than tripled its membership, doubled its flights and nearly doubled its destinations. On the same day, SkyTeam announced that it had renewed its membership program, thereby upgrading Air Europa, Kenya Airways and TAROM statuses from associate to full members. During the ceremony, the Board outlined its plans to recruit members from Latin America, South America and India. Three days later, TAROM officially became the 13th SkyTeam member. As a part of the celebration, SkyTeam offered reductions of round-the-world fares and other promotions. Following the 10th anniversary, SkyTeam intended to enhance customers' travel experience and deepen cooperation among its members to supplement the expansion into regions that are yet to have SkyTeam members.
In South America, India and Africa, it is clear there will be a significant battle for positioning to lure good carriers in your alliance.
-- Leo van Wijk, chairman during a 10th anniversary event of SkyTeam
During the year, Delta Air Lines offered US$1.02 billion to Japan Airlines after the Asian airline filed for bankruptcy due to US$26 billion debt, at the same time lobbying Oneworld's largest member in Asia to switch to SkyTeam. Delta, along with American Airlines, wanted Japan Airlines to be in their respective alliances to benefit from the U.S.-Japan Open Skies agreement. Eventually, Japan Airlines opted to remain at Oneworld, citing that the transfer to SkyTeam would confuse its passengers and may not gain antitrust immunity from U.S. regulators.
SkyTeam received its second application for full membership within a five-month time-span. China Airlines, Taiwan's flag carrier and largest airline, announced in mid-September that it had formally started the joining process. Upon joining, the airline's route network supplemented those of China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, allowing cooperation among the three airlines. The following month, Aerolíneas Argentinas signed an agreement to officially start the process of becoming the first South American SkyTeam member. The airline was set to join in 2012.
On 29 May 2012, Saudi Arabian Airlines became both the first carrier in joining the alliance in 2012 and the first one based in the Middle East, which brought the total members to 16. The same day of its incorporation, Saudi Arabian Airlines was renamed to Saudia.Middle East Airlines became the 17th member of the alliance a month later, following its incorporation on 28 June 2012. On 29 August 2012, Aerolíneas Argentinas became the first South American and the second Latin American airline in joining the alliance, bringing the number of members to 18. Following its incorporation on 21 November 2012, Xiamen Airlines became the fourth member in Mainland China, with the overall number of members in the alliance rising to 19. In late June 2013 (2013-06), the Russian newspaper Kommersant published an article that mentions that Aeroflot was considering leaving the alliance over disagreements with Delta on the pricing on some routes to North America. The report also mentioned that the Russian carrier was considering joining Star Alliance. In order to assess the benefits of the SkyTeam membership, a study was carried out in July; following it, the Aeroflot board reaffirmed its position within the alliance in September 2013 (2013-09).
Garuda Indonesia became the 20th member of the alliance on 5 March 2014. Garuda initially expected to gain SkyTeam membership in 2012, but the joining process took 40 months to be completed.
In November 2018, China Southern Airlines announced that it would leave the alliance effective 31 December 2019 (2019-12-31).
On 4 November 2019, Air Europa announced their plans to depart from SkyTeam due to a buyout from IAG.
Full members and their member affiliates
Aeroméxico, Air France, Delta Air Lines, and Korean Air are the four founding members of the alliance.
SkyTeam launched a special livery in 2009, coinciding with the alliance's 10th anniversary, with Delta Air Lines being the first airline to paint one of its aircraft with these colours. The livery consisted of an all-metallic silver fuselage and a dark blue empennage with SkyTeam's logo on it. The alliance emblem is painted on both sides of the fuselage. As of August 2016[update], the SkyTeam livery is worn by 52 aircraft.
^Despite China Southern Airlines announcing it will no longer be part of the alliance from 2019 onwards, the carrier is still included in the official SkyTeam list of member airlines as of January 2019.
^"Welcome to WTC." World Trade Center Schiphol. Retrieved on 10 February 2010.
^"Contact UsArchived 11 February 2011 at the Wayback Machine." World Trade Center Schiphol. Retrieved on 7 February 2011. "World Trade Center Schiphol Airport Schiphol Boulevard 105 1118 BG Schiphol The Netherlands."
^ abSobie, Brendan (11 February 2010). "Copa expects mid 2010 alliance decision". Flightglobal. Washington, D.C.Archived from the original on 29 March 2014. Copa Airlines was independent until 2005 when it became a SkyTeam associate member. Colombian sister carrier Aero Republica, which is also owned by Copa Holdings, has always been independent although like Copa it is part of Continental's OnePass frequent flier programme.